TNCS Primary Classes Jazz It Up!

Mr. Warren and a sax-playing TNCS granddad!

Mr. Warren and a sax-playing TNCS granddad!

Of the myriad things that The New Century School does very well, two of them are undoubtedly emphasizing the Arts and providing abundant opportunities for family involvement in the child’s schoolday. These two features dovetailed beautifully this week when a TNCS granddad joined the primary classes for a musical event. Each month, primary teacher and music teacher Martellies Warren holds a singalong for the combined four primary classrooms; this time, they were accompanied by a professional saxophone player all the way from California!

Mr. Warren introduced their guest and explained that he would be telling them all about himself and his instrument, after which they would all have a chance to make some music together, and finally the primary students would have a chance to ask all the questions they were bubbling over with. Having played the sax since he was 10 years old, this TNCS granddad had lots to share, including his stint with a swing band, during which he realized that jazz was his thing. He described why the sax looks the way it does and how it makes sound.

He also explained how jazz differs from other music: “We write beautiful music, and we put chords to the music. Then we play a melody. The jazz musician has the privilege of composing  while he’s playing. He makes up his own melodies based on the songwriter’s intentions. That’s what jazz is all about.” He  demonstrated with a tune he knew the kids would recognize—“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

This prompted another round of questions and observations from the kids. “Why is the instrument sometimes loud?” asked one little girl. “In music we call that dynamics. Sometimes you play soft and sometimes you play loud.” Mr. Warren and guest obligingly demonstrated forte (loud) and piano (soft) playing for the audience. Another student asked to hear the musical scale, and Mr. Warren seized the opportunity to have the kids practice their solfège.

The special event closed with two songs from Frozen. Playing “Let It Go” and “Do You Want To Build a Snowman” for the very first time, TNCS’s sax-playing granddad has inspired a new generation to appreciate jazz!

Their entertainer left them with some important advice: “Anybody in this room who wants to become a musician should learn the piano first, no matter what instrument you want to play. Everything is based off piano chords, so you have a big advantage over other musicians if you know piano.”

Mr. Warren might just have a roomful of aspiring musicians during next month’s singalong!

TNCS Rings in the Year of the Sheep!

chinese-zodiac

Each of the 12 zodiac signs are represented by an animal. This year, 4713, is the Year of the Sheep (or Goat).

As always at The New Century School, the Chinese Lunar New Year is a big deal. It brings numerous opportunities to practice spoken and written Mandarin as well as the chance to participate in Chinese cultural celebrations. This year, Year of the Sheep (Yáng de yī nián, 羊的一年), New Year celebrations started on February 19th and will continue through March 5th. An ancient legend credits Buddha with creating the Chinese zodiac, when he asked all animals to meet him one Chinese New Year and named a year after each of the 12 who arrived. He also proclaimed that a person’s attributes would correspond with the traits of the animal whose year he or she is born in. Those born in sheep (some say goat) years tend to be artistic, charming, sensitive, and sweet, and it is considered the most creative sign in the Chinese zodiac. Not surprisingly, then, Michelangelo, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain were “sheep.”

At TNCS, where language-learning is the hallmark of the school’s scholastic identity, culture and customs intersect with communication to enhance language acquisition. Cultural understanding is essential to language learning. Experiencing another culture develops understanding of its relationship to its corresponding language as well as deepens the student’s appreciation of his or her native culture. Students begin to see other people’s points of view, ways of life, and contributions to the world (see TNCS’s Foreign Language Program Embraces the 5 Cs).

The benefits are, therefore, obvious, but the plain fact is, Chinese New Year is fun! School-wide, classes are honoring the New Year with a variety of activities. In addition to their regular Mandarin studies, elementary students have made dumplings (包了饺子) as well as wove traditional silk bracelets (布纹手镯).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And, for the third year running, TNCS students performed at Port Discovery before a proud audience of parents. Xie Laoshi once again outdid herself in organizing and emceeing this eagerly anticipated annual tradition. (See Year of the Horse Festivities Giddy-Up at TNCS and Charmed by TNCS’s Year of the Snake Performance for highlights from the previous 2 years.)

