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. All 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.
For children, experiential outdoor education can impart deeper understanding of the world, and instill a sense of wonder and excitement. The place-based curriculum will call upon students to explore the north coast landscapes 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, to the North Coast Land Conservancy, to local farm cooperatives, to Oregon State Parks.
The school year will be organized into thematic units. The length of units may vary, but will often last roughly one month each.
Within each unit, students will participate in an integrated learning experience - engaging the topic scientifically, artistically, and otherwise. Teachers will provide an integrated curriculum as well as projects that seek to illuminate the unit theme in multiple modalities. Math, reading and writing skills will relate to unit themes as much as possible. At the discretion of teachers, the students may work together on final unit projects or presentations that relate to some aspect of the unit theme. Group community service projects are an option for satisfying this goal. Student presentation of discoveries will be encouraged to foster confidence and communication skills – these may be verbal, but can also be written, artistic, musical, or otherwise.
Each school year begins with a short unit of roughly two weeks length on the theme of “Community,” allowing for the time to build student comfort, rapport and a sense of community with their teachers, peers, and student families. This will be a key orientation, giving students a sense of the school community’s expectations. Each year also ends with a similar “Community” unit, allowing students to thoughtfully reflect on their progress, close out unfinished tasks, and to have a dialogue with family and friends about the future. Unit themes will include the following:
* Community (Opening)
* Forests and Forest Life
* Seasons, Weather, Wind, and Climate
* Local Environments: Coastlines, Beaches, Bays, and Mountains
Oceans and Aquatic Life
* The Big Picture: Sun, Stars, and Space
* Global Communities & Human Diversity
* Technology through Time
* Oregon and Northwest Heritage
* Human Health and Well-Being
* Farms and Food
* Towns and Built Environments
* Community (Closing)
Teachers may decide on specialized topics or projects to represent these themes. Units intentionally range from very local geographical scales to regional, global, and even universal scales before returning to the local community at the end of the year. Teachers will make an effort to meaningfully link curriculum to the passing seasons. Order is approximate and topics may be modified as appropriate.
Teachers will be responsible for developing a curriculum that involves these thematic units, and will have a great deal of latitude in how they represent these themes within each year’s curriculum.
Prior to the beginning of each school year, the teachers will present the Council of Elders with a written curriculum plan that demonstrates how they will represent these themes through the school year ahead.
The Council of Elders will have the opportunity to propose changes. upon teacher acceptance of those changes in a revised curriculum plan, the year’s curriculum will be formally approved and will serve as the ‘roadmap’ for the year ahead. The curriculum can be adjusted over the course of the year, in consultation between the teachers and the Council of Elders, such as in cases where students are eager to continue a line of inquiry that would otherwise be scheduled to end.
In addition to our students, the success of Fire Mountain School depends on ongoing collaboration between each of these groups and individuals:
Teachers: Teachers will oversee most day-to-day operations. They will develop curriculum independently, contingent on review and approval by the Council of Elders. Teachers will deliver most of the school curriculum and play a leading role in developing field study opportunities and partnerships with organizations that can help support the Fire Mountain School mission.
Parents: Parents are directly involved with the maintenance and support of Fire Mountain School. Parents are expected to cooperate in a spirit of respectful collaboration, in a manner that will serve as a model to students. Parents will be responsible for fundraising, and in identifying opportunities for supporting the school mission through community resources and partnerships. Parents will meet no less than quarterly to discuss their mutual interests and updates on school activities; the sharing of food at these events is highly encouraged. Parents will take concerns or recommendations they might have regarding School operations to the Board.
Staff: As funding allows, the school will hire a secretary and/or an administrator to oversee enrollment, finances and bookkeeping, taxes, publicity, fundraising logistics, and other basic administrative activities.
School Board: consists of parents nominated to the Board and up to three community members with a history of service to Fire Mountain School (such as parents of past graduates). The total number of board members will be an odd number, 5, 7, or 9. An effort will be made to stagger Board terms so that there is never a full turnover of board members in any year resulting in a board of all new members. The Board will oversee planning for budgeting and fundraising, facilities management, personnel decisions, and other day-to-day operations. The Board can make written recommendations to the Teachers and Council of Elders as to the direction or refinement of curriculum. The Board will also be responsible for arbitrating any disputes that might emerge between parents, teachers, staff and/or students. If consensus cannot be achieved in these cases, the matter will be forwarded to the Elders for a determination.
Council of Elders: will consist of a small number (2-4) of advisors who meet only on an as needed basis and have administrative authority relating to the long-term well-being of the school. Elders will review and amend curriculum plans with teachers before each school year; recommend changes to the school and unit plan outlined here for Board review and approval; and can provide broad, philosophical guidance as needed to the Board or Teachers on matters of school curriculum and direction. The Council of Elders will have the authority to make binding decisions on any disputes that the Board is unable to resolve independently. The Council of Elders can also make tie-breaking votes on personnel decisions for Teachers and Staff. Council of Elders’ terms will be unlimited. When a Director steps down, a replacement will be nominated and confirmed by a majority vote of Board members and remaining Elders. It is expected that Elders will be individuals with considerable experience in education, community affairs, or the topics addressed within Fire Mountain School curriculum. They will have demonstrated commitment to the long-term wellbeing of Fire Mountain School and will be people with a reputation for fair-mindedness, integrity and ethical behavior in their personal and professional lives. They do not necessarily need to be Parents or former Board members.