Moorestown Friends School: Middle School Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult


While many people may think of middle school as an awkward or challenging time, it doesn’t have to be, says Evan Haine-Roberts, Director of Moorestown Friends Middle School. 

 Moorestown Friends Middle School has been nurturing minds for over two centuries. Throughout the school community, Quaker values are more than a historical footnote – they’re the heartbeat of the school’s culture and programs. 

“Two Quaker values greatly influence our educational approach. Firstly, the belief that everyone is a teacher, fostering a community where everyone is valued for their wisdom and experience,” says Haine-Roberts. “Secondly, the concept of continuing revelation, which emphasizes that learning is an ongoing, beautiful process. We encourage students to always reconsider, question and learn.” This philosophy can be actively seen in programs and systems that ensure these values are integrated into students’ lives. 

“Our curriculum is diverse and student-driven,” says Haine-Roberts. “We prioritize student choice, starting from fifth grade with programs like Genius Hour, which allows students to explore the topic of their choice. This approach extends through Middle School, ensuring that enrichment opportunities are an integral part of the student’s daily experience.” 

The school’s most notable program is its Intensive Learning Week, a dynamic period that blends recreation and study beyond the conventional classroom.

Each grade participates in experiential learning activities outside the classroom that foreground environmental stewardship and community engagement. Students kick off the week with a Day of Service, in which each grade will head out into the community for clean-up and activism projects. This year:

• Fifth graders will partner with Mark Pensiero of Moorestown STEM (Save the Environment Moorestown) to learn about invasive plant species and cultivate a new native plant garden on campus. 

• Sixth grade will embark on an overnight adventure to Princeton-Blairstown Center and also enjoy a day of challenges at Elite Climbing in Maple Shade. 

• Seventh graders will travel overnight to Washington D.C. to visit museums as they explore contemporary civic and political issues through an interdisciplinary lens. 

• Eighth grade will deepen their study of government with a historical walking tour in Philadelphia before taking a memorable camping trip at YMCA Camp Mason in Hardwick.

Close, supportive and collaborative relationships are another key tenet of Quaker values, which is why the student-faculty relationship is emphasized and fostered. 

Moorestown Friends Middle School’s Advisory Program stands as a cornerstone of its educational ethos. Twice-weekly meetings in small, close-knit groups provide a nurturing and supportive environment for every student.

“Students who are well-known by at least one adult in the school are more likely to be happy, healthy and academically successful,” Haine-Roberts says. “One striking bit of feedback from students is their realization that they cannot ‘fall through the cracks’ here. If a student struggles, there is immediate, caring support.”

“We offer students more independence while providing a structured safety net. This approach allows students to take initiative in their learning and responsibilities, supported by a community that guides them subtly yet effectively,” says Haine-Roberts.

Close relationships between faculty and parents strengthen that safety net by ensuring that the student receives support and encouragement from multiple angles, both at home and school. But what sets it apart, he says, is that it includes the students too. 

“In our system, report cards are written directly to students, and they actively participate in conferences about their performance alongside their parents or guardians,” he says.

This approach emphasizes the importance of engaging students directly in discussions about their academic and personal development, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability in their learning journey. The end goal, he says, is to mold students into independent, ambitious adults. In-classroom curriculums highlight real-life applications that prepare students for future roles in their communities. 

“Our school places a strong emphasis on students’ personal and academic development,” says Haine-Roberts. “We equip them with the tools they need to become well-rounded, self-aware individuals capable of understanding and navigating the complexities of adult life.”