The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our chidlren's health (and also, by the way, in our own).” ― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Who Needs Walls, Anyway?

3rd-5th graders explore Powerline Pass above South Anchorage. Getting out into the world with science makes for a truly engaging, and memorable, experience!

Kids need to be outside; everyone thinks this is a good idea. How many times as a child did your mother say when you were growing up, “Would you go outside and play? You’re making me crazy.” Okay, so maybe it was just us here at the Fund Stuff who needed that redirection on regular basis, but the truth is kids are curious, full of energy, and they thrive when given the chance to get outside and explore. As it happens, getting outside is also really good for teachers.

David Suzuki, Award-winning geneticist and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in Canada writes “So far, only a few studies focus on the benefits of green time for teachers, but those indicate that teaching in nature has great effects. A study out of the U.K.'s King's College London suggests teaching outdoors makes educators more confident and enthusiastic about their work, and more innovative in their teaching strategies. By extension, schools benefit from the leadership and influence of their teachers who take students outside.”

While we haven’t done any formal studies ourselves, we know from years of using the great outdoors as our biggest and most interesting classroom that the effects on both kids and adults is positive. From the Beginners nature walks out the front door to our Spring trips to Kodiak, Washington and beyond, PNA has held fast to the belief that it is our responsibility to get kids and teachers out and moving - both physically and mentally.

As we read through the class newsletters this week, we noticed a common theme…class time beyond our walls. Matt Yancik, PNA's 4th grade teacher, shared where and why his class went:

“Not all learning takes place in the classroom, and this week the Fourth Grade class was out and about in Anchorage building team spirit and camaraderie! Who needs a classroom, anyway, when there are so many sunny places to learn outside?"

Kindergarten through Eighth grade walked the mile through the woods to Ruth Arcand Park for the annual Fall Outing, a time when the students have a chance to interact with each other and enjoy the last gasps of summer. The weather was warm and sunny and all the grades split up and joined teams of mixed ages to participate in games like "A Cold Wind Blows, One Fish Two Fish, and Overboard!"

PNA’s Third, Fourth and Fifth Graders also went on a daylong adventure in Powerline Pass on the south side of Anchorage. Students brainstormed, designed and planned out an experiment themed around the idea of "The World In A Square Foot." The kids had to look at a single square foot of land to see what they could find. The mission was to build team spirit and camaraderie while getting to the bottom of some serious scientific questions.

“But it wasn't all about science and there was some tomfoolery at the end of the day, when the teachers led the students (and joined the students, in some cases) in a serious game of Turtle Tag. The day was a grand success, and the students got to know each other and conduct some awesome experiments under the wide open Alaska sky in full view of the unbelievable mountains!”

These types of adventures are instrumental to building the toolbox of skills PNA strives to equip students with. Self-reliance, self-confidence and self-appreciation are critical to a child’s maturity into a stable, capable, successful adult. And what better person to model those behaviors we strive to teach but our faculty.

"The fact is, teachers aren't just teachers, they're human beings," says Aryne Sheppard, senior public engagement specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation. "And research has shown time and again that nature makes humans happier, less irritable, and more creative and generous. Teaching is stressful work, and nature provides a powerful stress buffer.” If you are interested in the whole article from the David Suzuki Foundation, you will find it here.

Ms. Amy shares a cool leaf or flower she found while on a nature walk with her Early Kindergartners.

Congratulations Mrs. Hitchcock

We are so happy this week that the city Anchorage was introduced to our very own Marcella Hitchcock. Mrs. Hitchcock was recognized by Anchorage television station KTVA Channel 11 as their Teacher of the Week, and they shared what our families have known and loved for years: Mrs. Hitchcock sees the individual strengths in every student that comes through her classroom, and she teaches to those strengths. "Thanks to Mrs. Hitchcock, I learned that reading could actually be fun. When I came to PNA I had a hard time grasping the concept of reading and found it all very frustrating. I was behind compared to my classmates, but she didn't let me worry about that, she just helped me understand that I was learning at exactly the right speed for me, and she helped me find the joy in it." - PNA Alum, Class of 2013

Click the picture to see the interview

Courageous and kind. Second-grade teacher Marcella Hitchcock strives to get her students to be both.“Have courage to try something new. Have courage to stand up for yourself or someone else. Have courage to make a mistake and try again. And just always remember to be kind to people,” said Hitchcock. For the last 15 years, Hitchcock has taught either first or second grade at Pacific Northern Academy.

