About Our School
Chinook Montessori Charter School, founded in 1996, now in its 21st year of existence, was first housed in an old school building on Fort Wainwright. Begun by Janelle McCrackin, Barb Smith, Annie Keep-Barnes and Terri Austin, it opened its doors to 75 students, kindergarten through eighth grade. Due to community demands, the school added 25 more students and an additional teacher the second year. In 2002, a new building, designed especially for the school, was built at the corner of International Street and 30th Avenue. At that time, Chinook expanded to 156 students and added two more staff members for a total of seven teachers. Also during that time, Chinook was the first charter school in the state to renew its charter for ten years.
Based upon a teaching philosophy and practices developed by Dr. Maria Montessori nearly a century ago, this school offers a nurturing multi-age environment which supports a highly rigorous academic program. The classrooms at Chinook are carefully crafted learning environments, where children work on a variety of often hands-on activities at their pace. This promotes a blend of freedom of inquiry as well as a sense of self-discipline. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self discipline and love of learning. Computers are also an integral part of the learning environment. Each classroom has networked models and older students have access to their own wireless laptops.
Chinook's philosophy is also grounded in the belief that valuable learning extends beyond the classroom into the community. Consistent with its mission statement, Chinook Montessori Charter School, is a school of choice, one that strives to create a dynamic educational environment which fosters educational excellence and cultivates personal, intellectual, and emotional growth and responsibly. This is provided through an alliance formed through a seamless web or educators, parents, businesses and community members. Chinook's 4th through 8th graders learn community responsibility through serving a variety of organizations including Fairbanks Montessori Preschool, Pioneers' Home, Fairbanks Community Food Bank, and Calypso Farm and Ecology Center.
Although the school does not celebrate holidays, have sports teams or engage in competitive activities, parent-initiated after school studios offer a variety of activities for students outside the school day. Students also have the opportunity to engage in physical choices during morning work time. These physical choices vary from basketball skills to juggling. In the fall of 2003, parents organized to aid in the construction of playground equipment, the materials having been purchased by the school district. In 2007 the playground was expanded to build a soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts.
The eighth graders play a special role at Chinook. Not only are they the role models for all younger students, but they have additional intellectual responsibilities. These students must complete a number of requirements before graduation, such as performing an apprenticeship. This project requires each student to select a community business and serve a one-week apprenticeship, complying with the mentor's work requests, and in turn, the student learns about the skills and aptitudes associated with the job. Other parts of the graduation requirement includes creating a service project, doing a physical challenge, and reflecting on past learning. All of these elements are presented to a selected committee who, in turn, determine whether the eighth grader proceeds to high school.
Graduation is a school-wide celebration of achievement in which all students play a significant part. During this ceremony, each group presents gifts that have been created as a classroom focus to the graduating students. Kindergartners, or Novices as they are called, sing a song they prepared and rehearsed. Apprentices (grades 1-3) recite poems for that graduate they have written. Pioneers (grades 4-6) design and sew individual quilts for each graduate.
The graduates, in turn, provide a gift to the school. Each of these gifts provides an enduring memory of the legacy created by graduating students. Interestingly, these same graduates are invited back the next year and often return to address the students and to share high school experiences.