Clark Fork School photos

Kindergarten and Early Foundations 
Clark Fork School, Missoula MT

The core of the kindergarten program is the idea that children are individuals with varied talents, interests, abilities, and needs. An education program should evolve and reshape itself to meet and support those differences while encouraging a sense of belonging. Clark Fork School nurtures the concept of cooperative learning in the best sense: that we know more together than individually; that everyone has something to contribute; and that everyone is strengthened and supported when we share our knowledge, talents, and encouragement with one another.

“Small class size and good teacher involvement in social challenges gave our child many good supportive opportunities to form friendships and work out differences.”

 Education is not a fixed collection of data to be memorized, but a process to be explored and nurtured. Our goal is to cultivate an insatiable desire to learn about the world around us, to equip our students with tools they need to find out what they need to know when they need to know it, and to develop the ability to communicate that knowledge with others.

A Day in the Life of a Clark Fork School Explorer (pdf)   2017-2018 Kindergarten Application (pdf)

Kindergarten teaching philosophy 

We believe

  • in small classes, with a maximum student to teacher ratio of 10 to 1, allowing for personalized attention and individualized curriculum.
  • in structured academics designed to meet or exceed Missoula and Montana public school benchmarks.
  • In a nature-based curriculum that taps into children’s natural curiosity and wonder, while developing stewardship, deep observation, and critical thinking skills.
  • in a student-centered philosophy where inclusivity, individuality, and unique interests are celebrated, resulting in more engaged and confident learners.
  • in experiential learning where children get to explore hands-on, outdoors, and in the wider Missoula community.
  • in village values where emotional awareness, positive communication, social growth, and creative expression are nurtured in a close-knit community.
  • in outside experiences where nature’s calming influence, physical activity, and scientific inquiry combine in an educational experience unlike any other in Missoula.
  • in progressive education where educators have the flexibility to evolve methods and curriculum to meet classroom needs and interests.
“I appreciate the connection between the outdoors and my child. And I greatly appreciate the academic rich curriculum.”


KindergartenEarly Foundations: A Prelude to Kindergarten

Clark Fork School’s Chickadee and Meadowlark preschool classrooms engage students in a two-year preschool curriculum. For students over four-years-old, this includes a holistic pre-k program structured to ensure your child is socially, emotionally and academically prepared for kindergarten. Since no two kids have the exact same academic needs, Clark Fork School also offers an Early Foundations program to serve students needing different types of supports and challenges. Please read on to see if the Early Foundations program in our Explorer classroom is right for your child.

Which kids are best suited for EF?

  • EF is open to kids who will be 5 before November 30, but who do not make Kindergarten cut-off date of September 10. 
  • EF is ideal for children who are age-ready for Kindergarten, but would benefit from another year in a school environment that is holistic, experiential, exploratory, stimulating and nurturing.  
  • EF students must be able to comfortably get through the day without a nap and be ready for the social and academic challenge of a Kindergarten curriculum.

What makes Early Foundations different from Preschool?

  • Students share the classroom with Kindergarten-age kids, allowing for academic and social peer modeling.
  • Learners engage in a kindergarten curriculum scaled to meet each child’s abilities and a more structured daily schedule. 
  • EF offers in-depth thematic studies that encourage exploration and delve more deeply into place-based curricula.
  • All students attend class Monday through Friday, 8:45 a.m. until 3 p.m.
  • Students in the EF program have the chance to be part of the Kindergarten ski and swim lessons.
  • EF kids participate in the same community service projects, independence-building activities, and weekly saunters as Kindergarteners.

How does Early Foundations support students in the Kindergarten classroom?

  • The student:teacher ratio is 10:1, enabling teachers to work independently with students. 
  • Students are given learning options to match their interests and abilities. Each station is individualized to meet students where they are in their learning. 
  • Following a year of EF, students can opt for either a year of Kindergarten or make the leap straight into First Grade, depending on their age and social and academic development.
“The teacher is amazing. I am consistently impressed by the creative, practical, interesting ways she teaches new skills and lessons to the kids. I’m often pleasantly surprised at the intriguing bits of knowledge and wisdom that pop up in my kiddo’s everyday conversations, thanks to what he’s learned in her class. I love how smart, down-to-earth, and even-handed the teacher is and how the kids pick up on those qualities and mirror them. The skills my kid has learned from her teacher this year will endure way beyond kindergarten.”