And now for the moments you’ve all been waiting for—here are the performances! TNCS kindergarteners/1st-graders sang first about a dog with a bone and then performed a chant.

TNCS lower elementary students next took the stage for their song.

The older elementary students performed next with songs and some exciting Chinese drumming.

The whole gang convened at the end for the grand finale about achieving international peace!

Readers, we wish you peace and good health in the Year of the Sheep!

TNCS Students Discover Math-e-Magic!

math-e-magic

Master Magician Bradley Fields captivates the audience with his famous magic illusions then teaches the secrets behind some startling math tricks.

On Thursday, February 12th, The New Century School kindergarten and elementary students took a field trip to Goucher College, where they were delighted and amazed . . . by numbers!

The show was put on by Arts on Stage, who provide “Live, Professional Theatre Field Trips for Students and Families.” Inside Goucher’s Kraushaar Auditorium, Master Magician Bradley Fields got a packed audience of elementary-age kids from a dozen or so area schools practicing their math skills from their seats while he “prestidigitated” on stage. The word prestidigitation comes from the Latin for “nimble finger” and denotes performing magic tricks, but Mr. Fields extracts another fortuitous meaning out of the word. His digitation also includes agility with numbers—you know, digits!

Mr. Fields has been called “one of the top magicians in the country” and has appeared on Broadway and on television. His popularity with teachers and students alike should be no surprise—his show integrates math, history, vocabulary, geography, everyday problem-solving, and science, but the audience is captivated by the power and beauty of his illusion-making. He weaves quite a spell with stories of ancient Egyptian pharoahs, soothsayers who accurately predict the future, and a dreaming/sleepwalking banker who turns anything he touches into coins, among others. The audience was so caught up in the enchantment that they didn’t even realize they were practicing addition, subtraction, and more advanced math skills the whole time!

 

Because his love of numbers and how they interact is so vast, Mr. Fields provides his “tricks” as a downloadable Study Guide so everyone can enjoy math. He also revealed some of the machinery of his act during the performance as if to show the audience that they can also harness the power of illusion.

Please download the Study Guide at the above link, but here is a taste of some math trickery to get you started!

Easy Mind-Reading

Magical effect: You guess any number your audience is thinking.

How to perform: 

  1.  Ask your audience to think of any number but keep it secret: e.g., 10
  2. Now ask him or her to double the secret number: e.g., 20 (10 x 2 = 20)
  3. Now ask him or her to multiply by 5: e.g., 100 (20 x 5 = 100)
  4. Ask him or her to give you the final answer (i.e., 100).
  5. Reveal their secret number! Secret: once you know the final answer, mentally slice off and discard the rightmost digit (i.e., the last 0).

Too easy for you? Try this one!

Miracle Number Prediction

Magical effect: You will read your audience’s mind.

How to perform: 

  1. Announce that you will read your audience’s mind.
  2. Ask him or her to hold an envelope in which you have sealed your prediction of his or her mathematical thoughts.
  3. Ask him or her to write down a number made of 3 different digits (the first and last digits must differ by more than 1): e.g., 937
  4. Tell him or her to reverse the number and subtract the smaller number from the larger: e.g., 937 – 739 = 198
  5. Have him or her reverse the difference and add: e.g., 198 + 891 = 1,089
  6. Now ask the envelope-keeper to open your prediction and read it aloud. Bet you didn’t know that the answer will always be 1,089!

Amazing telepathy! Amazing, magical math!

Transitioning from Preprimary to Primary at TNCS

parallel-play-with-montessori-materials

These preprimary students are very excited to be working with Montessori materials at age 2!

Accommodating children from ages 2 years through 10 years (and soon to be 12 years) and ultimately comprising four programs, including preprimary, primary, elementary, and middle school, The New Century School has always focused on how to make the transition from program to program as smooth as possible for students. Continuity is built into the school’s approach, arising as a very natural consequence from its philosophy and mission. No matter what point a TNCS student starts from, he or she is headed toward the same basic goals of self-motivated inquiry and discovery as well as how to be a nice person along the way.

tiny-TNCS-tot-explores-multiple-dimensions-with-Graduated-Cylinder-Blocks

This tiny TNCS tot is exploring multiple dimensions with the Graduated Cylinder Blocks.

