Making the Grade

Local charter school promotes positive learning and community outreach

Published online: Jan 15, 2021 Articles, Education And Arts Rebecca Dement
Viewed 1448 time(s)

Located in Western Ammon, White Pine Charter School is a student-centered community making a difference in education. Their mission, "Success for every student," drives the curriculum taught by the staff.

"No matter which end of the spectrum a kid is on, we try to meet their needs. We try to make them feel empowered," said Ken Graham, current principal of White Pine.

Graham joined White Pine in the 2006/2007 school year, about 5 years after the school opened. Reaching its 20th year, White Pine is the oldest charter school in Eastern Idaho with a growing history. 

"There was a group of parents very motivated to change education to find something to meet the needs of their students," said Graham. "They got together and started that process and decided what their core values were and what their curriculum was. A lot of what we do is based around core knowledge; it's less of a curriculum and more a way of building knowledge upon knowledge as students go through the grade levels."

While a charter school is still a public school, there are quite a few advantages that tip the scales in favor of White Pine. They still receive state funding like other public schools, but there is an increased autonomy that drives the teaching practices and curriculum at White Pine. White Pine also has no boundaries for attending students, allowing children from Ammon and Idaho Falls all the way out to Shelley and Rigby to study there.

White Pine is still expanding the higher grades in their STEM Academy—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—so they can welcome students of any grade level K-12. The STEM Academy, which is available to upper level students of White Pine, is an education system that focuses on creating hands-on learning experiences for students. Graham explained that most of the new careers that are being generated are in STEM fields, creating an importance for studying STEM to prepare for a future career in a changing world. Focusing on STEM doesn't take away from other crucial subjects, like English, but it does add many more experiences for students to find interest in STEM academia.

"When students go over to STEM it becomes more of that project-based environment," said Graham. "At the elementary school we have a lot more direct instruction with the younger kids to build a base. We get the students to start thinking early about what kind of career they want to go into and we help them develop a path of how to get there."

Each of White Pine's 650 students, whether at the STEM academy or the elementary school, is also provided the support needed to succeed. Whether it's counseling, coaching or other accommodations, White Pine strives to follow an optimistic approach for students to thrive.

"We're a PBIS school so we promote Positive Behavior Interventions and Support," said Graham. "Sometimes you just need someone in your corner. If a student is really struggling behavior-wise, we don't stick with traditional discipline like taking away recess because most of those kids that are having issues, they need recess. We look for creative solutions; we're constantly keeping the positive."

White Pine also strives to make a difference in the community. From Red Ribbon Week to canned food drives, the students and staff are excited about promoting positivity and helping others.

"We're looking for more ways to get out into the community and to contribute," said Graham. The October 2020 canned food drive held at White Pine developed into a competition with another local charter school, American Heritage. One classroom in particular from White Pine had almost 1,000 cans, a sixth of what the school was able to collect altogether.

To learn more about White Pine Charter School call 208-522-4432 or visit www.whitepinecharterschool.org

Click here to read more from the January issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.

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