Who We Are
What is special about Clark Fork School?
Our student-centered, parent-guided school is filled with children who are enthusiastic about their classes and challenged academically to reach their fullest potential. Clark Fork School offers children a supportive, warm environment that nurtures their emotional, cognitive, physical and social development. Every child is able to get more individual attention and move at a comfortable pace for them thanks to our low student-to- teacher ratios.
At the center of our curriculum is the belief that building connections between individuals and their surroundings is the foundation for all learning. Clark Fork School primarily uses a place-based approach to education. The definitions "sense of place" and "place-based" have variations from person to person, so CFS addressed this topic and defined what it means to us. We define place-based education as a real-world learning experience that provides time, ideas and ways of approaching learning that will be life long and transferable from place to place.
Ways of Teaching
- Use our home to inform our life experience and our way of looking at the world
- Explore relationships to both the human environment and the natural world
- Develop heightened awareness of detail
- Explore with purpose and intention
- Teach respect for learning, for each other, and for our community
- Promote an investigative approach to life
- Expand the classroom to include the schoolyard, community, and watershed
- Learn to approach the world with curiosity and humanity
- Help students feel that they are a part of the natural world, not apart from it
When we understand and feel connected to our own natural environment and social community we can begin to comprehend our personal and collective responsibilities to the world at large. We emphasize the natural world. As part of our place-based curriculum, our students and teachers devote significant time to study and direct personal experience of the natural environment. As an extension of this, we strive to model environmentally sound choices in our school practices. (Click here for our handout on "being green" and our sustainability policy.)
Clark Fork School’s low student-teacher ratio allows our teachers to have the time to work with each student to develop the skill of careful observation. They explore, document, and discuss detailed changes in their classroom projects, the school yard, and the Rattlesnake Creek ecosystem. These ways of observing and understanding, however, do not simply apply to their development as scientists. The same skills help them to quickly identify and understand each other’s emotions and develop the discerning eye of an artist or photographer.
As children progress through Clark Fork School, they are offered increasingly greater and more detailed exposure to the world around them. The preschool starts by introducing exploration skills primarily in the neighborhood around our school and nearby parks and trails and the kindergarten moves up and into the hills of Missoula.
At Clark Fork School, children work to make purposeful products. For example, after a fall of exploring apples, bear safety and community service, our preschool students picked apples and made apple sauce. This apple sauce was sold as a fundraiser for the Missoula Food Bank. After thoroughly investigating, researching, and exploring the role of pollinators in our ecosystem, the kindergarten Explorers created a pollinator garden in our Garden Learning Center.
Clark Fork School has a strong, close-knit community, in which both children and families build strong connections. All members of the school community enjoy a warm social environment, partly created by social gatherings throughout the year, including all-school activities. Special Friday gatherings for the whole school provide opportunities for children of all ages to develop relationships in their school community while they engage in arts and crafts, drama, outdoor adventure, meals, and discussions. Our community relies on parent involvement. CFS is a parent co-op, which means parents play a very important role in keeping the school running.The executive board consists of dedicated parents who are committed to educational excellence. All parents are required to perform some hours of service each month, but most parents gladly go beyond the work requirements. Parents can get involved in many ways, including volunteering in the classrooms, maintaining the school building and playground, working in the office, helping on field trips, coordinating fundraising projects, and much more. Each family plays a special role at Clark Fork School. Every individual is a valuable asset to our school community.