Perhaps the most challenging transition that TNCS students (and their parents) face is moving from the preprimary program up to the primary program when the child turns at least 3 years old. At age 2, they might well still be in diapers—still babies, practically—then, a year later, they enter a completely new milieu, with new teachers, new classmates (most of whom are older), and a whole new set of expectations. They become, in short, tiny students.

Historically, this shift has always been more difficult for the parents. The toddlers, meanwhile, accept these changes more or less in stride, even eagerly. It’s safe to say that the children’s ability to adapt so quickly and so well has a lot to do with TNCS’s very well-considered transitional process. On Thursday, February 5th, Head of School Alicia Danyali and the three preprimary teachers, Mrs. Reynolds, Lin Laoshi, and Señora Ramos held a Preprimary Workshop to walk parents through what this process entails. It was a full house; preprimary parents are clearly curious, if not anxious, about what lies ahead for their kids. Rest assured, Mrs. Danyali’s and the teachers’ presentations allayed all concerns!

The talk focused on three key aspects of the move to the primary program: 1) the differences between the two programs, 2) the necessary milestones each child must have met in order to move up, and 3) how each child is placed in one of the four primary classrooms. All of these themes are interrelated, as will become clear.

Differences Between TNCS Preprimary and Primary Programs

The two biggest differences between the programs is that the primary classroom is not a language immersion environment, and it is a classic Montessori environment. These differences start to become less striking, however, when you consider that the children are introduced to the Montessori materials as well as the Montessori teaching style of nurturing guidance the moment they step foot into the TNCS preprimary classroom. Thus, 3-year-olds will enter the primary classroom with a good deal of familiarity with their surroundings and with the manipulative materials they will be working with. And, as with the preprimary classroom, the primary classroom is specially engineered and furnished to accommodate their size. For more on how the Montessori classroom functions at TNCS, please read previous Immersed posts “Language, Math, and Science—Montessori Style!,” “Inside the Montessori Classroom,” and “Preschool Conundrum Solved: Research Demonstrates Benefits of Montessori Education.” The main point here is that Maria Montessori knew that kids need, above all else, to feel secure for optimal development; therefore, in the TNCS Montessori primary classroom, new skills are introduced when the child is ready for them, not when the calendar arbitrarily dictates.

Regarding the shift away from language immersion, that, too, is really only a partial shift. Although the class is “led” by a Montessori-trained teacher, a second teacher who speaks exclusively to the children in either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese is also always on hand. Even better, these teachers switch back and forth among the classrooms on alternating days to ensure that the primary students are now receiving exposure to and instruction in both languages.

Milestones Demonstrating that a Child is Ready for the Primary Classroom

montessori-button-frame

This TNCS preprimary student practices her fastening skills on the Montessori Button Frame. She is well on her way to independent dressing!

Some of the current preprimary students have only just turned 2. Their parents might be wondering how conceivable it really is that their child might be sharing a classroom with kids who are starting to read and write in under a year from now. In diapers in May but using the bathroom by late August? Able to don outdoor clothing independently? Able to articulate daily needs? Those are some of so many hurdles jumped for lots of kids, towering obstacles for others. These are, however, prerequisites for moving up to primary. No matter where your child falls along that continuum, the overriding message that emerged from Mrs. Danyali’s presentation was that the child will be supported and nurtured along the way to readiness. These benchmarks are not in place for ranking or comparing student achievement, by any means. They are simply necessary from an operational standpoint. The primary teacher cannot sacrifice time away from giving the very specific Montessori lessons or helping a student master a task to change diapers, for example. The primary student is able to use the bathroom and get dressed to go outdoors more or less independently (assistance and guidance are always readily forthcoming, of course, and supervision is a constant).

This might sound rather stark at first. In fact, however, the first steps toward such independence have already been taken in the preprimary classroom, where independence and competence are very tenderly fostered. The TNCS student has become a fairly autonomous classroom resident even at age 2, as Mrs. Reynold’s gorgeous photos attest (also see slideshow below). Their ability to pursue their own interests will serve them very well, academically. They are internalizing/honing the four pillars of Montessori: Concentration, Coordination, Independence, and Order. Order? Indeed. Primary students are not only expected to select an activity that they want to work with, but they are also expected to complete that work as well as put it away correctly upon completion—it’s the Montessori “Work Cycle,” and it teaches accountability and a sense of accomplishment in addition to the importance of maintaining order. All “works” are designed to absorb the child (concentration) and also to develop both large and fine motor movements (coordination).

