Barrie History

Frances Littman Seldin founded Barrie School as the Peter Pan Kindergarten with an enrollment of 15 nursery-age children. Also called the Peter Pan School, classes first were held in her parents’ home in Washington D.C. The school prospered and added classes. By 1939, the school had expanded and moved to Fern Place in northwest Washington, D.C. Over the years, Barrie School has been in several locations in the Washington area. In 1956, Mrs. Seldin purchased the Layhill Road property, which eventually accommodated the entire Barrie School community. The founder led Barrie until her death in 1971 and was succeeded by her son, Tim Seldin. It was through his interest in Montessori education that the school began to pursue a formal Montessori-based curriculum in the Lower School. In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies was founded on the Barrie School campus.

Until 1984, Barrie was a proprietary school. In that year the school incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt institution, and a board of trustees was established to oversee the operation of the school. The Board of Trustees purchased the property from the Seldin family in 1994.  At that time, M. Jeffrey Moredock became the third Head of School. Barrie joined the National Association of Independent Schools in 1995.

The Layhill Road campus has changed dramatically since 1990. The Barrie Center for Athletics and The Performing Arts was completed in 1999 and remains the centerpiece of the lower campus. Despite the physical changes, however, Barrie remains true to its mission to provide a student-centered, teacher-guided, interdisciplinary education. Our goal is to promote the academic, athletic, artistic, and social growth of the individual student. The Lower School provides an exemplary Montessori program. Our Middle and Upper Schools pursue a more traditional academic curriculum, but with a strong emphasis on experiential and service learning. Barrie School has always believed in striking a balance between theoretical and practical learning; the motto is “A passion for learning – A passion for life.

Barrie At-A-Glance

Total: 315
Barrie Montessori: 191
Barrie Prep: 124
Barrie Day Camp: 838
Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies: 41   

Male: 163
Female: 152
Students of color: 60%

Barrie MontessoriL 12:1
Barrie Prep: 10:1

Athletic Offerings: 9
Student Clubs: 12

Total: 45
Male: 13
Female: 32

Ph.D.: 3
M.A./M.S.: 21

Students Receiving Aid: 54%
Average Award: $10,400


Members of the class of 2013 were accepted at more than 80 different colleges and universitie.


A Barrie student develops a confident, compassionate voice with an ability to advocate and lead. 

This requires being able to think critically, solve problems and knowing how to work both independently and collaboratively in a group. At Barrie, we not only prepare students with skills and knowledge, but also carefully support stewards of our world, who can live fulfilling, joyful lives. Our students learn about the complexity of a world where our interdependencies demand sensitivity to culture.

I joined Barrie after a career devoted to helping improve education practice locally and internationally. I have been thrilled to share my passion for global education with Barrie where we now have students from eight countries studying here and families from dozens of others. During my visits, I witness the work of a group of devoted educators committed to the development of the whole child. The heart of Barrie is the faculty and staff who know every child. This is attributable to a program that responds to each child's passions and interests.  We respect individual differences and value our partnership with families.  We strive to have a diverse community and one that is inclusive as we celebrate each voice.

At Barrie, learning is actively engaging the mind, hands and hearts of our students. The school’s work with children from age 18 months through Grade 12 rewards us with a full understanding of child and youth development. Our Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies guides adult educators in their knowledge of Montessori practice and its impact on young children. We celebrate the joy of childhood and discovery through the Barrie Camp, fully utilizing our equestrian facility and our extensive campus.

The faculty in the Lower School educates students using materials and an approach inspired by Maria Montessori by helping each student gain the confidence and motivation to be a lifelong learner, equipped to ask meaningful questions and seek solutions individually and as part of a group. The traditions of active learning and experiential education promoted by John Dewey can be observed across our campus. Barrie Prep ensures our older students are prepared for the challenges beyond Barrie.

Student learning occurs all over the campus and throughout the city and world. Equally, we strive to foster a commitment to service with projects on campus, as well as organizations locally and globally. We have built partnerships with schools in other countries and a range of local organizations that enhance the experience of students and faculty. We expect our students to gain the advocacy skills to contribute to a more peaceful world, respecting diversity and the environment. Please look at our mission and philosophy and most importantly, come share time with us. If you are an alumnus looking at the site, please stay connected and share with us how Barrie helped you in your education and life path.

We hope to meet you and your family. We invite you to come and speak with our students and our teachers and observe daily life at Barrie. When you come on campus, our award-winning learning spaces model how want students to be learning: being engaged with each other, teachers, the environment, and easy use of technology. We hope a visit will stimulate all your senses, as we guide students to do the same. Let us know your interests and your hopes and we will schedule a visit to assist you with any information you need for the choices you are considering.

I look forward to meeting you and am personally available to discuss any questions you may have.



Charles H. Abelmann