Information for Prospective Families and Students

Why Choose Pathfinder K-8?

Why Choose Pathfinder K-8?

The answer to this question is as different as each child and family.

Below is a list of some reasons Pathfinder K-8 families identifyas critical to their choice. Select and view of the topics and  reasons below to find out more about this aspect of our school.

Alternative Education

For most of our parents, one of the most critical parts of choosing Pathfinder K-8 is the alternative education model we use. It is impossible to describe this model easily on a website. 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. 

If you walk into a classroom you will not see desks lined up in rows, but tables set up for collaborative work and floor space for class meetings and lessons.  You will hear children calling adults by their first names and being treated as equals in the learning process with respect and support from all.

At the most basic level, Pathfinder K-8 is an alternative, or “Option” school because parents must choose to enroll their children at Pathfinder K-8. 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. 

Strong Community

From the origin of our school over 15 years ago, community has always been a tremendous part of Pathfinder K-8.  Building community takes many forms: students go on camping trips with their classmates, parents work together to help in the classroom and organize PTSA and other school events, and families gather to share in celebrations of learning and culture. Throughout the school you will notice people genuinely care about one another. Parents greet children in the halls. Teachers, staff, and families build connections and relationships that can be counted on in times of need or celebration. 

Small School Size

At just under 500 students enrolled in nine gradebands, Pathfinder is a “big” school with a “small” feel.  This meansteachers and staff know students personally.  By breaking the school upinto halls, organized by grade band (for examples 2nd and 3rd grade),there is an even greater sense of a small school – where everyone knowsand cares about each other. 

Our upper grades are particularly notable – while the other public middle schools in West Seattle have 700-900 students, we have about 140students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The small-school atmosphere/climate allows for special projects rather than the typical six-period model of most middle schools.  Indeed, many other schools have recognized this desire for a small school and are moving to the “small schools within a school” model.

Providing a continuous program for grades K-8 also allows for fewer transitions for students and engenders long-term relationships between staff, students, and families.

Excellent Teachers 

Pathfinder K-8 attracts, recruits and retains terrificteachers. Many have master’s degrees, and all are committed to teachingexcellence. Several of our teachers are currently completing theirnational board certification. Our teachers have a reputation forinnovation, creativity, dedication and excellence. Our progressiveteachers are committed to providing students culturally relevant andrigorous instruction using alternative curriculum and resources ratherthan relying only on text books. Our staff works hard to reach eachchild academically as well as socially and emotionally.

Our teachers also collaborate as a team, both withineach grade band and throughout the school. They help and support eachother and work together to ensure the highest qualityinstruction. They are committed to making sure each child movessuccessfully from the first day in kindergarten to the last spring dayof 8th grade, achieving their highest potential.

Focus on the Whole Child 

Academics are incredibly important at PathfinderK-8. However, we recognize that success in academics as well as in lifeis based on a child succeeding socially, emotionally, physically andartistically. In addition to a strong academic core, we care and teachabout the other parts of a well-rounded education. Our teachers believethat if a child is not nurtured emotionally, he or she will not lovelearning; a child who is not physically fit will not be able to sit andlearn as effectively; and a child who does not feel welcome and caredabout by his or her peers will no want to be at school and will learnless.

Pathfinder K-8 uses age-appropriate curricula to teachchildren to change the attitudes and behaviors that contribute toconcord and to getting along with others. In the younger grades (K-2)children are taught to think about others feelings, to solve problemscooperatively, increase their level of social competence, and to manageanger in a positive way.  Students in grades 3-5 are taught friendshipskills and anti-bullying strategies; they learn to recognize, refuse,and report unkind or excluding behaviors. For the older grades,social-emotional components at the school, classroom, and individuallevels are implemented.

Expeditionary Learning 

Expeditionary Learning (EL) emphasizes learning bydoing, with a particular focus on character growth, teamwork, reflectionand literacy. Teachers connect high quality academic learning toadventure, service and character development through a variety ofstudent experiences including interdisciplinary, project based learningexpeditions.

Expeditions start with a big idea, or organizingprinciple/theme, and  typically involve field work, are project-based,and provide unique learning experiences. Teachers work collaborativelyto design a multi-disciplinary approach that ties in core academiccurricula with innovative learning.  Previous expeditions have included:

  • K-1 Grades: Trees & Wood; Habitats
  • 2-3 Grades: Puppets Around the World;  Where in the World is… (maps and cartography)
  • 4-5 Grades: Canoes on Puget Sound; Struggle & Resistance (American History through the lens of the struggle and resistance of American populations) 6-8 Grades Space (6th grade), Response to Climate (7thgrade.).

