Listening and responding to the needs of our community is a cornerstone of the Fiddleheads philosophy. Sarah and I were absolutely astounded this year at the outpouring of interest our tiny school received. As word of the Fiddleheads Forest School spread, parents from all over the region took notice of the individualized attention we give to each child, our unique curriculum that thoughtfully integrates the specialized opportunities afforded by the environment to each student, and our remarkable forest grove classroom site where students develop a deep, mindful connection to their environment and to their peers. The result of all this care and consideration is that this year more than 90 families from as far south as Kent and as far north as Edmonds applied to become a part of the Fiddleheads Forest School community. The level of excitement and passion families expressed to us during tours, our open house event, in letters and over the phone had a profound impact on us both, and we knew immediately that we had a responsibility to respond.
The Fiddleheads Forest School provides a unique experience built upon careful observation and reflection, and is unlike any other existing Forest School model. The level of interest in our program this year shows us that families are responding to the quality of experience Fiddleheads creates, and we want to make sure those families feel they are being heard. After our first year we resisted growth, choosing instead to focus our attention on developing our curriculum, community, and infrastructure. At Fiddleheads, we never want to grow just for the sake of it. We understand the extent to which growth can impact a school, and knew from day one that we would only move forward with expansion if we truly believed it was in the best interest of the children, the families, and the teachers. However, after months of careful consideration and reflection we finally determined that we now capable of expanding the Fiddleheads Forest School in a way that is sustainable while continuing to offer the sort of high-quality education that families have come to expect. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of meetings intended to determine this growth’s direction, and after thorough deliberation we are finally ready to move forward.
Today we are excited to announce that in fall of 2015 Fiddleheads will be expanding to a full second site here at the Washington Park Arboretum! The new site is just across the road from the current classroom area and consists of a grove of native trees and plants adjacent to the arboretum’s Mountain Ash meadow. Just as beautiful but with its own unique features, we feel confident that this new grove is an ideal place to grow our program while still remaining connected as a school. As teachers, we will each attend to a separate site in collaboration with a second qualified lead teacher as well as student interns from the University of Washington and surrounding colleges. The two of us will continue to collaborate in our role as preschool directors to maintain a high level of quality and care throughout the program. While the classes will be distinct, children will regularly come together to engage in group activities coordinated by teachers in both classrooms. This expansion will offer increased opportunities for socialization among the students and collaboration among the teachers. We are deeply thrilled to move forward on this path.
This expansion to a second site adds an additional 28 spaces to our roster, meaning that we now have a total of 49 positions for families in our 2, 3, and 5-day programs. This will help us continue to meet demand by allowing us to accept between 18 and 20 new students each year. Over the past week we have begun contacting families already on our waitlist, and we are excited to announce that our second site is already filling up. Because we feel strongly about the developmental importance of maintaining age and gender balance, we are reopening the call for applications to fill a limited number of spots for girls turning 5 years old during the 2015-2016 calendar school year. Families interested in applying for these spots or being added to our current waitlist can fill out an online application. Those families who would like to be added to our 2016-2017 interest list can do so by submitting an email address here. Finally, if you are interested in becoming a part of the Fiddleheads Forest School community we encourage you to follow us on Facebook for up-to-the minute news regarding the school and the arboretum; as well as teacher tips, articles and reflections on the outdoor education movement here in Seattle and beyond. We feel so fortunate that many of you are already a part of the wonderful, supportive community here at the Washington Park Arboretum, and we are looking forward to a fantastic year ahead! Stay tuned for updates and future developments!
Kit and Sarah
Teachers & Preschool Directors
UW Botanic Gardens Fiddleheads Forest School