Parents are encouraged to reinforce the expectation of independence at home as well. Children can be allowed to pour their own drinks and zip up their own outerwear, for instance. Pants with elastic waists and shoes that fasten with velcro straps can facilitate their ability to get dressed by themselves and develop their confidence with such processes. Another way parents can aid such transitioning is by considering a TNCS summer camp for primary-age students rather than a preprimary camp to give them a taste of the fun in store.

Placement in a Primary Classroom

Although not an exact science, this aspect of the transition out of preprimary is very thoughtfully undertaken. Many factors are weighed in the decision-making: your child’s proclivities, the prospective teachers’ proclivities, and the ages and genders of the current students in the class. Each Montessori classroom should have a well-rounded mix of ages 3, 4, and 5 in order to function optimally. (Please see above links for the rationale behind the mixed ages of Montessori classrooms. In short, they promote incredibly fruitful mentor–mentee relationships that continuously evolve.) The child will remain in the primary classroom for 3 years, so a “good fit” is critical. TNCS may not be able to honor specific requests in all circumstances, but your child will always be placed in a classroom environment fully devoted to addressing each student’s needs.

And Finally . . . 

Even though the advance to the primary program is made as smooth as possible, TNCS students do face transitions and changes, as all students do. The important difference at TNCS is in the thoughtful, child-appropriate way these transitions are managed. As always, parents, you are encouraged to see how it all comes together for yourself—you’ll be amazed, gratified, and reassured. Here are four great ways you can do so:

  1. Attend an Admissions Fridays event held most Fridays through the end of the school year (register here).
  2. Attend the Primary Workshop, “Four Areas of the Montessori Classroom that Unleash Your Child’s Potential” being held February 12th, 2015 from 6:00 pm–7:30 pm. (Childcare is available; sign up here by February 9th.)
  3. Read any of the related Immersed posts linked above, or simply search with keyword “Montessori” in the Immersed archives.
  4. Read Mrs. Danyali’s recommended books Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius (Angeline Lillard) and A Parents’ Guide to the Montessori Classroom (Aline Wolf).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

TNCS Welcomes DBFA and the “Big Kids”!

tncs-gymnasium-accomodates-dbfa-event

For the second year in a row, TNCS hosted this DBFA event, providing plenty of space in the gymnasium.

On Wednesday, January 28th, The New Century School once again had the pleasure of hosting the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance‘s annual signature event, “Meet the Big Kids (and Their Parents).” This event featured participants from neighborhoods all over the city (e.g., Fell’s Point, Butcher’s Hill, Otterbein, Roland Park, Federal Hill, etc.) to provide the inside scoop on the challenges and benefits of growing up and going to school in our urban environment. TNCS was perfectly situated to host again, with plans to open its very own middle school in the fall of 2016 and welcome some big kids of its own!

happy-hour-light-fare-provided

Hors d’oeuvres from Lebanese Taverna gave attendees time to arrive at a leisurely pace, mingle, and recharge before getting down to business.

The event, designed to accommodate working parents, commenced with a happy hour with hors d’oeuvres from Harbor East’s Lebanese Taverna, while children were given pizza and snacks in an adjoining classroom with childcare by Wondersitters. The audience turnout was high—how to raise healthy, happy older children in downtown Baltimore is a popular topic! DBFA solicited questions for the panel in advance to make sure everyone’s concerns were addressed in a timely fashion. Said mediator Beth Laverick, “[This event] is 150% worth your time, and you will walk away with more information than you thought possible.”

This year, the event took a slightly different tack, focusing more on the kids themselves and letting them express their opinions in their own voices. One especially nice touch was in the variety of perspectives that the panel shared. In addition to middle school–age and high school–age kids, parents were also on hand to provide their viewpoints. Thirdly, the panel included two young working professionals who had grown up in Baltimore, gone to college, launched successful careers, and returned to Baltimore to live and work. The resounding message was that staying in Baltimore to raise a family is not only fine, but it has many advantages—big advantages—that the panel was happy to enumerate.

