Echo Hill & FCS at 45

Forty-five years ago, our first group of Friends’ Central students and teachers left City Avenue for an adventure at the Echo Hill Outdoor School on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Echo Hill trip is a week of adventure in the outdoors, doing activities like “scanoe” (swamp canoe), survival class, Chesapeake Bay Studies, the zip line, the giant swing, milking cows on Mr. Payne’s farm, and so much more. It is also a week of self-discovery, skill building, and connecting with nature and classmates alike – one that countless alumni/ae share as a formative part of their FCS experience. 

In 1972, FCS Lower School Principal Charlotte DeCosta wrote a letter to Peter Rice, Sr., the Lower School Principal at Sidwell Friends School, inquiring about Peter’s son’s outdoor education experiences. She went on to say that Friends’ Central was looking for a trip for its 5th or 6th graders. Echo Hill was founded in 1972, with Quaker principles in mind, by Peter Rice, Jr. Peter is a graduate of Sidwell Friends, and the values of Echo Hill and Friends education have much in common. In the spring of 1974, the first group of students from Friends’ Central ventured to Echo Hill. Amazingly, Peter Rice, Jr. still has the original letter from Charlotte DeCosta and photographs of the first group of FCS students (pictured above and below). 

Students from the first FCS group to go to Echo
Hill in 1974

At Echo Hill, students learn about valuing both individual’s contributions and the strength of the community, and they explore the importance of environmental stewardship. The learning is deep and meaningful because it is entirely hands on, and the staff of Echo Hill make sure that joy and “challenge by choice” are at the heart of each activity. Although the curriculum at Echo Hill focuses on the Chesapeake Bay, everything students learn can be applied when they return to Philadelphia and the comforts of home. Each year, students share that the Echo Hill experience helps them to feel more connected to the environment and empowered to make small choices that have a significant cumulative impact. In a year when we gain many students who are new to FCS, it is also an invaluable opportunity for students to make new friends and come together as a class at this crucial point of Middle School. 

Memories from Echo Hill are often part of FCS seniors’ yearbooks and graduation speeches, demonstrating the enduring impact of that experience for me and many other FCS alumni/ae.

We are so proud to continue this special tradition – one in which our students make life-long memories and connections – and grateful to this 45-year partnership with the Echo Hill Outdoor School.

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