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Annual Instructional Theme

Annual Instructional Theme

Every year, Chicago Friends School chooses an annual instructional theme. This theme provides a common thread for instruction throughout the year, opportunities to collaborate across classrooms, and inspiration for field trips and service projects.

2022–2023: Mirrors and Lenses

This year, our science focus is life science. Our social studies focus is culture and geography. And our writing focus is autobiography and personal writing. Mirrors and lenses fit into all three emphases, because mirrors and lenses provide us opportunities to look more closely at ourselves, and our world. They also remind us that the way we see the world is shaped by the lens through which we see it.

Field trips planned:

  • The Art Institute — to look at self portraits, and opportunities for all students to create their own self portraits in art class
  • The Field Museum — to look at cultures and cultural lenses around the world
  • The National Museum of Mexican Art — to examine art that explicates Latin American culture
  • A whole-school personal essay “jam” akin to a poetry jam
  • A trip to a nearby nature preserve to think about how different “lenses” affect how we interact with wilderness and nature.

2021–2022: Momentum

We explored the idea of momentum in our physical science curriculum, in literature, and also as we studied history in social studies. Momentum is a property of social movements, of groups and organizations, and of bouncing balls and running students.

2020–2021: Patterns and Changes

Essential themes:  

  • Day and night, seasonal and lunar patterns, and how the changes are predictable
  • The predictable patterns of erosion, deposition, and how they cause changes in the natural environment
  • Pattern and repetition in art and music
  • Voter and civic behavior causing changes in our national, local, and state governments

While no field trips were possible during this Covid year, we did have a virtual field trip where musicians from a djembe (African drumming) group came and worked with our students and were still able to do a fall (beach clean up) and spring (food drive and planting) service project.  

2019–2020: Seeds and Roots

Essential themes:

  • Ecology — the relationship between the environment,  plants, and animal life
  • Biologylife cycles of plants, animals, and people
  • Cultural seeds and rootsInfluences on societies as they develop and grow
  • World religions and their relationships with individuals and society
  • Individual seeds and rootsWhat causes us to grow into the people we are

Field trips for the 2019-2020 school year included the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and local Houses of Worship. Fall service included planting native grasses with the Lincoln Park Conservancy and making and delivering sack lunches to a local organization that serves homeless youth.  Our spring trimester, interrupted by the Covid-19 epidemic, featured an at-home service day where students proposed and did a service project that aided their families or neighbors. Also, during the Covid shutdown, the school hosted Edgewater Mutual Aid’s community food drive.  

During this challenging time of social distancing, students celebrated with a daily pattern guessing game that united our three instructional “pods” virtually.  

2017–2018: Circles

Essential themes include:

  • Circles of belonging — communities
  • Circles of responsibility, power, and authority — government and civics
  • Circles in space – planets, and orbits
  • Nightly circles — day and night, moon phases
  • The cycle of the year — seasons in nature
  • Biogeochemical cycles — water cycle, carbon cycle

Field trips related to the Circles theme were:

  • The Adler Planetarium
  • The alderman’s local office and City Hall
  • Loyola Beach and Nature Preserve
  • The Museum of Broadcast Communications
  • Montrose Harbor Bird Sanctuary
  • The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Our year-long service project was to make, stock, and install “circulating” little libraries in different neighborhoods in Chicago.

2015–2016: Chicago

Essential ideas in the Chicago theme included:

  • Chicago history from pre-European settlement until today
  • Immigration and the Great Migration
  • Urban infrastructure
  • Architecture
  • Jazz and the blues
  • Neighborhood economics
  • City government

Field trips related to the Chicago theme included:

  • Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
  • Swedish American Museum
  • The DuSable Museum of African American History
  • The Green Mill jazz club
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • The Pullman Historic District

Our school-wide service project this year happened while we were studying immigration. First, students learned about the different reasons for immigration and then, working with Heartland Alliance, made refugee welcome kits.

Other sections in Program & Curriculum


Classroom and School Culture


Engaged Learning

A Day at Chicago Friends School

Before and After School

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