Caring for the Earth, and environment is a vital commitment for United Friends School. George Fox, Margaret Fell, and the other 17th-century Quaker founders urged people to walk gently over the earth. The Quaker Stewardship & Care for the Earth testimony connects us as integral parts of all creation and makes us responsible for its protection and careful use. We integrate environmental topics into our science and citizenship studies curricula and advocate for clean air and water as part of our social action work. We are mindful of reducing our waste and encourage our students to think about the environment in their everyday lives. As a school, we strive to reduce the amount of paper we use, recycle what we can, and look for other opportunities to encourage healthy and sustainable practices.

Outdoor Education

Since United Friends School first opened its doors in 1983, students have frequently visited the Quakertown Memorial Park and the Licking Run Creek that runs along it, benefiting from nature and using the creek as a living laboratory. The creek is home to small aquatic life and organisms and, like virtually all waterways in the area, has suffered from the introduction of trash and yard waste as well as other forms of pollution.

The outdoor education program is a comprehensive program that nurtures our students’ love of the outdoors and gives them the tools to become true environmental stewards. Starting in Kindergarten, students take weekly visits to the Licking Run Creek where they are taught by UFS teachers and Master Watershed Steward volunteers. Students gather data to measure the health of the creek.

Outdoor Education Capstone Trips

Weekly creek instruction focuses on stream monitoring and cleanup, nature journaling, harvesting and processing clay soil, and studying aquatic life. Students will also participate in capstone experiences that will build upon the outdoor education curriculum from year to year. Each grade will participate in a capstone experience.

  • Preschool (Mott) While our preschool friends are not part of the weekly creek rotations they will not be left out. A special Spring trip is scheduled and aims to explore play-based activities in the creek.
  • Rustin/Penn– (Kindergarten and First grade) Students will attend a trip to the Quakertown Wastewater Treatment Facility.
  • Fox– (Second and Third grade) Students focus on the Land Acknowledgment with a Lenape Educator and learn shelter building and other outdoor survival skills. Students end the year with a camping trip to Lake Towhee.
  • Anthony – (Fourth and Fifth grade) Students participate in a Spring tree planting to help with stormwater runoff at the creek and also participate in a collaborative cross-watershed project with a public school that is either upstream or downstream of the creek. The Anthony class has an annual camping trip in the Spring to Ricketts Glen State Park.
  • Helman Osborn – (Middle School) The middle school capstone will be focused on working hand in hand with the borough and the watershed stewards to do Live Staking ( a type of planting) in the Spring with the watershed stewards to support the riparian buffer at Licking Run Creek, which as they will learn will help with the health of the creek and runoff. Students will also travel to Cape May, NJ and participate in a Spring camping trip to the Ocean.

Adoption of Licking Run Creek

Our students also learned how to advocate for our creek’s health. Our Middle School students presented a proposal to protect the Licking Run Creek to the Quakertown Borough Council. On March 2, 2011, the Council Ordained and Enacted Ordinance 1177, based on the ordinance proposal presented by United Friends School Students. This ordinance was enacted to prevent yard waste or any other object from being placed in the creek. Stream monitoring and clean-ups have continued to take place since the ordinance was passed.

UFS adopted the stream and began studying its health and won a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which funded stream monitoring equipment and teaching aids like a classroom stream flow table. Our students learned how to use the equipment to properly record data about the plants and organisms that rely on Licking Run Creek for sustenance and that contribute to Quakertown’s biodiversity. Students understand the importance of keeping the creek healthy and devoid of trash and yard waste which takes dissolved oxygen out of the water and adds sediment to the water that can clog up the gills of aquatic animals.

Gardening and Composting Program

Whenever possible we encourage students to utilize the compost area to reduce the amount of waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. We take pride in promoting a responsible and environmentally friendly option for dealing with waste. As the nutrient-rich soil is produced it feeds our raised garden beds that our classrooms have the opportunity to visit and experiment with growing their own fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Parents and guardians volunteer to cultivate the garden and compost, especially over the summer months.