The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

“A picture is worth a thousand words........and a video is worth a thousand pictures!”

― Ankala V Subbarao

Why Video?

by Pete Johnson | PNA 5th Grade Teacher and Technology Coordinator

PNA has recently revamped its Youtube channel! The channel currently contains quite a few new and “classic” videos that have been sorted into playlists on a variety of topics. You can find the link at the bottom of this article. Make sure to subscribe!

Video are a powerful and engaging medium, and we wish to use this channel as an opportunity to give parents peeks into the classroom, to share with you our underpinning education philosophy, and to provide students with an exciting place to publish their multimedia projects. PNA has a variety of high quality equipment for making videos, including professional lighting, expensive video cameras, iPads with iMovie video editing software, a boom mic, and even a green screen. Below are a few exciting examples of a couple of video projects in 5th grade.

Mold Terrariums Timelapse Videos

As part of our study of decomposition, students created mold terrariums by putting a piece of pepperoni pizza and an orange in a clear bag. One bag contains the control (the basic experiment we will compare with) and the other bags are the same except for one variable of their choosing. Students have been regularly taking pictures of their experiment over the last 2 and a half months. We plan to continue to watch the process of decomposition for the rest of the school year. At that point we will have time lapse videos that will show 6 months of decomposition. We can then analyze the results and draw scientific conclusions about how each variable affected decomposition of the food. If you want to see these projects in person, feel free to wander into the 5th grade classroom before or after school!

“Why do we Explore?” Video Project

5th grade began a unit on exploration with the question, why do we explore? To dig into this question a little further, students interviewed a parent about a time when they explored, whether in the form of a travel adventure or outdoor adventure. Students recorded the stories, and are using the audio in a iMovie video project that celebrates the adventures of their parents and also seeks to understand what motivates people to want to explore. We'll post their videos to the Youtube Channel when they are finished.

What can be found on PNA’s Youtube Channel?

On the PNA channel homepage, you will see several sections. The first section features classroom playlists with a variety of fun videos. While you’re there, you may want to browse videos for your child’s future grade levels to get a feel for what’s coming up.

The second section is called “Our Social and Academic Curricula,” and features playlists that will give you a basic idea of PNA’s core beliefs and education philosophy.

The next section, called “Special Events,” contains playlists on a variety of school events.

How do you connect with PNA’s Youtube Channel?

To keep up to date on PNA’s latest and greatest additions to Youtube, make sure to subscribe. You can do so by clicking the red subscribe button on the home page. For those less familiar with Youtube, it is a Google product, and therefore uses the same username and password as any Google/Gmail account you may already have. Youtube also has a great phone app as well. Enjoy the videos, and you are encouraged to like, comment, and share the videos you like!

Check out the channel by following this link:

Pacific Northern Academy - Anchorage, Alaska - YouTube - YouTube

Number Sense

by Sheryll Orbase | PNA 3rd Grade Teacher

How did you learn your multiplication facts? Did you just memorize your multiplication table? Or did you have other strategies? In third grade, multiplication is a big chunk of our math program. It is the time when kids are expected to learn how to multiply, but what's the best way to teach them? Some students might be not as good as others at memorizing facts. Memorizing facts would also not tell you if students actually understand that 3x5 is the same as 5+5+5 or 3+3+3+3+3. They might not even what 3x5 actually mean. Brain researchers conducted a study on number facts. They found that the students who memorized more easily were not higher achieving, they did not have what the researchers described as more “math ability”, nor did they have higher IQ scores. Some students will be slower when memorizing but they still have exceptional mathematics potential.