She said kids at that age are her favorite."Second graders are full of questions. They are curious. They are super enthusiastic about learning,” explained Hitchcock. “They want to know and try and it's just a really refreshing. It's a lot of fun.”Rather than ruling over her students, Hitchcock works with them. Students rarely stay seated at their desks. Instead, her classroom is more of “controlled chaos” as they collectively work on projects that get them thinking outside the box.

"So that the kids don't see me as just an overarching person telling them what to do, but we're kind of all in this together and we're all learning every single day,” said Hitchcock. “I like having them try to solve the problem as opposed to me just trying to give them the answers all the time."

Hitchcock also makes every effort to connect with her kids. She said it’s the secret to her success.“Really taking the time to learn who they are and to let them know that we're all kind of in this together and that I'm here to help them in any way I can,” said Hitchcock.


Postcards from the Classroom

The last two weeks were packed with activity…just check out these postcards!

Click any picture to jump into the slideshow.

Like What You See?

When a book is so good all you can do is READ IT!

You Can Support It!

Your gift benefits today's students and everyone's future. Spread the word,

and don't let PNA be Anchorage's best kept secret. Let your friends know!

To make a donation or refer a family to PNA, Call (907) 333-1080 and speak

with Jennie Tschappat, Director of Admissions and Communications.

Coming Right Up

​​Annual Fund Kick Off!

Monday, September 18

7:30 am - 9 am

Caffe D'arte Cold Brew Coffee Bar

Be a well-energized PNA Super hero! Join using "Pantherville" by the Art Room for the kick-off of the 2017 Annual Fund!

Every person who comes in will get a free cuppa joe.

That's a "super" way to start the day!

Picture Day

Tuesday, September 19

Dress Attire required

Fall Harvest Festival

Friday, September 29

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

in the Multi-Purpose Room

Featuring our annual PNA Chili Cook-off and carnival games! All PNA families, friends and alumni (adults & students) are invited to participate in the chili cook-off: chili categories are traditional, non-traditional and vegetarian. Don't have a chili recipe? Bring a dessert!

Parent Association Meeting

Tuesday, Oct. 3

8:30 am - 9:30 am in the Library

FUNdraising with H3!

Friday, Oct. 20

Fall cocktail party featuring the musical stylings of H3, dinner, dancing, games, and tons of fun! This is a 21+ event. Purchase your tickets online now!

For a full listing of events, please visit

the Calendar page on our website!

Dear Friends and Families of PNA,

It's no secret that we work a lot around here. It takes a lot of hours to run a school like PNA and we are fortunate to have a passionate faculty and staff who are willing to put in a ton of thought and effort into the PNA experience.

Our staff and faculty also know that the key to not getting overwhelmed or burnt out is to walk out the door at the end of the day, and go outside! Many Mondays are filled with conversations of our weekend forays into the woods, the sports fields, or just our own back yards.

Social media post are full of photos of backpacking, hiking, skiing, four-wheelers, camp fires, mountains, soccer fields, and cross-country running trails. Even us self-proclaimed couch potatoes often find ourselves substituting the couch at home with a folding camp chair, a bench on a State Park trail, or the bleachers at a local high school.

I can't imagine not having time outside not be a large part of my happiness, and I am so happy that PNA made it a part of my daughters days here. Even now, they spend as much time as they can doing something active, and both have prioritized jobs that don't require them to sit at a desk. They look to the great outdoors for both recreation and learning opportunities, and I can tell you it has made for happier, well balanced kids!


Jennie Tschappat

Director of Communications

Just One More...

When a book is just so good, it takes over the whole body. That's what's happening here.

Who's Behind this FUNd Stuff madness, anyway? The FUNd Stuff Editorial Staff

is Kathy Heinlein and Jennie Tschappat. Guest photographers this week are our teachers!

The FUNd Stuff is a bi-monthly (or so) publication from the staff, students, parents, and teachers of PNA.

Want to know more about anything we've highlighted here?

Get in touch! (907) 333-1080 or

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Thank You! 

As always, our continued success is shared with the people and companies that support us.


Many thanks to... 

John Hardwick and Ral West


Skiva Investments LLC



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Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 3:15 pm

Extended Day Program: 7:30 am to 6:00 pm

Front Office 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Contact information


2511 Sentry Drive, Suite 100

Anchorage, Alaska 99507

Tel: (907) 333-1080 Fax: (907) 333-1652

Pacific northerN academy is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization
tax id: 92-0145501