Penn Charter Glossary

Activities Building

Occasionally referred to as the Athletics Building or the Athletics Center, the Activities Building is located behind the Lower School and houses a gym, swimming pool and — until the new Lower School is built — fifth grade classrooms.


A faculty member assigned to guide and advise a group of students. In the Middle School, students work with a different advisor each year. In the Upper School, students work with the same advisor for freshman and sophomore years, and a different advisor for junior and senior years. Faculty advisors support their students in choosing courses, managing academics, and more. 


A short block built into the academic schedule. Advisory is a time to tackle current topics, have fun, collaborate on public purpose projects, and gather in a small group outside of the classroom setting.

Alumni Society

The organization of Penn Charter alumni (and, see Old Penn Charter below).

Annual Fund

The Penn Charter Annual Fund represents more than five percent of the school’s annual operating budget and provides unrestricted support to allow the school can designate funds where they are needed most. Money raised during one academic year is used for education programs in the next academic year to ensure fiscal responsibility and not spend in excess of available funds. Volunteers from across the Penn Charter community support the effort to raise funds for the Annual Fund via alumni giving, parent and caregiver giving, faculty and staff giving, the Senior Parent Gift, William Penn Society Leadership Giving, the Grace Fund, corporate matching gifts, and events like Great Day to Be a Quaker.

Balderston Commons

Located in the Middle School Building, Ford Commons is used for Middle School assemblies, Middle School Sanctuary (the free after-school program for Middle School students), some K-12 faculty meetings and other events.


The period of time at which classes are held. In the Middle School, there are 45 and 60 minute blocks. In the Upper School, there are 50 and 70 minute blocks.

Blue and Yellow

Penn Charter's official colors. Students are assigned blue or yellow for Color Day in kindergarten or when they enter Penn Charter and remain on that "team" throughout their time at the school. Colors are inherited; siblings wear the same color as each other, and as their OPC relatives.

Blue and Yellow Weeks

Lower School has a 10-day long academic schedule that alternates between Yellow Weeks and Blue Weeks. Each week has a different schedule.

Board of Trustees

Penn Charter’s Board of Trustees are individuals entrusted with the long-term operation and growth of the school. The trustees delegate authority for the school's operation to the Head of School.

Center for Public Purpose (CfPP)

Launched the 2013-14 school year, the Center for Public Purpose engages Penn Charter students in community-based work addressing some of the most pressing social issues in metropolitan Philadelphia. The Center’s work aligns with Quaker values and curriculum and creates structures that inspire students to take ownership of their own learning experience.

Chigwell Close

Located between the Upper and Lower Schools, this beautiful outdoor learning space is a popular place to gather for lunch, breaks, hold classes, and play after school. 

Clock Tower

Atop the main building constructed in 1925, the centerpiece of campus is the Clock Tower. The bell rings the hour on the hour each day.

Class Record

The official name of the Penn Charter yearbook.

Color Day

Near the close of the school year, the entire school community gathers on Maguire field for relay races by grade, from K to 12, culminating in the senior rope pull. In kindergarten or at the start of their Penn Charter career, each student is assigned to the blue or yellow team. Colors are carried through families and kept for all years a student is at Penn Charter.  The festive atmosphere includes booths organized by the Parent Caregiver Community.

Community Code

Agreement in which students, teachers, and staff agree to treat one another with respect and to affirm each person’s responsibility to the larger community. Adherence to the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, integrity, community, equity, and stewardship.


General or widespread agreement among all the members of a group. In a Quaker community, decisions made during meetings or in class discussions requiring a decision by the group are done by consensus.

Cum Laude Society

The Cum Laude Society, an international organization, is dedicated to honoring scholastic achievement in secondary schools. Juniors and seniors with the highest GPA are inducted each year at an induction ceremony for the Penn Charter chapter. 

David L. Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts

Opened in 2010, the David L. Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts houses state-of-the-art practice rooms, band and choral facilities and a 650-seat theater.

Day of Service

A day on which the entire student community comes together to perform community service at various organizations in the Philadelphia area and reflects on the experience within their advisory groups afterward. These days are in addition to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.


