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Celebrating 50 years of Progressive Education


The first TPS Teachers outside of Rodeph Shalom

Madge & Christopher Donner at Sycamore Farm

After reading an article about TPS in The Sunday Bulletin in 1971, the Donners offered their 30 acres to the school as a site for environmental exploration.

Carter Fussell and first students at Rodeph Shalom

He spent the summer of 1971 in England studying British Infant Schools. He brought the vision of an open classroom model to TPS from this experience.

Exploring the City Classroom

Students at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Society Hill, and along the Delaware River.

We Believe and We Know

That a school of modest size, with a learning atmosphere of intimacy, openness, and rich variety, can bring education of the highest quality to a mixed group of urban children.

The Philadelphia School Prospectus, March 1, 1971.

Construction on Lombard Building

Work on the remodeling of 2501 Lombard and raising the money for renovations began simultaneously in the spring/summer of 1976.


Ecology at Sycamore Farm

A new classroom for the 1976-1977 school year.

 Planning for New Quarters at 2501 Lombard

Work on remodeling the building involved a Challenge Campaign and furniture purchased from the PEL Company in England.


First full Graduating Class (1980)

A. Augustine, J. Berman, C. Goodman, S. Bulova, R. Green, J. Greene, C. Kline, and A. Ku.

Arbor Day at Sycamore Farm '(1981)

The celebration included the planting of nine fruit trees, one for each of the age groups that now made up the school.

Farewell to T. Carter Fussell (1980)

Carter was presented with a quilt that featured his beloved Cuisenaire rods with the names of all the TPS students and teachers. 

The Second Big Game Hunt at the Zoo (1980)

Part fundraiser, part field trip to encourage families to discover yet another treasure of the City, TPS sponsored an exploratory tour of the Philadelphia Zoo, completed with illustrated workbook.

The Philadelphia School Song

Once, there lived in the city,
Some people who wanted to find,
A school where their children could gather,
With city and country in mind.

Learn to explore, and to hear and to see,
Learn to become all the things we can be!

Everyone working together,
Solo or in harmony
Studying life all around us,
Next door or across the sea.
Hiking, weaving, and building,
Planting seeds and watching them grow,
Animals, plants, and people,
Each a part of the whole.

Susie Bulova, Carl Goodman, Janet Kalkstein
1982. Setting for Orff Instruments arranged By Tossi Aaron

Fairmount Park Treasure Hunt (1983)

In partnership with the Fairmount Park Commission, trustees Cal Simon and Mary French created and illustrated an exciting excursion through the scenic and architectural wonders of Fairmount Park.

Picnic at Sycamore Farm (1983)

At the end of each school year, a gathering of TPS families at Sycamore Farm was a celebration of another successful school year.

The Great Experiment 

This dramatization of the Constitutional Convention, written by TPS Teachers was performed at the Port of History Museum Theater.

Shelly Ridge 1989 

From 1989 to 2012, Shelly Ridge was the site of our outdoor environmental education. Often in the fall, family groups would spend the day sharing projects related to the All-School theme.


Alumni Reunion and Time Capsule Opening (1991)

On the 10th anniversary of their graduation, the class of 1980 returned for the opening of their time capsule.

A cappella: Measure for Measure (1999)

Directed by Christopher Taranta/Rob Redei in its infancy, this middle school group was an integral part of the music program at TPS.

Swimmy (1992)

Based on this book by Leo Lionni, students in Kindergarten through Grade 2, with the support of their classroom teachers and music teacher Marcia Kravis, wrote and performed a musical adaptation–an opera.

Junior Unit Mission to Mars (1996)

As part of their study of 20th-century American history, students prepared for a mission to Mars and learned skills such as teamwork as well as math, astronomy, and the history of space and technology.

TPS Philosophy 1997

Our approach to learning addresses developmental issues: how a child grows

intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, and physically……

We seek to instill in each student a sense of personal integrity, concern for community, appreciation for diversity, respect for individuality, and independent spirit…..

We affirm our founders’ goal of educating students to be thoughtful and responsible advocates for the preservation of cities and the natural environment.

Pippin Middle School (1997)

As the culmination of a year-long study of the Middle Ages, students in grades six through eight performed this opera at Trinity Church.

Science Fair (1996)

Middle School students did research on environmental issues and presented their findings to the rest of the school in engaging manners.

Preschool begins (1999) 

Located in a new space on the third floor, there were 33 preschoolers enrolled in it's first year.

Construction of the gym (1998) 

Renovation began at Lombard including a new gym, renovation of the MPR and improvements to the play yard.


Civil War Project (2007)

During a year-long study, JU students worked with the Rosenbach Museum on a  project focused on the Civil War. 

