Richmond Friends School was extremely pleased to introduce 7th and 8th grades to our academic offerings in 2016. This exciting classroom addition, guided by teachers Jennie Kiffmeyer and Nicole Blair, allows older students to take advantage of RFS’ tradition of high quality experiential learning. Take a moment to learn about our approach to middle school, peek at their weekly schedule, or even learn about ways the students are evaluated. If you feel that this environment would be beneficial for your child, please contact Joe McHugh, Interim Head of School, at 765-966-5767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the teachers:
Jennie Kiffmeyer (Seventh to Eighth Grades)
Jennie received a B.A. degree in Art History from Indiana University Bloomington, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from University of Illinois, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Spading University. She has worked with children at independent schools for 7 years, most recently as a middle school religion teacher at St. Richard’s Episcopal School in Indianapolis. Jennie also has professional experience as a school librarian and taught a course at Earlham College about themes of peace and social justice in children’s literature. An award-winning storyteller and writer, Jennie especially loves exploring stories with her students and engaging them in the research and creative processes. When not in the classroom, Jennie enjoys cooking for family and friends, making art, and volunteering at Richmond Civic Theatre. Jennie and her husband Jonathan are parents to Ben (RFS, Class of ’17) and Lizzy (RFS, Class of ’20).
Nicole Blair (Seventh to Eighth Grades)
Nicole received her Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and a Master’s Degree in Biology from the University of Notre Dame. She has taught high school chemistry and biology in the Washington DC area as well as Ecological Biology at Earlham College. She has co-led, with her husband Peter, two Earlham College semester abroad programs in Environmental Studies in New Zealand. Nicole is an avid photographer, enjoys gardening (when it is not too hot!), and loves camping with her family and friends. Her two daughters, Savanna and Maggie, attend RFS.
Middle School Education Ethic
The RFS 7th and 8th grade middle school program strives to inspire lifelong leaders and learners grounded in the Quaker principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. Faculty and staff facilitate the exploration of these values as we help all students develop their own voice and academic pursuits. Our preschool – 8th grade model allows middle school students to be both challenged and rewarded through their natural interactions with younger students, making them integral ambassadors of our school.
Hands-on learning and individualized instruction create an environment that inspires students to make real world connections. Our project-based classroom calls on kids to think critically and solve relevant problems. Teachers work hard to provide the foundational academic and social skills to prepare our students for high school and beyond.
We believe that deeper learning comes from a focus on critical thinking, including analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information. We teach students to evaluate current and relevant ideas through questioning, citing evidence from various sources, and applying their understanding through writing, class discussions and group projects.
Experiential & Interdisciplinary Units:
Essential to our curriculum is the belief that learning is an expedition and should not be confined by subject or by walls. Project-based and experiential learning occur in every class, and we rely on our community resources to aid in teaching our students: guest speakers, local organizations, and universities. Twice a year, our students take part in weeklong enrichments, one focused on the humanities and the other on STEM. During this time, they are introduced to an in-depth study in these fields. Our end of the year class trip and frequent field trips throughout the year are used to enhance learning (See our spontaneous trip to Illinois to view the total eclipse below!).
It all starts by asking, “How does flipping the light switch make a light bulb turn on?” A simple guiding question leads to a multi-month long exploration into energy transfers and conservation, alternative sources of energy, and the construction of some creative Rube Goldberg machines. This student centered project-based learning is at the heart of what we consider to be good teaching and learning at RFS because it calls on students to work collaboratively and think critically. Our goal is to immerse students in experiences that are both memorable and will help them see the big picture of what they are learning (See photo below of students working with Cope Environmental Center to enhance habitat for local bee populations).
We focus on building community in three ways. First, we want our students to understand that a cohesive and trusting classroom begins with each of them being an active and mindful participant (See photo of team building exercises at Camp Yale below!). Next, we seek opportunities to collaborate with the younger classes at RFS by sharing our learning and by building community with social events. Additionally, we embrace any chance to partner with local organizations or individuals including guest speakers, service learning opportunities and programming.