So how do they do it? How do downtown families manage “without yards, two-car garages, and shopping malls”?

DBFA Executive Director John Bullock introduced the event by explaining DBFA’s mission to keep Baltimore families connected and to provide the resources they need to enhance family life in Charm City. Mediator Mrs. Laverick then took over to introduce the panelists. Each was asked to describe where he or she lives and what it is about Baltimore that has him or her committed to city living. Walkability was a key theme as was the sense of community pervading the neighborhoods. Many consider Baltimore a “small, close-knit community within a big city.” In other words, you get the best of both worlds here. All of your neighbors know you and keep an eye out for your family as in a small town, while first-rate theatre, dining, farmers’ markets, and shopping are abundantly available—big-city perks. “There’s never a dull moment,” said Big Kid Sebastian Towles, which got a laugh from the audience. We could all agree with that statement!

Discussion Topics

Not surprisingly, schools were the biggest issue, just as they were last year. In some ways, this issue is fast becoming a non-issue. Almost soon as the Big Kids opened their mouths, audience members’ concerns about Baltimore City high schools were quelled. The panelists were smart, witty, eloquent, and extremely self-possessed. They were perfectly at ease speaking from the stage to a large audience, all of which says a lot about the education (a mix of public and private schools) they are receiving. “Do you have concerns that the education your child is getting is not on a par with national standards? parents were asked. “Not even a little bit,” said one, which was echoed unanimously. If anything, it’s the opposite. Fun fact: students graduating from Baltimore City public high schools get free tuition to Johns Hopkins University upon acceptance! (See below for a list of the top-performing Baltimore City high schools. Also note that Baltimore is nationally renowned for its private high schools (e.g., Gilman, Calvert Hall). “Where did you go to school?” when asked of a Baltimore native, does not refer to college, but to high school.

meet-the-big-kids-panel

This year’s panel included the kids, their parents, and a couple of “former kids”!

What about school safety? What about transportation to school? In Baltimore City, no high schools are zoned, so all are by choice. Prospective enrollees apply to their top picks and make the decision based on where they are accepted. This system is really wonderful for matching a Big Kid to the right learning environment (some schools focus on The Arts, others on STEM, for example). It also presents a couple of challenges, such as getting to a school that isn’t located in the immediate vicinity. Are parents forced to spend hours each morning chauffering their kids to school and making all manner of sacrifices for this inconvenience? Panelists laughed off the very idea. Part of urban living is developing the competence and independence to navigate the city. Most of the school-aged panelists take the MTA busses and are happy to do so. Carpools can also be arranged in certain instances, but to hear the kids themselves, availing themselves of the public transportation at hand clearly makes the most sense. Busses on the school routes are full of students, and it’s easy to develop “bus buddies” should a helping hand or just some companionship ever be needed.

As for safety in the school, this was again a moment during which the panelists impressed the audience. It’s true that cell phones and valuable items get stolen in Baltimore (as anywhere, city or no). These kids seemed almost puzzled by the idea that they wouldn’t use common sense en route to school or anywhere else. Don’t display valuable items; travel in groups. Duh ;)! As for larger safety issues such as bodily harm or worse, look at the statistics, said one of the grown-up “kids.” Violence in schools not only happens everywhere, but actually seems to be more prevalent in non-urban areas. This fact seems difficult to fathom until you consider that with a greater population density comes correspondingly more infrastructure to maintain order, such as police presence (and number of streetlights, pointed out Amuse Toys owner Claudia Towles, winning another audience laugh). The grown-up kids were quick to point out the harrowing experiences they met with after leaving Baltimore for college in small towns. The kids are right: It’s all down to using common sense, and urban parents might be more likely to begin instilling these lessons early, resulting in some pretty savvy young urban dwellers.

big-audience-turnout-TNCS-gymnasium

More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids (and Their Parents) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

From this point, a unifying motif emerged during all topics. City kids are resourceful. They are creative, innovative, and welcoming of a challenge. No yard to play outside in? Text your buddies to meet up at the neighborhood park or initiate a ball game in a very-low-trafficked alley. “Learn your community like the back of your hand,” they advised. Walk around; get to know the city. Parents agreed. Grant independence in increments, said Fell’s Point mom Melanie Hood Wilson. Teach them their boundaries and to be mindful of their surroundings.

