We are an elementary school in the Mount Baker neighborhood of Seattle, founded in 2003, serving close to seventy children ages four through fifth grade. A highlight of the school is our theme-based instruction. Often selected from the social studies and the sciences, themes offer opportunities for understanding the hows and whys of things, allow children to come to grips with many topics that are often reserved for the older grades, and provide inspiration for expression in the arts.
Another highlight is our traditional kindergarten program (we call it the Beginning Program) which offers ongoing easel painting and block building coupled with the boundless sense of possibility that a current theme may suggest. In other words, the kindergarten is not only play based, which we value as essential, but also highly stimulating intellectually. Children at this level listen to poems and novels. They sing and dance. They put their newfound knowledge into drawing form. Often, they dictate to the teacher, letting him or her know the essence of the drawing. One can look through a year’s journaling output and find evidence of deep understanding and equally deep response.
A third highlight is our commitment to being outdoors. As Louv tells us in his provocative title, Last Child in the Woods, it is the child’s right to be in nature. To this end, we return to the same park, garden, and beachfront season by season. We learn a shape of a tree up close and personal as we touch it and climb it over the months, over the years. We take trips further than our own locale as well, heading out to Issaquah Creek to release salmon, finding our way in winter to a mountain for sun and snow, and, closer to home,digging in our own p-patch at Colman Park.
We pay careful attention to grade level norms and are committed to basic skills, which are as critical an aspect of our curriculum as our themes. Skills are often taught in concert with a given topic, but do, at many times, stand on their own. Children are encouraged to go as far in the basic skills as they are able. There is no limit to how high a child may proceed. At the same time, there is a breadth and depth to the curriculum here that encourages deep understanding. Academics are taught sincerely. Why learn to read? Read so that one can learn about volcanoes and learn the script for the play. Why do math? Do math so that one can engage in the intellectual pursuit of the symbolic and follow it to its logical end. Do math to keep track of the number of salmon eggs in a given quantity of water.
At Lake and Park, negative numbers can be taught to first graders and so can the origin of the alphabet. There is no limit to our curricular reach, its stretch or expanse. We value equally the concrete, the hands-on, the digging in the dirt, hammering of the nail, and wading in the water to see where the small fry has gone. We are at home in the here and now and in the abstract, when we are prepared for it, in the big ideas and in the little things that surround us. We offer mutli–age classrooms and a teacher to student ratio that is often lower than one to ten. We prefer to call a group of children by a name that allows for more than one grade to be included. We aim to treat each child as an individual, developing at an individual’s rate of growth.
Please, look into this site to see images that depict children and teachers in action. Scan through our blog, The Ampersand, as well. It contains detailed information regarding particular thematic studies. Through both venues, you will learn of our teachers—dedicated and highly collaborative. As we are affiliated with the Northwest Association of Independent Schools, and other organizations, we share a commitment to maintaining high standards in all of our undertakings.
Tours are held throughout the year so that you may meet us in person.
A warm welcome,
Head of School
Counting tree rings.