The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School


Honoring wonder, fostering friendships, building understanding!

Pathfinder’s Philosophy

Pathfinder School embraces the concepts of multiple learning styles and developmentally appropriate expectations. The Pathfinder student is an active participant in the educational process and shares responsibility for his/her own learning. Committed parents and conscientious teachers work cooperatively in order to create an environment of mutual trust and respect in which each child can thrive. Students are encouraged to think independently, work cooperatively, act responsibly and ethically, take risks and enjoy learning as a lifelong pursuit.

Early School

Our early childhood program focuses on the whole child, every aspect of a child. We strive to create authentic relationships between children and teachers as well as help children possess a sense of belonging within the community. Our goal is to offer opportunities for children to build their own set of tools to support their future successes.


The early school classroom is designed to support a wide range of developmental levels. A community is built with experts of all ages practicing along side peers.

Our Curriculum

Our curriculum design is based on current brain research, developmentally appropriate practice and teaching to the multiple intelligences. It emerges from the children’s interests and ideas. Through observations of children at play, interests are discovered to guide the planning process. Teachers gather together to brainstorm the curriculum avenues. In doing so, the Child Observation Record assessment, developmental domains, and learning styles are embedded in the plans to ensure challenges and successes are supported. Each learning adventure focus is on process rather than products. The curriculum process takes place like a science project. Open-ended questions are asked to encourage and strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills. Children hypothesize and then as a group they test their ideas by setting up experiments, hands-on activities and opportunities to communicate and discover. Results are charted, graphed, photographed and represented by creating models from many mediums. This great documentation helps make learning visible to parents and the outer community.

The Environment

The environment plays a huge part in all we do, from our beautiful wooded campus to the child-centered classrooms. The classrooms are set up with different areas such as science, art, manipulatives, dramatic play, blocks, reading and a quiet space, which support developmental experiences. All the materials are at the child’s level and are easily accessible for exploration. This rich environment provides play, language and literacy opportunities throughout the day.

Our Teachers

Our Pathfinder teachers are experienced, warm and nurturing. They act as guides as they learn along side the children. Each teacher brings to practice a different strength, which offers more opportunities for children. They observe, take notes and record children’s conversations. These observations are shared with each other as they explore ways of expanding on children’s spontaneous activities and interests. The teachers are committed to long-term enhancing of their understanding of children.

Teacher to Child Ratios

We strive to ensure small class sizes and child to teacher ratios. 10 to 1 is max.


High/Scope COR - Child Observation Record
This natural assessment framework consists of a combination of anecdotes, photographs and children’s work samples. It is important to get a natural, yet clear picture of where children are at. This assessment tool has been well researched and easily accessible. It follows the core developmental domains that are appropriate for children in early childhood education.

Pathfinder Report Cards
These are used to ensure a consistent performance level as children grow and develop.


Conscious Discipline
The form of discipline used in our program is conflict resolution. When an issue arises, a strategic process is taken to help children learn how to get through them. The teachers support, model and help the children come up with ideas on how to solve the problems on their own. The teachers act as facilitators to empower children in these teaching moments. These moments offer wonderful opportunities to help in children’s social emotional development as well.