Brain researchers have also found that the students who are most successful with number problems are those who are using different brain pathways – one that is numerical and symbolic and the other that involves more intuitive and spatial reasoning (Park & Brannon, 2013). Additionally brain researchers have studied students learning math facts in two ways – through strategies or memorization. They found that both approaches, strategies or memorization, involve two distinct pathways in the brain and that both pathways are perfectly good for life long use. Importantly the study also found that those who learned through strategies achieved ‘superior performance’ over those who memorized, they solved problems at the same speed, and showed better transfer to new problems. The brain researchers concluded that automaticity should be reached through understanding of numerical relations, achieved through thinking about number strategies (Delazer et al, 2005).

Bridges, PNA's math program, supports different learning styles. Students are not just taught how to recall facts but they are taught with different strategies, giving students every tool they could try until they pick the right one that works for them. For example, instead of just having students memorize the answer to 4x6, they are also taught the "doubles doubles" strategy where they double the number they multiply by 4 and then double the result (Double of 6 is 12, double of 12 is 24). Strategies help students quickly compute the answers, and some strategies also make it possible for them to calculate mentally with larger numbers.

Watch how students multiply by 11 before they were taught strategies:

After teaching strategies, students were able to multiply larger numbers mentally.

At PNA, we celebrate different learning styles. We equip students with a variety of ways to solve problems. In math, we don't just teach them how to memorize facts, we also teach them strategies that will help them solve problems with larger numbers just like how we prepare them for the big world.

Postcards from the Classroom

This week we are sharing video cards from the classes - some recent and some classic. Enjoy!

The Early Kindergarten Explorers experiment with how different materials affect how fast wheels go. Their first exploration was with a blank ramp, a ramp covered with a towel. and a ramp covered with a rubber mat.

Have you ever wondered what writing workshop looks like in second grade? Here's your chance to be the fly on the wall and take a quick peek.

Jackson makes the jump to hyperspace…

To encourage teamwork and communication, the Beginners all worked together to make a structure, using a spotlight and some colorful window blocks. Watch the 10 minutes of work in this one minute video!

K/1st graders warm up for PE with a fast game of Triangle Tag.

A Middle School Spanish Train Wreck…classic movie from PNA's class of 2017.

Like What You See?

Go Team!

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

It’s Super Bowl weekend, and this yearly battle of teams prompted me to reflect on teamwork in our daily life at PNA. We’ve all seen the inspirational messages:

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Michael Jordan "None of us is as smart as all of us."

Ken Blanchard "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." Phil Jackson "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

African Proverb

Teamwork is a critical component of a person’s success in this world: in the home, in relationships, and at work: “In today’s workplace, you have to be able to work with a diverse group of people,” says Joyce Russell, Dean at the Villanova School of Business. Indeed, 78% of hiring managers seek job candidates who demonstrate strong teamwork skills, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2017 survey.

Teamwork is a daily expectation and necessity in our middle school classrooms. We spend our first month of school getting to know each other through various team-building activities, and we spend the rest of the year strengthening those bonds and refining social skills. While we value and teach individuals, most of our daily activities require our students to work in small and large teams. Visitors to our school at any time of day will see students talking, creating, laughing, and thinking... together. PNA’s small class size provides a daily challenge for students honing their teamwork skills. When the class size is small, students must work together with the same people, again and again. There is no hiding when personalities clash or ways of thinking don’t mesh. There’s no avoiding disagreements or disappointments. What’s a kid to do?!

Persevere…communicate…stay flexible. The beauty of the PNA way is that our students build close relationships because they do work closely together, every day, in every way. Whether it’s solving problems in math class; designing and creating a bulletin board; preparing an act for Brown Bag Concert; developing ideas for a class Auction art project; preparing Valentine’s Day activities; writing a summary of an epic tale; imagining their own game at recess; or creating movie trailers for the Science Fair; every single student is challenged every single day to communicate and strengthen his or her emotional intelligence. Go team!

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."

Helen Keller

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!

Coming Right Up

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!

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

Pete Johnson, Sheryll Orbase, and Martina Henke

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?

Get in touch! (907) 333-1080 or

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


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John Hardwick and Ral West


Skiva Investments LLC



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