The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

Hygge…Feels Good!

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. explains, "Hygge (or to be “hyggeligt”) doesn’t require learning “how to”, adopting it as a lifestyle or buying anything. It’s not a thing and anyone telling you different either doesn’t understand it or is literally trying to sell you something that has nothing to do with the concept. You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there’s no ‘hygge foods’ to eat. Hygge literally only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distill ‘hygge’ down to being a ‘feeling’ – because if you don’t feel hygge, you probably aren’t using the word right."

As we look around PNA, the word "hygge" comes to mind when thinking about how to describe what happens at our school, what "the PNA way" is. Students are happy to be here and they think of this place as special. They love their community and sharing it with others.

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

A group of middle school students gathered in the lobby on Monday, laughing and smiling with each, other while getting ready to head over to the Mountain View Community Center to help distribute Thanksgiving food items to families in need. With the help of partner organizations, Food Bank of Alaska provides a turkey and all the food items for side dishes in celebration of Thanksgiving to those who cannot afford to do so on their own. Given the recession Alaska finds itself in, it's likely the need is greater this year than ever before. PNA has been a part of the Thanksgiving Blessing for over five years now, collecting canned items and helping distribute them at the Mountain View site; one of eight around the city and in the Mat-Su Valley. Students eagerly volunteer, spending what normally is a day off for them helping create hygge, because everyone deserves the feeling - especially during the holidays.

By creating simple rituals without effort {such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week} the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from. They incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.

So whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cosy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.

From Morning Meeting to the Middle School Lock-In, PNA's simple rituals cultivate hygge; the good moments are plenty. Pumpkin Carving kicked off the holiday season, and the Halloween Parade once again showcased student and teacher creativity. Set Construction Night saw families, both past and current, helping create the backdrops and sewing costumes for the upcoming Winter Concert. Projects in the classroom draw kids into learning in a way that is unparalleled in many schools, and parents bring in full-spread Moose's Tooth lunch for our faculty to show appreciation for their hard work. Familiar faces at the door when kids arrive for the day, a daily joke at lunchtime and a weekly clean-up crew who leaves the eating spaces clean for the next group, and the teacher who stops by Homework Club after school to help out with those tricky math questions.

As we head into the the darkest part of the Alaskan winter and the last weeks of the first semester, know that it is these little moments of being present that bring joy to our days. The ability to find comfort and pleasure by just slowing down and appreciating the simple stuff (and each other!) is truly something to be thankful for.

Postcards from the Classroom

Click on any photo to jump into the slideshow!

Creativity Reigns

Kindergarten's Weekly Blog | by Brena McCormick

"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."

-Mary Lou Cook

One thing that most of our sweet kindergartners have in spades is imagination. With a little bit of time and a lot of freedom, some leftover cardboard scraps, straws, and caps become a fire-filled ramp and a race car; more cardboard becomes an airport for paper airplane dragons; a box and some paper become houses for beloved stuffies; pattern blocks provide elaborate play that stretches across days. ​Our students tackle all of the challenges throughout our day, but they devour our weekly Creative Time with a different kind of eagerness. They relish this time where the possibilities are limited only by their own imaginations. They survey the materials we've collected in our project monster during the week, add a little tape here, a tweak there, and before I know it, I'm surrounded by proud students and the impressive products of their imaginations.

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

-Maya Angelou

Creativity is a skill, one that can be nurtured and grown--or squelched. Creativity breeds ingenuity and problem solving skills, which are important soft skills. Forbes consistently lists ingenuity and the ability to problem solve in its list of the top 10 skills for which employers are looking. (Initiative, which is likewise connected to creativity, also frequents the list. Individuals who are able to think for themselves, think of a situation in a new way, and problem solve will naturally take initiative.) Unfortunately, we sometimes create the boxes around children's thinking in school. We encourage individuals to "think outside the box," but oftentimes we have drawn the very lines that box in their thinking. Students too often learn that a certain and specific type of product, algorithm, or path to a solution is "right" and everything else is "wrong." ​School can then become more about making the grade than about making discoveries, taking risks and learning new things, or exploring our world and becoming a good and productive citizen of it.

However, this is not the case at PNA. Creativity is encouraged throughout our day, and thankfully, through our curriculum. During math, students are constantly challenged to explore different configurations, look at a problem from different angles, or solve it without a provided formula or algorithm. They are asked and taught to share their thinking, to try to solve the problem in a new and different way, and to listen to and learn from their fellow mathematicians. Writing, reading, and projects provide another opportunity for students to express themselves, explore their own interests, learn from the interests of others, and solve problems, all while learning the appropriate content. Teachers facilitate and guide, rather than dictate, instruction and learning--a bit of information provided here, a leading question there. Students experience the creativity of others through collaboration with peers, by studying mentor texts in both reading and writing, and through their immersion in the arts throughout the week. PNA is truly a place where creativity reigns, and I am so thankful for that.

"Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more."

-Loris Malaguzzi

One of the joys of my job is seeing the world through my students' eyes, sharing in the joy of discovery and limitless options, seeing something in a new way because of my students' perspective and creativity. Because of this, our Creative Time is one of my favorite times of the week. I love to see what they come up with, which materials they choose to use, the little details they choose to add, and the way they solve problems along the way. I have found that when they think the sky is the limit, the sky truly is the limit.


You’re Grandparents!

7th/8th Grade's Weekly Blog | by Sarah Mariner and Martina Henke

If you were to walk down the hallway to the science lab, you would see 77 beautiful pet babies! They were all “born” last week and seem to be thriving - even though they are stapled to the wall!

While the seventh and eighth graders seemed to have fun with this project, serious learning took place behind each of their baby’s designs. A few weeks ago, at a parent lunch, both student and parent created a “pet.” This pet had no specific design except that it had to display 6 particular traits in one of two forms. For example, it had to either have pointy or floppy ears, a tail or no tail, square or round eyes, and so on. The pets were created with their designers’ personal touch. As you can imagine, the variety from this creative group did not disappoint! (Caution: biology terms ahead.)

It was only after the parent lunch that the students learned which traits were controlled by dominant or recessive alleles. Since those phenotypes were plainly visible, students had to determine the genotypes. Students knew that if a trait was recessive, it had to be homozygous - so those genotypes were easy. However, for the dominant traits, students had to flip a penny to randomly select the genotype as either homozygous or heterozygous. (Are you still with me?) Switch momentarily to social studies. Think awkward middle school dance. Yup, all the student pets met up and awkwardly paired off with the pets made by parents in a random selection. (Yes, I know. Natural selection would have been more scientifically correct, but this is middle school and I didn’t want them to actually fight over the cutest parent pet!) Once paired, these middle schoolers were tasked with making six offspring, which they took very seriously!

Back to science. For each pet baby trait, students had to make a Punnett square to show the probability of the allele sets when the parents’ genotypes were crossed. Then, they rolled a die which selected the Punnett square quadrant from which to select the allele set. Once all of these were determined, students had to make the babies according to their newly combined genotypes reflecting the crosses from the parents. And, voila! The basics of genetics understood.

Like What You See?

Aspiring Entrepreneurs

2nd Grade's Weekly Blog | by Marcella Hitchcock

What do crayon bits, beads, shaving cream, paper towel tubes and popsicle sticks all have in common? They are all being transformed by the newest business owners in 2nd grade into sellable product for the annual 2nd Grade Store.

Students from 3rd, 7th, and 8th grades come to shop at the store. Upon entering, they are given a bag of money to spend as they please and are able to keep the purchases they make. The only rule is that they must spend all of their money.

So far students have brainstormed a product idea, come up with a business name and have begun bringing their ideas to life in the form of creative products to sell. Some students have chosen to create a business partnership while others preferred to work alone.

After break students will use their persuasive writing skills to write and film commercials to entice their consumers (the 3rd, 7th and 8th graders) to purchase their product instead of their competitors.

Students will also be in charge of their own accounting, from running their actual store by making and giving change to keeping track of their expenses and revenue and calculating their own profits. They will then receive feedback from the consumers on their shopping experience. All of this is an authentic trial and error experience for the culmination of their current PBL project which is the creation and running of an actual booth at PNA's annual Maker's Market on December 2nd. The 2nd graders will host a booth that will be selling handmade cards and hot chocolate to "real buyers with real money" as one student so enthusiastically put it. What will they do with their real profits? Stay tuned for "The Panther Project" in the spring!

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 today!

Maker’s Market is only two weeks away! There are many ways to participate in this fun event and invite you to join us in making our second year a success! See below for some ideas:

  • Donate items for PNA to sell at Maker's Market. Please have donations to PNA by Monday, November 27, 2017. (All items donated to the Maker's Market are eligible to be instead placed in the PNA Auction, at the discretion of the Auction Committee).

  • Become a vendor and have an entire table devoted to your items. ($50/table, contact Annie at PNA if you would like to become a vendor).

  • Join Lizzy in hosting the Make-and-Take table on December 2and help kids make take-home-treasures on the day of the event.

  • Volunteer to help the day of the event. Contact PNA parent, Randi Breager at for volunteering- we still need people to help vendors unload items the morning of, starting at 8am

  • Attend Maker's Market on December 2, 2017 and invite your friends.

  • Share our event page!

Coming Right Up

Winter Concert

December 1st

6 pmEnd of Semester Grade Reporting Day, No School


Maker's Market

December 2nd

10 am to 4 pm


End of Semester

December 22nd

Grade Reporting Day

No School for students

Winter Break

December 25th through January 5th

Enjoy the holidays, and

Happy New Year!

Earth Investigators

Winter Break Camp

January 2nd through January 5th

Need something to do after the holidays

before school starts again? Check this out!

Professional Development Day

January 8th

No School for students

First Day of Second Semester for Students

January 9th

Welcome back!

For a full listing of events, please visit

the Calendar page on our website!

Just One More...

Even Hank knows hygge...see how big he's made Mrs. Chili Powder and Zoey smile?
Here's to an octopus inking on his cookie, causing a riot of Kindergarten was a definitely a moment worth being present for!

In Appreciation

We are grateful to our corporate supporters and individual donors who help make PNA and independent education possible for students and their families in Anchorage, Eagle River, and the Matanuska Valley. We couldn't do it without you!

John Hardwick and Ral West

Dr. and Mrs. David Beal

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

is Kathy Heinlein and Jennie Tschappat. Contributing articles this month from PNA's Kindergarten, 7th/8th and 2nd grade blogs. You can find all the blogs here each week.

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

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2511 Sentry Drive, Suite 100

Anchorage, Alaska 99507

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

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tax id: 92-0145501