Olympia is an alternative hub—home to the Procession of the Species, The Evergreen State College, and an amazing alternative music scene—so it makes sense the community would house over 20 alternative public and private schools. These schools share many values such as multi-age classes, hands-on learning, celebrating each child’s unique qualities, outdoor and nature experiences, collaboration, field trips, and differentiated curriculum.
Kids are encouraged to provide input regarding their education and are helped to understand how they best learn. An alternative education fosters creativity and inclusiveness. The schools also encourage parent participation, who often volunteer in ways that support their values.
Though all the schools share many of the same principles, they each are unique in how that plays out. Here are a few examples:
Lincoln Options, a public elementary school, offers project-based learning with themes. For example, a class that is studying ancient civilizations does not only read about the topic, it may also learn math skills necessary to calculate the immensity of the pyramids. Students may conduct scientific experiments that test different materials for papermaking, learn to read world maps, and participate in ancient crafts. The class might publish or demonstrate their learning in a report, a model or a play. Each year, all-school themes are selected to further integrate curriculum and develop community.
Olympia Community School (OCS), which hosts the fair, is an independent progressive elementary school. Students at OCS are each provided the opportunity to learn at their own levels. The school’s low teacher to student ratio of 1:14 fosters deeper connections and allows teachers to meet the learning needs of each student. Teachers assist students in identifying individualized learning goals and these goals are routinely revisited. They also integrate instructional strategies and techniques from multiple educational philosophies, rather than adhering strictly to one specified learning approach.
The ALKI Program at Reeves Middle School is a public alternative program. Middle school is a tough time in most kids’ lives and ALKI focuses on community and belonging, providing a learning community based on collaboration and inclusiveness. At the beginning of the school year, students participate in a two-night trip during which they build friendships and community that will support them through the year as they work on projects as groups such as presentations and frequent field trips.
The Olympia Waldorf School is an alternative kindergarten through eighth-grade private school. Throughout its grades, students encounter a stimulating depth of experience through the arts. This includes movement, foreign language, handwork (knitting, crochet, and sewing), painting, beeswax or clay modeling, music, drawing, games and drama. The arts are integrated into the entire academic curriculum, including math and science.
These schools, and many others listed, will be at the Olympia Area Alternative Education and Pre-school Fair to share their stories with the local alternative family community. The fair is free with kid activities at each table. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about all of the alternative school options in one place and to find the right school for your family.
Alki Alternative Program
Bird Song Children’s Garden
Dancing Rainbows Preschool
Eastside Cooperative Preschool
Hands On Children’s Museum Preschool
Lacey Coop Preschool
Lincoln Options Elementary
Marshall CSI Alternative Program
Nature Nurtures School
Olympia Community School
Olympia Waldorf School
Phoenix Rising School
Roots and Wings
Steamboat Island Preschool
(and more to come!)
Teresa Eckstein is mom to Owen & Jacob who have been raised in alternative education.