As happened throughout the night, what was presented in question form as something to be overcome turned out to be a clear advantage in panelist answers. For example, no backyard (or one made of bricks—another laugh) opens up the city as a playground with a wealth to do and explore. Mrs. Wilson shared an anecdote that when her teenage daughter had just finished a grueling morning of exams and had an afternoon available to do with whatever she chose, she and her friends opted for a visit to the art museum. And, Baltimore’s walkability and abundant public transportation means that our teenagers aren’t driving as much, which parents and grown-up kids say translate into fewer accidents and fewer DUIs compared to teens in the suburbs who tend to have to drive almost everywhere.

Although the view was overall pretty rosy, it isn’t perfect. But Baltimore families and stakeholders are working on establishing more high schools, especially charter schools, to increase the number of excellent options. The DaVinci Academy for the Arts and Sciences (working name) is in development in Southeast Baltimore, for example, with hopes to open in fall 2017. “Baltimore has a way to go,” said Mrs. Wilson, “to develop the same diversity of options for high school that we have for elementary. And that’s only going to happen if families stay in the city and demand it.” Another way you can make your voice heard on the topic of schools in Baltimore is by visiting the Baltimore City Public Schools website, which actively solicits feedback. This organization also conducts annual School Effectiveness Reviews (SERs) that are published on the site for your perusal.

Finally, if you would like a deeper dive into the most frequently asked questions and their answers, please see Immersed‘s write-up of 2014’s event, which dealt with many of the same topics: Meet The Big Kids.

So What’s Bugging You?

This map shows the resurgence of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough caused by the anti-vaccination movement. Red triangles indicate health care workers who have been affected by the outbreaks.

This map shows the global resurgence of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough caused by the anti-vaccination movement. Red triangles indicate health care workers who have been affected by the outbreaks.

Viruses, viruses, viruses—they’re everywhere! Whether the kids are coming home from school* with fevers, or coworkers are too busy with workloads to keep their upper respiratory infections out of the office, or we’re barraged with the latest news stories everywhere we go, nasty bugs seem to be the order of the day. Just as new cases of Ebola had begun to rapidly decline in even the worst hit countries (whew!), suddenly, a measles outbreak in California this month has reminded us once again that bugs can be real threats. Measles is one of the most highly infectious diseases there is, and it can be deadly. This year is setting up to be the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994. Read more here: The New Measles.

But wait! There’s good news abloom in the microscopic world. In fact, there’s a lot of good news. The truth is, we are more hosts to more microorganisms—yeasts, bacteria, viruses, etc.—than to our own human cells. We have thrived on this symbiosis, and we’d do well to get to know our teeny tiny friends, frenemies, and outright enemies a little better. So, go on, do yourself a favor and watch this charming representation of our microbiome. It keeps us healthy and happy.

http://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=242361826&mediaId=

That animation tells the story of the good guys, but what of the pathogens that wreak havoc on us? There’s good news on that front, too! Because, guess what? The 5-second rule has been reinstated! It turns out that food dropped on the floor can still be relatively safe for consumption, depending on length of time it spends there and on its own physical properties (e.g., moisture content, consistency, etc.). Or perhaps a better way to say it is, floor food might pick up fewer pathogens in under 5 seconds than it would take to make someone really sick. Read the dirt here: UK Study Shows Five Second Rule Exists. And note that this rule certainly can’t apply to highly trafficked public places. Ewwwww!

Kinda grossed out? Well maybe this story is more to your liking. A new study just published today in Science Daily has found the key to decipher the complex language of the linemen of our immune systems, the T and B lymphocytes, which are our first lines of defense against potentially harmful pathogens like many viruses and even tumors.

Combining methods of Next Generation Sequencing with in vitro stimulation and analysis of specific T cells, the researchers were able for the first time to establish a complete catalogue of the immune response to pathogens and vaccines. In particular, they have catalogued all the clones that respond to a particular microorganism, determining their specificity and their functional properties, for example their ability to produce inflammatory mediators (cytokines) or to migrate to different tissues.