Please look at our expeditionary learning page for more information.

Strong Arts and Science Program 

Pathfinder K-8 has two art teachers, reflecting the importance placed on art in the school. Our students have displayed their work at the West Seattle Art Walk, and participate in the end-of-year art show. The PTSA strongly supports the art program with thousands of dollars every year for supplies. 

Pathfinder K-8 is one of the only elementary schools inthe Seattle School District that has a Science Fair. Over 100 studentsacross all grade levels participate and many are nominated to go to theState Science Fair.  Many of the expeditions at Pathfinder K-8 have asignificant science focus. Our green belt serves

Looped and Multi-aged Classrooms

Typically your student at Pathfinder K-8 will have thesame teacher for kindergarten and 1st grade, 2nd and 3rd grade, and 4thand 5th grade. This is great because it reduces the time spent on “getto know you” activities at the beginning of the year, reinforces thebond between teachers and students, and means that teachers know theirstudents strengths and weaknesses right off the bat!

If you ever felt that your child was just gettingsettled in and adjusted when the school year ended, maybe a school withlooped classrooms like Pathfinder K-8 is right for your family.

Our classrooms are typically multi-aged (except for Kand first grade and some classrooms in the upper grades). Thecombination of looping and multi-aged classrooms means that eachclassroom becomes a learning community, and allows students to work atlevels that are appropriate for them.  For example, there is not asingle book that all students read – they choose (with help andguidance) a book that is of interest to them and that challenges them. As a result students enjoy reading and, at the same time, are able tofollow their own passion and work on the skills they need to work on.

Parent Involvement 

Pathfinder is a school that families choose to attend so the commitment level and involvement among our parents is especially high. Pathfinder teachers value their partnership with parents for the benefit of all students.  Our high degree of parental involvement makes are outdoor education and expeditionary learning possible.

Parents are involved in so many ways at Pathfinder K-8, spending time inthe classroom, chaperoning field trips, contributing to school-widedecisions about staffing and budgets, and volunteering for communitybuilding and fundraising activities. 

We have a strong PTSA that financially supports the instrumental music program, runs the after school program and Science Fair (one of only three science fairs for elementary-aged student in the entire Seattle School District!), and so much more.

One School for K-8

Pathfinder K-8 is a great choice for some familiesbecause it offers a welcoming place for children through 8th grade. This means that there is no separate middle school experience or theadjustment of transitioning to a new school at a very difficult time in achild’s life.  Of course our curricula does change appropriately forthe upper grades, but you will find the same caring teachers, smallschool atmosphere, and alternative education philosophy throughout theschool. 

Providing a continuous program for grades K-8 allows for fewer transitions for students and engenders long-term relationships between staff, students, and families.   We get to know our kids so well that we can work with them on an individualized level; we build good relationships with families and students to enable working together effectively.   We build a strong sense of community.  Our 8th grade students go on to many different high schools in the Seattle area and are highly successful.

The demographics of Pathfinder K-8 students closelymimic the demographics of West Seattle. Almost half of the students atPathfinder K-8 are students of color, including the largest percentageof native students in the SPS system.   About 37% of our studentsqualify for free or reduced lunch.

Beyond these traditional measures of diversity, youwill find that Pathfinder K-8 families also reflect the diversity offamilies in our community – from same-sex parents, to blended families,adoptive families, and most every other family configuration.  Thesefamilies chose Pathfinder K-8 because it is a welcoming place thatunderstands and honors all families.

Excellent Before and After School Program

Our after-school program at Blazing Trails is widelyrecognized as one of the top after school and summer care programs inthe area. 

Pathfinder K-8, with support from our PTSA, has created a dynamic after-school program for all students. These programs range from language (Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Lashootseed) to physical fitness (Jump Rope, Unicycle Team), to the creative arts (Art Studio, Drama Workshop, Film Making) and are open to all students for a modest fee. Some programs are free thanks to a Seattle Parks & Recreation levy. 

Transportation Available Throughout West Seattle

As West Seattle’s only option school, students qualify for school bus transportation from all over West Seattle. This is, of course subject to the District’s transportation policies. Our students come from every corner of West Seattle, and even from areas beyond!