"My PNA 'take away' is: Be independent, but don't be afraid to ask for help or offer help to others."
- Christina Young, Class of 2007
Watch a group of PNA graduates, and a compelling composite emerges. It's the picture of a whole human being. One prepared to function productively on all levels: intellectual, emotional, social, physical; a person ready to participate fully in the world; a willing and able contributor; a selfmotivated lifelong learner.
How can you recognize
a PNA student?
They are comfortable in their own skin. PNA's nurturing culture encourages self- motivation, independent thinking, and the experience of taking on big challenges - all great preparation for whatever life has in store for them.
They are lifelong learners. Taught to learn, they love (and never stop) learning. The result is unusually strong academic performance long after they leave PNA. Gaining knowledge does not feel like a chore: rather. it is the natural, rewarding result of their own curiosity.
They are fun to be around. Their enthusiasm, civility, and respect for others are contagious. Much of their education is built on social skills such as getting along with and learning from all kinds of people: collaborating to resolve conflicts: and approaching life with open minds and open hearts.
They have good character. What is valued most in a PNA classroom? Responsibility. Cooperation. Compassion. Ethical behavior. Stewardship of their community, the environment, the world.
They are PNA kids for life. Most PNA graduates stay in touch with their "family" here.They understand and are happy to talk about the gifts their education has given them: self-confidence and resourcefulness, enduring relationships, constructive work habits, lessons that never stop shaping who they are and who they hope to be.
middle school (6-8)
Middle School at Pacific Northern Academy gives students the support, both socially and academically, to be confident and organized high schoolers on the path to excellence. In an integrated studies approach, PNA Middle School students learn to dive deep into complex topics, think critically, and engage in hands-on creative projects which keep them engaged and give them vision for improvement of themselves and their communities.
All PNA middle school students take Spanish, Art, Music, P.E., and health classes. Students test into leveled math classes, challenging them based on their own ability. Hands-on laboratory science experiments, rigorous focus on literature and writing, world cultural studies, and a rotating slate of Friday elective offerings including Mandarin Chinese, Outdoor Survival Skills, Scratch Coding and Programming, and The Science of Baking round out a robust curriculum designed to challenge and delight.
Learning is enhanced by the use of Project Based Learning methods, which engage students in creative problem-solving and encourage collaboration and revision. The Middle School follows a block schedule where concepts and discussions have time to fully develop, and Elective and Intensive Study opportunities allow students choice and build investment in their education.
In the past five years, 100% of PNA graduates have gone on to enroll in honors and advanced placement classes. The experience is repeatedly recognized by graduates as positive, life-changing, and altogether different from what many students experience in traditional large-format middle schools. This particularly formative time in students' lives is perhaps the most important time to provide them with a safe, supportive, and positive learning environment.
Hear what one graduate of the PNA middle school had to say about his experience:
One of the hallmarks of Middle School at PNA is self-direction and leadership. The teacher is often in a mentor role, and students are expected to take the initiative - whether in leading the discussion or shaping the direction of study. Students’ initial steps toward decision making, consensus building, point of view, and identity that are critical at this age are done in a safe and supportive environment, allowing for positive learning from the inevitable stumbles, failures, and self-doubt that are also characteristic of this stage of development.
Positive Social Climate
There is a big upward curve that the incoming sixth grader travels to become a graduating eighth grader. As students progress, so do their increased responsibilities and opportunities, such as leadership at the Fall Retreat, leading morning meeting, and helping plan and execute school-wide events. Middle schoolers still have recess every day, are the leads in plays, MC the "Brown Bag" talent show, and eventually enjoy "8th grade privileges." PNA's Middle School is a time of consistently increasing responsibilities and freedoms, social maturation, and academic growth.
The Middle School Fall Retreat is a three-day team building Mission Quest. Each day the quest focus is different. The first day is a Vision Quest where students will need to create the vision for the day and follow through as a team. The next day is a Courage Quest where students will test their individual courage as well as encourage other team members to achieve certain goals. The last day is an Integrity Quest in which students will need to be true to who they are, while also working toward the common goals of the team. Upon returning from the Mission Quest, the middle schoolers will craft and sign their Class Guidelines, which provide a baseline for a successful rest of the school year.
This social-emotional learning and community-building can have tremendous impacts on the year's academic learning. Only through positive daily interactions can students feel safe and learn effectively. Focusing on the PNA mission allows students to recognize these qualities in themselves and, through living it, apply it to all aspects of their lives - including academics.
With a consistent emphasis on social-emotional development throughout the year, PNA gives students the tools to navigate both their own - and their peers’ - fast-evolving development toward adulthood, all while undertaking challenging academics and new experiences. By the time the eighth graders embark on their final spring trip, they are ready for the two-week, international cultural immersion.
The World Outside
Middle School end-of-year field trips take progressive steps beyond South Central Alaska. 5th and 6th grades alternate years going to Kodiak Island to study Aleut culture and WWII history, and going to the San Juan Islands on the Salish Expedition for marine and eco-biology, leadership, and sailing experience. 7th graders go on a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., to study government, and the 8th graders culminate their time at PNA with a trip to Costa Rica, where they engage in ecological learning including reforestation, sea turtle rescue, and are immersed in the language and culture. Pacific Northern Academy's field trip program is designed to both challenge and ignite students' curiosity.
Middle school concludes with the capstone graduation project. This all-encompassing final project highlights the value PNA places on authentic self expression, self-confidence, public speaking, and clear and concise writing. PNA’s graduates show they can effectively communicate artistically, verbally, and in formal writing.
After graduation, students transition to various options for high school. One thing that is standard is the success PNA students have making the jump from our small pond to the big sea of high school. The way the PNA program instills confidence, organization, and kindness sets kids up for a succesful transition to whatever high school they enter, and our graduates (and their parents) regularly tell us how PNA helped prepare them for the future.
Living the Mission
by Sarah Mariner | PNA 7/8 Teacher
By the time students reach Middle School at PNA, they have memorized, recited, discussed, and studied the school mission on numerous occasions. But truly understanding its depth and applying its intent requires a certain level of maturity. Signs of that clarity begin to appear in Middle School students as their experiences and processing abilities begin to coalesce.
Over the summer, the Seventh and Eighth Graders were asked to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull and write about how Jonathan exemplifies the PNA mission. One student summed it up:
"...Jonathan Livingston Seagull exemplifies PNA's mission by showing all the qualities that PNA hopes to instill in students by the time they graduate. If you have read the book, or if you have been reading this closely, you will notice that these qualities are not always found by themselves. So really the PNA mission isn't a bunch of unrelated values, it is a set of character traits that can become a defining part of their personalities, which is why Jonathan is such a good example of the PNA mission." - Neve
Not only are these students reflecting on the mission through book characters, they are considering their own actions as they pertain to the mission:
"I am an exceptional learner because I listen and pay attention so I learn new things like when I learned about composers today in music. I was an independent thinker when I wrote my blog post today. I had vision when I wrote my poster on Jonathan Seagull and did it with my friends. I had courage when I played dodge ball even when I knew I wouldn't win I played anyway. I had integrity when I told my parents I was scared about the math test." - Carter