Barrie Then and Now
Our Founding and Formative Years
The Barrie School was founded in 1932 by Miss Frances Littman (Seldin) as a progressive country day school with an enrollment of 13 nursery-aged children.
Named the Peter Pan Kindergarten, in memory of her favorite children's story by Sir J. M. Barrie, the school met in the Littman family home in Washington D.C. for a short time. From the original 13 children, the school rapidly outgrew the family home, moved to the Alexander Graham Bell estate in northwest Washington, then in 1936 to an even larger 17-acre estate near the D.C. border with Maryland, and finally expanded to its present 45-acre campus in Silver Spring, which has been its home since 1976.
Having spent her childhood out-of-doors hiking, riding, skiing, and camping, she believed in the importance of learning from hands-on-experience. In college she was most influenced by the ideas of John Dewey, the great American educator who inspired progressive education, and although she had taken a Montessori course, she did not call Barrie a Montessori school, but instead a progressive school. She served as headmistress until her unexpected death in 1971. It wasn't until her son Tim Seldin became head of school that Barrie incorporated a Montessori curriculum.
From its earliest days, the school's educational philosophy has remained essentially unchanged from that expressed by Mrs. Frances Littman Seldin, in an admissions brochure from the 1940s:
The educational environment of your child's early years ... will determine the form of his or her adulthood. Recognizing the vital importance of proper academic development during these formative years, the educators at Barrie-Peter Pan School have designed a curricular program that matures your child as it teaches him. The children are encouraged to develop their individual interests, aptitudes and abilities within the overall social atmosphere of the group environment.
Mrs. Frances Littman Seldin
Today, Barrie School continues our founder's vision of hand's-on learning, student-centered instruction and active learning at all levels.
This ad appeared in the Classifieds section of the Evening Star (a local newspaper in Washington, D.C. from 1854-1972) on January 12, 1958 on page B-1.
Barrie turns 90 in April 2022!
Join us in 2022 as we celebrate Barrie's 90th Anniversary.
Read more about the history of Barrie School in this tribute to the school and the founder (also his mother) by former headmaster, Tim Seldin, when Barrie turned 75.