Why The emphasis on Creativity?
Why is it important to nurture creativity at our school? How are we creative as students, how is our school creative as an institution? Here's the word in the hallway:
From the students: Creativity is expressing yourself in your own way.
Creativity is stimulation of the mind. It's whatever you want it to be. It's the product of imagination and discovery.
In Social Studies projects, our teacher lets us express our ideas and he changes his ideas because we have different ideas.
What is creativity? It's important. In math, instead of getting the formula and solving the problem, we get the problem, and come up with ways to solve it. Talking to each other to compare solutions reminds there are than one way to find the right answer.
Creativity is expressing yourself in different ways; being unique. Our class is very creative and unique! Our personalities are all different and it's FUN!
An Alum: I felt the most creative at PNA when we were given a problem with no instructions, just some parameters. We all worked on solving the problem in different ways. In science we had to lift a one kilogram can one meter, using three simple machines. The materials were anything we could find in the classroom. Everyone had a different solution. Last week in Chemistry I was excited that we were going to to separate out sand and salt from a water solution. But then the teacher gave us the instructions, and I thought "what's the point of that?" I was looking forward to figuring it out my own, and seeing all the different ideas of my classmates . Instead, it was just following a cookbook.
Alumni parent: You get inspired, then carry the idea forward and beyond to something new and better. Collaboration takes creativity to another level.
Current parent: Creativity takes you out of your comfort level. It helps you push beyond your boundaries.
An environment that supports and encourages creativity gives students a place to feel safe and to be themselves. This in turn fosters self-awareness and self-confidence, enabling students to develop a sense of pride in the unique and wonderful individuals that they are.
PNA has that environment.
Lower school (K-5)
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, students often work through multifaceted projects of their own design.
This constructivist approach pushes students 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 a number of 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 collaboration, students become aware of the different perspectives and skills that each brings 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 under a structured mechanism 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 the idea of building trust within the community of learners. It is within this kind of environment that students feel encouraged to take risks and try something new.
The small class size (18 student limit) allows teachers to individualize instruction for students focusing on their growth according to their own unique development. Every student works 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 he or she is learning. With fewer students, teachers can afford the time and attention this type of allowance requires.
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.
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 tool box and 21st Century skill set.
The World Outside
Lower School students participate in overnight field trips each spring. These trips are related to the curriculum and may include a study of 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 and field trips to the Performing Arts Center, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and Campbell Creek Science Center are routine. All students are also involved in a variety of PNA’s community events throughout the year including the fall concert, a day of service, the spring science fair, a student art exhibit and the spring musical.
The Early Years : Yearning for Learning
by Robin Sutton | Former PNA Kindergarten Teacher
Do you want to see what learning is like before it seems difficult or simply a necessity? You should visit a classroom of young children. They have no need for pressure to do work. They welcome it and would even join the movie robot, Number Five, who says, "Need input, More input!"
There is something so special about a classroom full of young children. There is an energy that is completely unbound. They are precocious in nature. They are sensitive. They are fearless and fearful at the same time. Young children are eager and ready to learn, moving ahead full steam, completely nonstop throughout the day. They come to school with a wonder as they make observations of every detail in the world around them. Their little fingers run over each thing they see in an effort to absorb the textures and temperatures. They hold tight to a desire to take in their surroundings using all five senses.
Whether it is wriggling their fingers in the mud, savoring the juices of an orange, or sticking pretzels in their nostrils simply to entertain a neighbor. Their laughter becomes contagious. Heads are thrown back and the feeling is passed on to the next child. They fall on the ground and roll around as they pretend to become something they are not.
To encourage and sustain this enthusiasm for learning demands hands on, project based teaching. This way of facilitating learning is a great way to meet them head on. Providing opportunities for them to engage their senses in what they have a passion to discover is what we do. That is exactly what we offer to the youngest of our students here at Pacific Northern Academy. Of course, our teaching/facilitating does not stop there, because we believe learning can continue to be fun, passionate, and incredibly engaging no matter what grade you attend at PNA!