Frequently Asked Questions
Choosing a school for your child is difficult. We know families have questions so we have compiled answer to some of the most frequently asked questions about Pathfinder K-8. Additional information is available on our Information for Prospective Families page.
Are you a public or private school?
Pathfinder K-8 is a public school. We are one of 113 schools in the Seattle Public School District. There is no charge to attend Pathfinder K-8. We are, however, different from most of the other public schools in West Seattle in many ways.
We are an “option” school, which means that students must choose to attend Pathfinder K-8. To enroll at Pathfinder K-8, you must indicate Pathfinder K-8 is your choice on your enrollment form during open enrollment. Additional enrollment information is available on the district website.
How is Pathfinder K-8 different from other Seattle Public Schools?
Pathfinder K-8 is different in many ways. We have looped classrooms, so students have the same teacher 2 years in a row. We are committed to expeditionary learning and environmental education. One of the first things you will notice that when visiting is that most of our teachers go by their first names.
What does it mean to be an alternative school?
At the most basic level, Pathfinder K-8 is an alternative school because parents have to choose to attend Pathfinder K-8; we are considered an “option school” under the new Student Assignment Plan. We do not have a reference area and, according to District policy, no students are assigned to Pathfinder K-8. Of course, there is a lot more to being an alternative school. It means that we teach to the whole child using techniques that are progressive and innovative. We balance district adopted curricula with our own teacher-developed curricula that integrates academic disciplines and aligns with standards.
What is Expeditionary Learning?
Expeditionary Learning emphasizes learning by doing, with a particular focus on character growth, teamwork, reflection and literacy. Teachers connect high quality academic learning to adventure, service and character development through a variety of student experiences including interdisciplinary, project based learning expeditions.
Expeditions typically involve field work, are project-based, and provide unique learning experiences. Previous expeditions have included:
- Grades K-1: Trees & Wood, Bread, Habitats
- Grades 2-3: Puppets Around the World, “Where in the World is…” (maps & cartography)
- Grades 4-5: Canoes on Puget Sound, Struggle & Resistance (American History through the lens of the struggle and resistance of American populations)
- Grade 6: Space
- Grade 7: Response to Climate
Please visit our Expeditionary Learning page for more information.
Do you focus on Outdoor Education, being on the Duwamish Greenbelt?
Every student at Pathfinder K-8 participates in outdoor education, from field trips to camping experiences. The outdoor education trips provide students with opportunities to explore the natural world around them, and to experience and observe ecosystems, geology, natural history, and local geography for themselves, actively learning about these things in ways not possible in the classroom. As they learn about nature they learn how to be stewards and enjoy the outdoors responsibly. These experiences also allow us to emphasize the importance of creating a supportive and safe community in which people work together as a team. Older students also learn a variety of camping skills. Perhaps most important, our outdoor trips allow students to gain self-esteem, confidence, and independence. A 1998 Pew Charitable Trust study showed that children did better in school when they were taken outside the classroom for hands-on projects.
Additionally, in the spring of 2010 Pathfinder families designated significant funds at our school auction to develop the Earth Project: “Empowering students to discover their connections to the Earth, themselves, and one another.” The Earth Project (EP) is a collaboration between local non-profit Nature Consortium and Pathfinder teachers, parents, and greater community. This year the EP team will be supporting Pathfinder teachers as they develop environmental science/art curriculum and carry out Earth-based projects. The Earth Project team is currently working on many projects with the students including: maintaining and expanding the school’s edible and native garden, improving the school’s compost system, going into the greenbelt to learn about it and help restore it, and beginning a worm bin program. Parent/community volunteers are needed and welcomed!
How do I contact the PTSA?
Pathfinder K-8 has an active and vibrant PTSA.
Check out the Pathfinder PTSA website
How are parents involved at Pathfinder K-8?
Parents are involved in many ways at Pathfinder, spending time in the classroom, contributing to school-wide decisions about staffing and budgets, and volunteering for community building and fundraising activities. We have a strong PTSA that financially supports the instrumental music program, runs the science fair (one of only 3 science fairs for elementary-aged students in the entire Seattle School District!), supports tutoring and staff professional development, and so much more. Most of our parents are members of the PTSA. Because Pathfinder is a school that families choose to attend, the commitment level and involvement is especially high. Pathfinder teachers value their partnership with parents and collaborate with them closely to benefit our students.
How do you interact with the West Seattle community?
Pathfinder K-8 is enriched by the community we are apart of and we see it as our duty and pleasure to enrich our community in return. We do this in many ways:
- Sponsor and organize free activities for kids “Hometown Holidays” in the Junction
- Provide meeting space for the Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council
In addition, many of our classes and students do service learning at various non-profits including the West Seattle Food Bank.