Each of the Lower, Middle, and Upper schools can also be referred to as "division" of the school, i.e., the Lower division. 

Downtown Reception

Hosted by the Penn Charter Alumni Society, the Downtown Reception is a long-standing signature event for the PC community. Typically held in January at a Center City Philadelphia venue, the event includes food, beverages, and remarks from a keynote speaker, and is popular with alumni, parents and caregivers, and faculty and staff.

Essential Questions

Rhetorical or open-ended questions that help define issues and/or set up conceptual frameworks of a course or unit of study.

Graham Athletics & Wellness Center 

Opened in Fall 2021, Penn Charter's cutting-edge 88,000-square-foot facility for athletics, fitness and wellness activities promotes physical and mental health with a state-of-the-art weight training and cardio area, two competition basketball courts, a wrestling room, a climbing wall, and more. The Graham also has several classrooms and multipurpose spaces for academics.

Great Day to Be a Quaker

In mid-March, the Penn Charter community comes together to celebrate its love for PC and to support the school through gifts to the Penn Charter Annual Fund. Parents/ caregivers and alumni are invited to attend events on and off campus.

Hon. 1689

In written form, "Hon. 1689" is included after certain individual's names in the PC community who have made a lasting impact on the school (Ex.: Darryl J. Ford Hon. 1689). As recipients of the Honorary 1689 degree are, as a rule, not alumni, the designation indicates the individual has received a ceremonial diploma. The school was founded in 1689.

The Hub

The Learning Management System at Penn Charter used for posting curriculum, homework, grades and certain school messages. This is THE place to find information about academics, your child's athletic or arts practice schedule, games or performances, their classmates' contact information and other resources.

In-Service Day

A day of professional development on which faculty and staff gather to be informed of K-12 concerns and often to listen to guest speakers. These generally take place 3-4 times per year, and may be one day or a partial day with delayed opening of the academic day.

Inter-Academic League

The Inter-Ac is an athletic league of independent schools. The Inter-Ac schools are: Academy of Notre Dame de Nemur, Agnes Irwin, Baldwin, Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy,  Haverford, Malvern, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Penn Charter.

John F. Gummere Library

The Upper and Middle School library, located in the main building.

Maguire Field

A field for football, soccer and lacrosse, also used for PE and recess. It is ringed by Penn Charter's 8-lane track.

Math Center

Located in the Upper School, the Math Center is open for students to stop by during study halls or free blocks to work with faculty and peer tutors on mathematical concepts or issues with which they need support. Both walk-ins and appointments are accepted.

Meeting for Worship

At Meeting for Worship, attendees gather together for silent meditation and to listen to their inner voice, believed by Quakers to come from the Inner Light, within each of us. There is no clergy person or sermon, and attendees may share their feelings with others if moved to speak. Each school division pauses mid-week in the Meeting Room for a Meeting for Worship. 
At Penn Charter, pre-K students meet for about 10 minutes; Lower School students for 15 to 20 minutes; Middle School students for 30 minutes; and Upper School students for 40 minutes. 
Throughout the year, parents and caregivers gather for Meeting for Worship. Once a year, the entire school comes together for the All-School Meeting for Worship. In the spring, seniors and their families attend a final Meeting for Worship days prior to Commencement.

Meeting Room

Located at the top of the Senior Stairs on the second floor of the Upper School, the Meeting Room houses Meeting for Worship and some assemblies. 

The Mirror

The Mirror is the Upper School's student newspaper, the oldest secondary school newspaper in the U.S., established in 1777.

Old Penn Charter (OPC)

The formal term for Penn Charter alumni. In written form, a person's name may be followed by OPC and a year (OPC '99). This means the person graduated from Penn Charter in 1999. The larger alumni community and groups of graduates are known as OPCs.

Palaia Field

Palaia Field and baseball facility is on Strawbridge Campus. Interestingly, the outfield walls resemble the configuration of Citizens Bank Park in homage to David Montgomery OPC '64, who served as chairman, minority-owner, and president of the Philadelphia Phillies. The field sits directly across School House Lane from the main campus. Spectators can look beyond the outfield to a vast and beautiful view of treetops. In the other direction, runners heading to home plate can look beyond to Penn Charter's iconic Clock Tower.

