The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School


Engaging, project-based learning produces intellectually curious and high achieving young adults!

For the past 45 years, The Pathfinder School has been inspiring children to achieve their personal best as lifelong learners, young global citizens, creative thinkers and stewards of the Earth.  Our students are motivated to look beyond the outward appearance of things toward deeper understanding.  The basis of all inquiry begins with the fundamental question, "How am I and all other things connected to this topic?"  This question arises time and time again in all of our classrooms - grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8th.  Consequently, student learning is grounded in relevance and the positive results, as measured both by student achievement and engagement, are irrefutable.

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES - Our approach to education

In our classrooms, we emphasize deep understanding of varying concepts through experience-based learning while employing the Multiple Intelligences pedagogy developed by Howard Gardner.   There is a constant flow of new information on how the human brain operates, how it differs in function between genders, how emotions impact intellectual acuity, even on how genetics and environment each impact our children’s cognitive abilities. While each area of study has its merits, Howard Gardner of Harvard University identified different KINDS of intelligence we possess. This has particularly strong ramifications in the classroom, because if we can identify children's different strengths among these intelligences, we can accommodate different children more successfully according to their orientation to learning.

Teaching with this understanding has been a primary focus at Pathfinder since the school's inception in 1972.  Many of our faculty attended Harvard Graduate School of Education's Project Zero where the Gardner pedagoy is taught.  As a result, our veteran educators continue to develop a responsive and engaging curriculum based on the most current research in teaching and learning.   By staying on the cutting edge of education, we develop higher achieving students who are inspired to become more active learners as a result of their natural curiosity and joy in finding success.



  • The only ISACS accredited independent day school serving Pre-Kindergarten - 8th Grade students in the Grand Traverse Region
  • Fully accredited by the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS)
  • Small classes and personal attention; Individualized instruction with a student:faculty ratio of 8 to 1
  • Dedicated teachers whose real-life field experience adds relevance to classroom instruction
  • An engaging and responsive curriculum built on the proven principles of experiential education
  • Recognized increasingly as a destination school, attracting families from across the country
  • A 22-acre wooded campus brimming with learning opportunities nestled on the shores of Cedar Lake and Grand Traverse Bay
  • Many opportunities for parental involvement including an active parents’ association, community building activities, and adult education
  • Centrally and conveniently located 3 miles from downtown Traverse City at the base of the Leelanau Peninsula
  • A school culture that honors diversity in its many forms and promotes civility: our school admits students of any race, color and national or ethnic origin





All students receive music instruction 2 times per week. Unlike other schools, our general music education classes are offered from Pre-K through the 8th grade with additional after-school programming in beginning and intermediate string ensembles.

Foreign Language

All students also receive French instruction 2 times per week throughout all grades


Pathfinder has an extensive 3000 volume library overseen by a librarian who provides a developmentally-appropriate library curriculum for all grades


Students are engaged in physical education 2-3 times per week based on grade level. After-school programming includes TEAM sports for grades 4-6 (cross country, basketball, volleyball and track & field), middle school sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball and track & field), and ski club

Fine Arts

Students receive art instruction each week, and the arts are integrated through all aspects of our core curriculum throughout all grades


One per semester for grades 6-8

  • Drama
  • Passion Based Learning
  • Reader's Theater


Middle School Interdisciplinary Electives Two MIADS (Multiple Intelligences Art Domains) per quarter for grades 5-8

  • Gardening
  • Comparative Religion
  • Drawing I
  • Drawing II
  • Body Wellness
  • Cooking
  • Chess
  • Economics
  • Mallet Madness (Music)
  • Spanish
  • Academic Assistance