Talking Walls Calendar (2006)

As part of all-school theme, Middle Schoolers looked at walls across Philly and beyond and created a calendar culminating their study.

 TPS Celebrates Sandy 2006 

Sandy Dean retired as Principal of TPS. In her honor, parents, teachers, and students celebrated her 23 year tenure with songs, memories, and thank you’s.

The Odyssey–All School Theme (01-02)

A highlight of theme was reading scenes from the Odyssey at assembly. Readers included Mayor Street and alumnus J. Marston, who recited  lines in ancient Greek.

TPS Mission April 2007

The Philadelphia School is a coeducational, non sectarian independent school educating children from preschool through eighth grade. Our mission, as a progressive school and vibrant learning community, is to educate the character and intellect of children. We want our students to become engaged citizens who are critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and lifelong learners.




For their annual trip to a Spanish speaking country, eighth graders (with help from a TPS parent) were invited to Cuba at a time when travel was severely restricted.

Shakespeare–Much Ado About Nothing (2009)

The Shakespeare Festival is an important tradition in Middle School where all students read and participate in one or more of the productions.

Primary Unit Learning Celebrations

In the spring, classes engage parents and other grades in a celebration of their year’s work. 

AIDs Walk (02-03)

An important aspect of teaching and learning at TPS is engagement with social justice concerns.  This year, TPS parents and students participated in the city's AIDS walk.


Puerto Rico Trip (2012)

8th graders studied indigenous Caribbean communities & issues of nationalization, economic struggles, & statehood.


Physical fitness has been an important part of a TPS education from the earliest years of the school. Each year both boys & girls compete in at the Penn Relays.

 Charlotte Blake Alston

The all-school theme for the 2017-2018 school year was myths and fables. Teacher, author, and storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston had a three-day residency at TPS, meeting with unit groups in assembly and individual classrooms to share her depth of knowledge of African myths and fables, as well as her craft as a storyteller.

Family Circles

For many years we enjoyed coming together for a fall day outdoors, celebrating the all-school theme in family groups & circles. A family group consisted of a MS leader, a JU member, and 1-2 PU students. Family circles consisted of 2-3 family groups and would rotate as a unit through activities planned for the day.

TPS Values April 2016

We value a relational approach to learning and teaching…..We nurture, support, and sustain authentic, reciprocal relationships connecting individuals, groups and communities.

We value a developmental perspective….We teach and support the path and progress of each individual through appropriate developmental stages.

We value an innovative stance……We are open to new and diverse perspectives and incorporate emerging technologies as tools for expressing ideas, exploring issues, and communicating understandings.

We value a constructivist approach….We believe that children naturally make meaning of their lives by actively constructing their own understanding and knowledge of the world….Children are encouraged to ask questions, to explore and assess what they know, and to reflect on how new learning connects to their own lives.

Rock Band

Originally as part of their study of geology, 7th grade students showed off their understanding of geology by adapting a song to perform with the Thanksgiving Feast in November. Gradually this became a tradition and its inspiration each year comes from a different area of the curriculum.

Valentine’s Day Breakfast Preschool 

Each February the preschool classrooms honor their loved ones with a breakfast buffet. Parents are invited to attend and enjoy the company of the students and other parents. They receive handmade cards as well.

Rainbow Day

Student Council sponsors a field day designed to allow athletes of all ages to participate and feel successful.

Cacao Study

As part of their year-long study of Africa, 6th graders look at the production of chocolate including economic, social, and political concerns.  


Outdoor Education

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Celebrating Our 50th Anniversary

We will reflect on our history and traditions, reconnect with past and present constituents and build inspiration for the next 50 years. 

The Philadelphia School Association (TPSA)

TPSA partners with parents, faculty, staff, and alumni to sponsor and support events that provide meaningful engagement with all our constituencies.


Technology is integrated  into our project work to help explore questions and find solutions. Play Video

Ours To Shape

The Philadelphia School educates children for a future that is impossible to know but not impossible to shape.

Learn here. Go anywhere.

TPS Strategic Vision September 2022

Learn More about Ours to Shape

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At TPS, we work to foster an inclusive environment for every child including  student affinity spaces and teaching a culturally responsive curricula.

Revitalizing the Lombard campus

As part of the strategic plan to broaden place-based learning, we are looking at how physical classroom space is used to deepen learning experiences.

Expanding Experiential Learning

We are building curricular city-based partnerships to give students an understanding of informed citizenship.

Leading the Way in Progressive Education

Ours to Shape includes supporting our faculty and staff on their lifelong learning journeys and are working to design a robust professional development program.

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