How does FMS provide an education for the whole child? Our community respects children individually and as members of a group. Teachers and staff are attentive to students’ emotional and academic needs. We value a child's social, emotional and physical development as much as their growth intellectually and academically.
What are the benefits of a small school? In our small school setting, children are known extremely well by their teachers and their peers. There is a high level of individual attention on a daily basis. In such a small community of learners, the younger children know the older children, boys and girls play together, and there is a strong emphasis on respect. In smaller settings, teachers are more able to deal directly with social, emotional and academic challenges as they arise, shepherding children through situations and encouraging them to reflect on their outcomes.
How are families involved? Being a small, close-knit community creates an opportunity for adults to work closely together. Parents are directly involved with the maintenance and support of FMS. Parents will be responsible for supporting the school’s mission through activities with community resources and partnerships. Partnership and communication are vital for the success of the school. Parents are expected to cooperate in a spirit of respectful collaboration, in a manner that will serve as a model to students.
What is place-based education? For children, experiential outdoor education and locally applied education can impart deeper understanding of the world, and instill a sense of wonder and excitement. The place-based curriculum at Fire Mountain School will call upon students to explore the north coast landscapes and communities with their eyes open - learning to perceive the world around them clearly, to understand the processes that shape it, to gain confidence and skills in navigating outdoor settings, and to have the opportunity to learn in the “living laboratory” of their home communities. Local partners will be involved in providing students with exciting and meaningful field experiences – from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program and the North Coast Land Conservancy, to local farm cooperatives, municipal public works departments, and Oregon State Parks.
What about safety at FMS? Safety is a top concern at FMS, and the school is a safe environment. Children will spend a great deal of quality time outdoors, including in the woods, in all kinds of weather. They will get dirty, and sustain occasional scrapes and bruises. More and more studies confirm that adventurous play in natural settings builds stronger body awareness, balance, fine and gross motor skills, and overall confidence. Though there may be a few more minor bumps and bruises, there are far fewer major injuries for children throughout life who have been exposed in their early years to unpredictable and “unprotected” natural environments. In the first days and weeks of school, teachers will help students to walk boundaries and set safe parameters of play through awareness of surroundings and hazards. Throughout each week there are many opportunities for the upper grade class to have free play within these boundaries. State required fire drills and tsunami drills are performed regularly. The school also serves as the emergency shelter for the Falcon Cove community and thus is fully equipped with emergency supply barrels.
What type of outdoor space does FMS have? The school is situated on a wooded 2 acre parcel with a large playing field and playground, donated by one of the founding families. In 2020 and 2021 we have added a few more structures (tables, benches, tents) which allow the students to maximize their time outside. FMS is surrounded by the rainforest of Oswald West State Park and is within walking distance to Falcon Cove Beach and Marine Reserve.
On what is the curriculum based? At FMS, the curriculum will help students develop a deep familiarity with core themes relating to their community, their environment, and their own capacities for personal expression. The curriculum will be integrated, so that students will engage core topics from multiple perspectives – artistic, scientific, verbal, mathematical, and applied. A student might take part in field observations or a scientific experiment relating to a study topic in the morning, and help write a poem or play about the same topic that afternoon. Students will build competency and confidence in these diverse approaches to the same subject; in turn, this will foster a deep integrated awareness, and will help them to see connections between themes and perspectives.
What is a hands-on education? A hands-on education involves children, at a very deep level, as partners in their own learning. By engaging children in meaningful activities, the lessons learned take root leading to broad understanding.
What are some of the advantages of this community setting? Children in this setting are well known by many adults who are a part of their daily lives. There are many opportunities for older and younger children to interact and learn from each other. In this community of mutual support, parents will be expected to provide friendly encouragement to every student, much as they would be encouraging to the children from their own family.
What is the daily routine? Everyday day starts with Circle Time, a time to settle into the day, sharing thoughts, stories or music. Snack and lunch are held at consistent time. Within this scheduled routine there are blocks of learning that include core academics, the arts, projects and activities, and outdoor play and exploration.
What is the student - teacher ratio at FMS? Maximum is 12 students to one teacher
What is the funding structure for FMS? 80% of the budget is covered by tuition and 20% is raised through fundraising (which families are asked to be actively involved in).
