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Phebe Anna Thorne School: A Hidden Gem on the Main Line

Early childhood education for ages 2-6 and all abilities in a nurturing, enriched environment.

“A magical place”

“A unicorn.”

Located on the beautiful Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College campuses, the Phebe Anna Thorne School inspires glowing praise from parents, and love from its students. The philosophy of Thorne’s child-centered programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners is built upon proven research showing that play enhances children’s problem-solving and social skills. This early emphasis on free play lays the groundwork for mastery of academics and life skills as children grow.

“I firmly believe Phebe Anna Thorne is changing the world for the better, one little person at a time. I’ll be forever grateful to that school for preparing my children to go into the world as confident, capable and kind little people.”

– Alison Skiles, Thorne School parent

Tucked away within the two liberal arts colleges, it may be surprising how many diverse programs Phebe Anna Thorne School offers. Thorne offers traditional programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners, as well as specialized programs for children with speech language needs.

Each program is informed by the school’s overarching philosophy: “Learning to Play. Playing to Learn.”

The Phebe Anna Thorne School Toddler Program

Located on the Bryn Mawr College campus, the Toddler Program’s Nearly Threes class for 2- to 3-year-olds is designed to be a first school experience. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, adding Wednesdays in January. The skilled teachers for this age group help the children separate from their caregivers and learn that school is a happy place for them to learn and play. 

“The Toddler program was a great entry into school for our kids.  The teachers and administration care so much about the kids and their happiness, and know exactly what each kid needs. Both of our sons eased into school and never looked back!”

– Suzanne Swartley

The Phebe Anna Thorne School Preschool Program

The Traditional Preschool program offers classes for ages 3 through 5. Classes meet five mornings per week and full day options are available. The program incorporates free play with lots of outdoor time on a large playground and newly designed outdoor field classroom. Preschoolers use the college campus to go on “adventures” to the soccer fields, maze and duck pond. Thorne’s emphasis on social emotional learning and communication is evident in all activities and interactions.

Parent Nicole Snyder tells us,

“When we moved to Haverford from Philadelphia, we were on the hunt for a ‘unicorn’ of a preschool that could meet the needs of our children through play. We consider ourselves lucky that a friend told us about Phebe Anna Thorne preschool. Three of our children have attended and have all been incredibly happy on their journey. Learning through play is the cornerstone of their program and we truly value their efforts to maintain developmentally appropriate expectations of our children.”

Like the Toddler Program, preschool is on Bryn Mawr College campus, providing a smooth transition as its littlest students advance.

The Thorne School Kindergarten Program

Thorne Kindergarten, located on the Haverford College campus is housed in a quaint former farm house adjacent to the expansive Cricket field and nestled amongst the college’s arboretum splendor. 

Thorne offers a full day experience and small class size. The class of 16 is supported by two full time teachers, a part time math and literacy specialist, a psychoeducational consultant, and a dedicated administrator. The child-centered program combines a traditional kindergarten curriculum with many opportunities for active play and social interaction. The focus on social emotional skills and community building through positive social interactions are a hallmark of this Thorne program. Opportunities for outdoor exploration abound as the class takes advantage of the many resources of the Haverford campus, Haverfarm, Arboretum, the Nature Trail, the track, to name a just a few. 

“Our child was at Thorne Kindergarten last year and absolutely thrived. The focus on social and emotional learning continued in kindergarten with weekly lessons and individual check-ins for children with the school’s psychoeducational consultant. Kindergarten was the perfect mix of classroom learning, play, and outdoor exploration!  Our son came home excited to share what he had learned in the classroom and from his class adventures around the beautiful Haverford College campus. They even planted a tree with college arborists! Thorne’s commitment to keeping the children and staff safe during the pandemic has been top notch. We felt very comfortable with their precautions and were impressed with the creative ways teachers have been making more use of outdoor spaces.We are so grateful for the year he had in the Thorne Kindergarten!”

– Anna Clark

 “Our kids do better when academics are taught in an environment that truly takes into account the social, emotional and developmental appropriateness of 5-year-olds.  Our second grader looks back fondly about her time spent at Thorne kindergarten – a truly magical place.”

– Nicole Snyder

The Phebe Anna Thorne School Language Enrichment Preschool Program

In addition to the traditional preschool experience, the Thorne School also offers, the Language Enrichment Preschool Program (LEPP) for children with identified speech and language needs. LEPP’s language-based curriculum is designed to address and strengthen children’s receptive and expressive language abilities, as well as support their social language, play and early literacy skills. The children are supported by two speech therapists, a classroom teacher and an undergraduate assistant.  A LEPP parent at Thorne reports, “My son began in this program in September, and his speech has grown by leaps and bounds ever since. The small student-teacher ratio means that my son receives the kind of individualized attention that he needs to communicate more effectively. All of the teachers in the program are incredibly skilled at working with young children and clearly love what they do. Because of the positive, nurturing environment at Phebe Anna Thorne, my son looks forward to going to school each day.”

The Thorne School’s Early Intervention Program

For preschoolers who need more support than a traditional preschool can offer, the Thorne School also has an Early Intervention Program. The Early Intervention program serves preschoolers with language delays, attention problems, social skills deficits, and difficulties with behavioral self-regulation.

“Our son was able to work on skills to thrive socially and academically, in a nourishing and enriching environment, all under the wings of a dedicated team who truly believed in his abilities as much as us,”

says Thorne parent Jenny K.

Students meet for two hours in the morning or afternoon, and attend for two, three, or five times weekly. Class sizes are limited and are taught by a speech-language pathologist and a special education teacher, along with undergraduate teaching assistants. The Early Intervention program is located on the Haverford College campus.

You can learn more about the Phebe Anna Thorne School on their Profile Page and their Facebook Page. Contact Amanda Ulrich for enrollment information at 610-526-7913.

This story supports the Main Line Parent Community and was written by by Laura Swartz with photography and video courtesy of Phebe Anna Thorne School.

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: The mission of the Thorne School is to provide play-based, developmentally appropriate child-centered programs for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners.