The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Learning is Messy;

It's Messy, Challenging, and Oh, So Rewarding

by Martina Henke | PNA 7th/8th Grade Teacher

PNA's 7th/8th graders dedicated their language arts and social studies times throughout the weeks since Winter Break to preparations for PNA's annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.

We actually began discussing equity and Dr. King's dreams many weeks ago, reading his words, brainstorming ideas for the assembly, and listening to the voices of people who have faced inequities in their lives.

The students talked with family members and friends who've had firsthand experiences with prejudice and inequity: as black Americans in the South during the Civil Rights movement, here in Alaska as Alaska Natives, and as Japanese Americans in Japanese internment camps during WW2. We read about inequities and challenges faced today, such as in Saudi Arabia, where women just recently gained the right to drive but still stand in separate lines at fast food restaurants. We pondered the controversy of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem. We read an excerpt from King's Strive Toward Freedom about the Montgomery bus boycotts and King's Six Principles of Nonviolence and vision of a "Beloved Community." Throughout this process, students reflected on all they heard and read and its application in our lives today.

Our driving goal was to synthesize all they learned to create a presentation for the assembly that would be appropriate for a wide ranging audience and that would properly honor Dr. King. As I reflected on this project and the process our class went through, I was constantly reminded that learning is messy, and the process of teaching students to be independent learners and thinkers is challenging. Though I, as the teacher, had many ideas for the assembly and was anxious to move the work forward, it was important that the ideas and work came from the students themselves. We had several planning sessions that lead to dead ends, and as this week arrived, students really still had no solid plan. Yet they continued to work, and by the end of the day on Tuesday, a plan began to form.

With a deadline looming, the class went into action, finally deciding on a format, forming teams to work on the various parts, creating props, writing scripts, negotiating roles, and debating pros and cons of various approaches. As the end of the week neared, the class felt good about the resulting plan, and they practiced several times, making changes to their scripts based on feedback from teachers and students. They moved into the weekend with the goal of practicing their lines and being prepared to put their best foot forward on Monday morning.

Monday morning presented the opportunity for our students to share their learning with an authentic audience. Dressed in their best, they courageously stepped forward to conduct an assembly for the entire school, PNA parents, and, as it turned out, a live Facebook feed! There were hiccups, but their message was on point and their hearts were in the best possible place. Afterward I asked students to reflect on the process and to identify what they learned from it. Many students reflected on the need for adequate time and practice to truly pull off a quality performance, and more than one student mentioned the importance of effective time management. They also learned that teamwork requires everyone’s contribution, focus, and effort.

Learning really IS messy...and challenging. It would be neat and easy to provide students with an outline or plan and to assign roles and tasks from the very beginning. But our goal at PNA is for students to be fully engaged in the learning process, from beginning to end. This requires providing some guidance but allowing the work to take its course; even when that causes some stress! In the end, the assembly that students presented was grounded in King’s powerful vision of nonviolence and love. More importantly, this presentation came from them - it was not dictated by an adult or found in a textbook. It came from their minds, their hearts, and their imaginations. It focused on the things that were most meaningful to them, and it taught them lasting lessons about themselves. It was messy and challenging, but in the end that is how our students take their steps forward as independent learners.

Postcards from the Classroom

Click on any photo to jump into the slideshow!

Learning to Be Kind

Through Other's Experience

Third Grade's Weekly Blog | by Sheryll Orbase

At PNA, our curriculum is geared towards developing emotional intelligence, effective communication skills, and influential leadership. In Third Grade, students have been reading narrative nonfiction - specifically biographies, texts about real people who have done remarkable things. Many of these people have changed the world but just like everyone, they also faced adversity. Students, then, start to consider how they themselves deal with adversity.

Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, says that kids need grit; in biographies, students see models of people with grit. They can see how others handle setbacks and still push themselves to stay determined.

Biographies can teach about more than the one subject of the text. We read to learn not only about the one person the book is about but also the group of people that person represents and the groups of people on whom that person made an impact. That is, we read biographies not only to learn about specific famous figures, but also to learn about the world in which we live and the world in which we want to live.

Citizenship and Rifka

6th Grade's Weekly Blog | by Charlotte Woodside

Students are working hard to make flash cards for children preparing for the U.S. Citizenship test. After taking the practice exam online, students realized that the questions were not as easy or common sense as they had previously thought.

Lori Pickett from the Alaska Literacy Program came to speak with us about the requirements that immigrants must meet for citizenship, as well as her role in helping them pass the exam. She was extremely knowledgeable and had us all engaged with new information. From her discussion of the program's needs, 6th graders are making study aids and flash cards for people going through their program. Students are working through partners to ensure that each question of the 100 possible is represented and finding creative ways to represent the information. This project serves a few purposes in our class. First of all, we are able to contribute something to the Alaska Literacy Program while learning how much they are doing in the community. We are also reinforcing the information from our earlier unit about the US Constitution, as most of the information on the citizenship exam was covered then. Finally, we are working on learning about immigration. By learning about the process today, we are able to accurately compare it to the information we are studying in History and see parallels and differences in how the United States has embraced or discouraged immigration over time.

This week students also finished Letters from Rifka, by Karen Hesse. They followed Rifka's journey - leaving Russia and immigrating to the U.S. in 1919 - and learned a lot about the struggles and barriers that were prevalent at the time. Students created One Pagers to show the depth of the understanding of the topics in the novel. It is always interesting to see how each student interprets different parts of the reading as "most important" or "most meaningful". For this assignment, each student needed to pull two quotes from the book, visually represent a main theme, ask high level questions, and respond to someone else's work. They turned out great!

Like What You See?

Second Grade's Weekly Blog | by Marcella Hitchcock

Second Grade's new storytelling activity during Morning Meeting has been a big hit!

Tell Me a Story is a deck of creative story cards with just pictures. Play begins with each student getting 3-4 cards which they can then play in any order when it's their turn to further the story. Someone starts by laying down a card and saying 1-2 sentences about their card. The next player then chooses a card to lay down and add their own 1-2 sentences to further the story.

This is a great activity for several reasons. First of all, it is inclusive and everyone has a turn to be creative and add to the story in their own way, while simultaneously building upon a collective storyline. Secondly, the second graders really have to listen and pay attention to each other in order to follow the previously played card to continue a coherent story. They communicate ideas and suggestions to each other easily, while still respecting each student's contribution to the plot, no matter how crazy it might be. The third thing that comes out when we play this game is how to use transition words or phrases to continue events in the story.

Things like "Meanwhile..., Suddenly..., However..., But little did they know on the other side of the world..." are now being naturally used not only in this activity, but also in the student's writing as well. These are all great skills that are reinforced in a ten minute game.

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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!

Coming Right Up

Brown Bag Concert Week

January 22 through January 26

Starting at 11:30am each day

Bring a sack lunch and join the entire

student body in the Gym for the annual

Brown Bag Concert Series!

Parents, grandparents, alumni,

and community members are all invited.

Family Outdoor Night

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Three Musketeers

3rd through 8th Grade Musical

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spring Break

Monday, March 5

through Friday, March 16, 2018

No School

ERB Testing Week

2nd-8th Grade

April 2 through April 6, 2018

Once Upon...

Annual Auction Gala

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pacific Northern Academy Campus

For a full listing of events, please visit

the Calendar page on our website!

Just One More...

Sometimes words just aren't enough...

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


APU Vestibular Laboratory

Imaging Associates

Plastic Surgeons of Alaska


Friends of PNA

Skiva Investments

Dr. Steven and Lindsay Tucker

Underwriters and In-Kind Donors​


Buzzbizz Creative

Who's Behind this FUNd Stuff madness, anyway?

The FUNd Stuff Editorial Staff

Jennie Tschappat

Kathy Heinlein

Contributing articles this week from

Martina Henke, and PNA's 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade,

4th Grade, and 6th Grade blogs.

You can find all the blogs here.

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?

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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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