Parent and Caregiver Community (PCC)

The Parent and Caregiver Community (PCC) is similar to parent-teacher groups that exist at other schools. Parents/caregivers, the school’s Board of Trustees, faculty and staff are automatically members. The group hosts meetings, programs and other events for the PC community as well as supports students and the school in various ways.

Parent Post

A weekly e-newsletter emailed to parents/caregivers and faculty/staff that provides need-to-know information about events, service opportunities, important reminders, and other things of interest to the PC community.


Held each November, PC/GA Day marks the oldest continuous high school football rivalry in the United States when Penn Charter (PC) takes on Germantown Academy (GA). The teams have been squaring off since 1887. In 1996, the event expanded to include all PC/GA Fall sports teams playing each other on the same day for the Competition Cup, given to the school who wins the most games on the day.

Penn Charter magazine

Published twice a year and mailed to the homes of all PC families, the official magazine of Penn Charter contains information about the broader school community, such as students, faculty and staff, parents/caregivers, and OPCs.


The P.C.P.D. is a newsletter that gets published in the Fall, Winter and Spring, and includes news on the Teaching and Learning Center, a mind, brain education corner as well as a reading and writing and eco section.

Portrait of a Penn Charter Learner 

The Portrait of a Penn Charter Learner articulates the skills, attitudes and competencies Penn Charter seeks to nurture in our Lower, Middle and Upper School students. The Portrait is comprised of four Core Domains: Students as Courageous Learners, Compassionate Friends, Constructive Communicators, and Change Cultivators.

Report of Gifts

An annual publication produced by Penn Charter which shares stories about giving to the school and highlights the support of donors.


Queries are read in Quaker Meetings, asking members to ask themselves questions that require in-depth consideration. In this tradition, Quaker schools pose queries to students to get them to think about moral issues important in their world. At Penn Charter, each division approaches queries in age-appropriate ways. 

Religious Life Committee (RLC)

A group of students and teachers that oversee the religious life of the school. This includes conducting Meeting for Business, creating service opportunities, and considering ways to support and continue the Quaker life of the school.

Religious Society of Friends

The Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers or Friends) is a religious or spiritual movement founded in England. The Society of Friends has tended not to have a hierarchical structure, a creed, or paid clergy. They believe in the Inner Light, or that of God within everyone. 

School Store

In the lower level of the Main Building and across from the dining hall entrance, visitors will find the Penn Charter school store stocked with PC apparel and more. The store is staffed by volunteers from the community and is typically open when school is in session.

Senior Stairs

A long-standing tradition reserves the wooden staircase inside the main entrance of the Upper School for members of the senior class only on school days from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The stairs are open to everyone during fire drills and emergencies. Faculty, staff, and visitors may use the stairs at all times.

Strawbridge Campus

Located across School House Lane, Strawbridge is the site of several soccer fields, tennis courts, and squash courts.

Teaching & Learning Center (TLC)

Located on the second floor of the John. F. Gummere Library, the TLC is a nationally recognized model for professional development that empowers teachers and staff to further their professional growth as a means to ensuring PC students receive an outstanding education. It offers course work, workshops, conferences and other enrichment opportunities in which faculty and staff can continue to grow as educators and education professionals. It is done individually, as a small group, division, and sometimes as a whole faculty/staff group.

Timmons House

By walking between the Maguire Field and Graham Athletics & Wellness Center, and continuing cross the bus lane, visitors will find the Timmons House (3850 The Oak Road). Inside are the friendly people of the development and business offices. 

Trask Library

The library located in the Lower School.

VITAL (Valuing Innovative Teaching And Learning)

A Penn Charter summer grant program that allows faculty to create innovative curriculum, have time to collaborate, make global connections, do interdisciplinary work, and strengthen collegial relationships, all with the goal of building creative and innovative curriculum or new modes of teaching to best support student learning.

Writing Center

Located in the Upper School, the Writing Center enables students to make appointments or drop in to work with English teachers and tutors on writing assignments for various classes, college essays and more.