Gardner School celebrating 30 years, expanding to Hockinson

Institution values small classes, thoroughly exploring topics


The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences in the Mount Vista area of Clark County is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and expanding after it acquired a preschool in Hockinson.

The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences acquired the Country Friends Childcare, a preschool in Hockinson, on May 1. Along with the Gardner School, Country Friends focuses on outdoors, play-based learning and having teachers let students lead and help them grow as individuals.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with them for the last decade,” head of the Gardner School Emily Davis said, adding that she and other administrators at the Gardner School have had their children attend their preschool. “Over the course of the last year, we’ve done a lot of market research and financial statement reviews and looking to make sure it was the best decision for the Gardner School entity and then also for Country Friends.”

Davis said administrators will ensure that Country Friends will continue to operate with play-based learning and thematic-based programs similar to the Gardner School.

The Gardner School, for preschoolers through sixth graders, offers a 5-acre campus with a wetland area for nature learning and focuses on providing students opportunities beyond math and reading in education.

“We’re based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which shows that all children and humans are smart in a wide range of ways,” Davis said. “So, instead of just focusing on math or reading or an IQ score, we’re focused on all of the ways and of the skills that children need to succeed later on in life and to also grow into confident humans.”

According to the school’s website, it strives to provide students a space where they can grow socially, emotionally and academically. Along with academic programs, the school highlights connecting arts and physical activity.

“We still have really wonderful academic programs here, but we really value the other ways of kids being able to grow,” Davis said, adding other educational avenues such as the arts and music, physical education and recess have been reduced in general education. “... We are really focused on keeping those and having children thrive through their confidence building in that.”

At the Gardner School, thematic-based learning teaches subjects in greater focus, Davis said. The focused learning includes field trips and guest speakers, along with diving into the topic for an extended period of time. Subject units taught earlier this spring included the planets and solar system, geology and others.

“So, we’re all studying these science topics, but then we have art class in which they’re engaging in art [centered] around those topics, and then they also do our integration in their classroom, too,” Davis said of thematic-based learning at the Gardner School. “So, it’s really looking at these topics but then studying them in different ways or [through] different lenses. And that’s one example, but we also do that type of exploration with things like world cultures or, you know, more like social studies topics, as well.”

Those interested in the Gardner School of Arts and Sciences can visit or call 360-574-5752.