It’s like having the opposing team’s exhaustive playbook—we could potentially have an answering play ready for every viral/bacterial/neoplastic offensive move. The therapeutic possibilities are dizzying. Read more here: The language of T lymphocytes deciphered, the “Rosetta Stone” of the immune system.

For now, though, the little guys are proving more effective at survival than we are, so they deserve some respect. We should above all strive to keep the good ones happy, which ironically, may help stave off the not-so-good ones. Eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising are just what the doctor ordered.

*Note that The New Century School‘s policy mandates that students with infectious illnesses be kept out of school until the danger of contagion has passed (at least 24 hours without symptoms). Please consult the Parent Handbook for more details regarding TNCS’s communicable disease policy.

Phys Ed Is Going Strong at TNCS!

phys-ed-teacher

Phys ed teacher Robert Bekas joined TNCS at the start of the 2014–2015 academic school year.

The New Century School was founded on the principle of educating the whole child, which many schools have neither the luxury nor the capacity to do. Art, Music, and Physical Education are typically first on the chopping block in the current standardized education environment. But, in keeping with its firm commitment to providing a well-rounded scholastic experience, TNCS has not only retained these disciplines critical for development of creativity as well as specific skills, but it has continued to grow its “specials” program and offers a very balanced ratio of academic-to-specials classes.

One emphasis of the 2014–2015 school year is on movement, explained Head of School Alicia Danyali in the fall. True to her word, she has implemented regular yoga throughout the upper programs, encourages teachers to allow plenty of time for their students to move within their individual classrooms—such as K/1st teacher Mrs. Jacoby’s games to hone hand–eye coordination (see TNCS Gets the Wiggles Out and the Learning In!)—in addition to providing dedicated gym time in a formal physical education class. Movement is not only essential for physical health, but evidence in support of movement being just as vital for cognitive health is mounting fast.

Enter Mr. Robert Bekas, TNCS’s new phys ed instructor. Mr. Bekas is The Real Deal in terms of what he brings to the gym. Born and raised in Poland, he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from the Academy of Physical Education. His main interest was in martial arts, and he competed for many years in karate, specifically, the Shotokan style. After graduating from college, he opened his own kickboxing academy and taught there for 4 years. In 2004, he came to the United States to do an internship at Sport FIT, a fitness club. (He met his future wife there and has been here ever since apart from brief annual trips back home.) He then worked for 7 years at a Wheaton Catholic school, but when it closed, he came here to teach K and up.

His classes start with basic stretching, then advance to an activity that incorporates some cardio (e.g., playing “Freeze,” “Sharks and Minnows,” or “Lions and Tigers”), and wrap up with skill-building in strength training, gymnastics, or team sports. He is hoping to increase classes from once a week to twice a week so the students are more accustomed to the routine. In Poland, he explained, PE class is usually four times a week. “Elsewhere, it seems to be getting less and less. This is bad for kids; they are spending too much time indoors and on devices and will end up with postural problems. I know this is the 21st century, but playing too many video games is a bad habit.” For his own fitness routine, he does a whole-body workout at the gym incorporating stretching, strength training, and cardio. For fun, he continues his martial arts training and also enjoys hiking.

As for his TNCS students he says, “The kids are doing great. The goal is overall fitness, but I also want them to learn the basic rules of baseball, football, soccer as well as fairplay. I also try incorporate team spirit. When we play, we play for fun. We don’t keep score; I want the students to be nice to each other, not get in arguments over who is winning. I try to keep it on the fun level, not necessarily the sports level.” He also uses the Gerstung equipment to teach basic gymnastics, such as forward and backward roll on the balance beam.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mr. Bekas commands respect from his students, and they adore him. “I like being at this school,” he said. “It’s a great place. It’s family oriented, and the classes are kept small.” By the way, Mr. Bekas also speaks four languages (Polish, English, German, and Russian) and might attempt to learn Japanese to support his martial arts endeavors. He is certainly a good fit for the multilingual/multicultural environment at TNCS! Future projects at the school for Mr. Bekas might include some extracurricular martial arts instruction; stay tuned for developments!