LOWER GRADES SCHOOL
PNA’s social-emotional program, its writing curriculum, its buddy groups, the lens through which all the subjects are taught, ALL are designed to build a deep foundation and provide a wide wingspan for each child’s communication toolbox and 21st Century skill set.
The Academic Foundation
In the Lower School, core academic subjects are taught by the classroom teachers, while Specialists provide instruction in Performing Arts, Studio Arts, Spanish, and Physical Education. With a focus on integrated curriculum and the Project Based Learning methodology, students work through multifaceted projects of their own design.
Students are led to collaborate, analyze, and reflect throughout their work process. For example, in math, students are encouraged to notice patterns and engage in conversation with others to develop their own ways of solving problems. As various methods come to light, students will compare and analyze each idea, solidifying their own understanding through several possibilities.
Lower school teachers recognize that this type of constructed understanding provides students with much more meaningful insight while instilling the idea that students are in charge of their own learning. With such emphasis on independence and success through collaboration, students become aware of the different perspectives and skills they bring to the table. The free flow of ideas encourages an acceptance and promotion of independent and innovative thinking. This provides a critical opportunity for students to learn from each other while observing classroom rules of respect and personal responsibility.
The community environment drives the academic program. Empathy and respect give way to collaboration and academic success. Responsible for their own roles in the community, lower school students initially develop a set of guidelines based on fairness and respect within their classrooms. Every classroom begins its day with a morning meeting routine emphasizing trust-building within the community. It is within this kind of environment that students feel encouraged to take risks and try something new.
Small Class Sizes
The small class size (18 student limit) allows teachers to individualize instruction to focus on each students’ growth according to their own stage of development. Students work together to understand the big concepts within a lesson, but all are expected to show their understanding in their own way at their own level. Choice and interest play a large role in how a student may creatively show what they are learning. With fewer students, teachers can afford the time and attention to support each student.
We all want our kids to grow up to be the fullest versions of themselves. Successful, happy, philanthropic, insightful, tough, the next POTUS or Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, or maybe a librarian or car mechanic or astronaut or novelist or all of the above. How do we help our kids jump on that path? One critical skill they’ll need is communication. Learning to effectively communicate is an intricate process that starts the minute we are born, develops in school, and is honed for the rest of our lives. Success in life is hinged on our ability to communicate our needs, wishes, and goals clearly, persuasively, sympathetically.
School (a little microcosm of society, really) is a wonderful place to explore, test, learn and relearn how to say what you mean AND hear what’s said (the all too often forgotten partner). But communication goes way beyond the conversation. From body language to a persuasive essay to a self-portrait to a well-sung song, expressing what we think in the most meaningful way we can is a life-long pursuit.
In a typical school year, Lower School students participate in overnight field trips each spring. These trips are related to the curriculum and may include studying sea life in Seward, mountain ecosystems in Denali National Park, or tidal invertebrates in Kachemak Bay.
Teachers have the freedom to set up field trips throughout the Anchorage area as they relate to class curriculum, like day trips to the Performing Arts Center, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and Campbell Creek Science Center. All students are also involved in various PNA community events throughout the year, including the fall concert, a day of service, 100’s Day, the spring science fair, a student art exhibit, and the spring musical.
While our COVID Operational Plan is in place, overnight and field trips are out of the question, however, we continue to adjust well-loved PNA traditions such as First Grade’s Iditadog project, the Second Grade Egg Drop exhibit and the Macey’s Day Balloon Parade so that all students can participate.