What is the community of children like at FMS? FMS intentionally nurtures a strong sense of community among children. Mixed aged classrooms foster meaningful relationships and mentorships among children of different ages and experiences. Children are taught social skills, and are given freedoms and privileges as well as responsibilities. They learn to take care of each other and their environment. FMS is a community of mutual support, where teachers and staff are attentive to students’ emotional needs as well as their academic needs. Every week will involve group meetings with students to outline overarching goals for the week, to address any student questions or concerns, and respectfully settle any disputes. Through this process, students will gain emotional security and maturity, and will develop a vocabulary for expressing thoughts and feelings. Alongside the core curriculum, this will help the school meet its larger goal of helping students to become well-rounded, conscientious individuals, with a firm social and academic foundation that will aid them through all future phases of their lives.
Beyond community building, what is the purpose of a mixed age classroom? Mixed age classrooms allow for more flexibility, enabling children to be exposed to a greater range of instruction based on skill level and not age. There are also more opportunities for children to emerge as leaders or mentors in the areas in which they excel.
Can my specials needs child attend FMS? Fire Mountain School values the benefits of bringing together a diverse group of learners. We hope that the training and dedication of our teachers and our small class size will allow us to nurture students with a variety of abilities and backgrounds. However, as a very small school we do not have the resources to employ specialists to support highly specialized student needs. All parties should be aware of our limitations when considering the possible enrollment of students with special educational and behavioral needs.
Does FMS offer foreign language, music, art, and other special instruction? FMS benefits from a diverse and talented group of community members, parents and Alumni who are excited to work collaboratively in our classrooms. Depending on the resources available, students may be exposed to special instruction such as Spanish and German, painting and ceramics, piano and guitar, dance and yoga, and much more. (All special instructors and classroom guests will be screened for suitability for a child safe environment)
Are lunch and snacks part of the FMS program? No. Children bring their own lunch and snack. Healthy foods are encouraged and candy and sodas are not allowed.
What about homework at FMS? There is very little to no homework given at FMS. We feel strongly that children need time to play and to be with their families after school. If parents like homework because it helps them feel in the loop about the material their children are covering, we encourage parents to talk with teachers and administrators about how to get involved in other ways. After their elementary school experience, they will experience at least 7 years with homework. We believe this is more than enough time to gain experience in time management and independent study.
Does FMS give tests? We do not test children as part of the regular program. We do continuous assessments in which teachers observe and record not only what the students know, but how they are learning, what problem-solving strategies they are using, what their learning styles are, etc. The students are self-motivated to learn, not driven to work for grades.
What is the FMS grading system like? We do not give typical "grades." Teachers make assessments and observations of the children, and give parents two written progress reports a year. All reports have narrative sections in which teachers describe students' physical, social, emotional and academic development, as well as their personal interests, strengths and vulnerabilities. Twice a year, the school holds parent conferences – parents and teachers exchange information on students’ progress and discuss shared strategies and goals for helping each child thrive.
Where do FMS graduates go? Following their time at FMS, graduates generally go on to the public school in their district—Seaside, Neahkahnie or Astoria. The feedback we receive from public school teachers is encouraging. One common response: “FMS students tend to be the children who are still excited about learning and who know themselves well, both as learners and as friends. They make strong connections with peers and adults alike.”Graduates have become school leaders, attended college and graduate programs, and become teachers, fisherman, biologists, lawyers, real estate agents, hair stylists, doctors, yoga teachers, watercolor artists, graphics designers, business owners, engineers, architects, carpenters, and so much more.
How does FMS handle discipline? The goal of our discipline strategies is that children learn to be self-disciplined, and we recognize that all children are on a continuum of development from the self-centered infant to the fully disciplined and socialized adult. Teachers support the students' acquisition of discipline and social skills through modeling, practice, and when necessary, by facilitating communication and problem-solving. Safe, responsible, and respectful behaviors are encouraged through positive reinforcement. Consequences for misbehavior are, whenever possible, natural and appropriate, taking into consideration the child's age and circumstances. Strategies that may be used include loss of a privilege related to the misbehavior, time-out to think about the choices made, conversation with a teacher or the Lead Administrator, and a call to parents.
Are FMS teachers certified? Our teachers are certified and hold a Bachelors degree at minimum. The quality we look for first in teachers is how they interact with children.
Is FMS accredited? The State of Oregon does not offer an accreditation system for private schools.