TNCS Primary Students Have Something to Crow About!

tncs-rent-a-coop

Primary teacher Maria Mosby hatches a great idea for a class project!

The New Century School‘s primary Montessori program is truly special, inspiring children to be self-directed and independent yet truly community-minded individuals through hands-on engagement with their world.

Primary teacher Maria Mosby has recently taken this concept to the next level by “renting a coop”! Her students have been participating in a chick-raising and egg-hatching program, all designed to “hatch ideas, grow compassion, and lay foundations,” according to Rent a Coop‘s tagline. Owned by Tyler Phillips and Diana Samata of nearby Potomac, MD, the company rents chicken coops and chicks to homes and schools in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia to “provide an educational and fun experience, bring families and communities closer together, and to help others become more self-sustainable and get back in touch with nature!”

Ms. Mosby said of the idea for her initiative, “Señora Salas and I had been talking to the children about where things come from as well as doing a lot of food preparation work (including egg slicing). So I wanted to do a bird unit and let them actually see and participate in the raising of these chicks so they could understand where our eggs come from. We had to talk about the difference between the eggs we eat and the eggs that are fertilized with potential chicks inside of course!” Eggzactly!

She has been very happy with the company and their responsiveness. “It has been a wonderful program. [Mr. Phillips and Ms. Samata] are on call and answered my emergency chick and egg questions right away,” said Ms. Mosby.

It all began back in April when two chicks appeared in Ms. Mosby’s classroom, which the children subsequently named Olive and Miamaura Cadenza, along with a half dozen or so fertile eggs. One of the chicks was a male Bielefelder breed, and the other an Easter Egger/Copper Maran mix, whose sex was indeterminate until it started “either crowing or laying eggs,” according to Mr. Phillips. [Fun fact: the Bielefelder breed (as well as the Golden Comet, which is what most of their hens are) are 2 of only 10 breeds out of 300 in which the sex can be determined in a chick.] The students voted from a list of names to come up with their final picks. “I think that Miamaura Cadenza is from ‘My Little Pony,'” said Ms. Mosby. “Olive, the male, stems from our class name, ‘The Olive Tree Class.'”

The students got to watch the chicks grow for 21 days inside the egg and for 7 days outside the egg to develop an understanding of emerging and then early life, from “egg tooth” to first feathers. Meanwhile, they also enjoyed observing Olive and Miamaura grow and change. Wait—inside the egg? “They are fascinated when we candle the eggs and what we’ve been learning about in books about the growth of the chick embryo comes to life,” said Ms. Mosby. “Candling” involves a special light that reveals what is happening within the egg.

As luck would have it, three of the chicks hatched the night before Ms. Mosby’s beautiful Mother’s Day breakfast on May 8th, and the rest during that happy occasion! What more fitting celebration of parenting? Indeed, Ms. Mosby’s students developed some very nurturing ways as a result of this wonderful project. “My students have been really interested in doing individual projects about birds, and are so gentle, caring, and protective of the chicks,” she said. They named the new hatchlings “Peep,” “Foxy,” “Oreo,” “Thing One,” and “Thing Two.” Awwwwwww!

Many other TNCS classes stopped by to visit, and Mrs. DuPrau’s class even helped maintain the brooder, which is where the chicks live soon after hatching (after 24–48 hours in an incubator). The brooder features a heat lamp and water and feed bowls and chicks are added one at a time. Think of this as analogous to the Montessori mixed-age classroom, where the new “chicks” learn from the seasoned pros!

tncs-rent-a-coop

Enjoying Ms. Mosby’s backyard before returning to the coop.

After 4 weeks of this eggstraordinary program, the chicks returned to the Rent a Coop farm, as agreed in the terms of rental. Not surprisingly, the class really misses their chicks. “We just wrote a letter [yesterday] to send to Rent a Coop. The kids really miss the chicks and want to know how they’re doing,” said Ms. Mosby. “I’d love to do this again next year, if possible,” she continued. “I’d honestly love to keep one or two hens at school. What a great experience for the kids to care for them and get fresh, organic eggs every day!”

Wondering what the mystery chick turned out to be? “I do think Miamaura Cadenza is also male,” said Ms. Mosby, “because I heard a low sound similar to a crow toward the end!”

Mindful Parenting: A TNCS Workshop that Could Change the World

Dr-Carisa-Perry-Parrish-TNCS

Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish, a developmental clinical psychologist and faculty member at Johns Hopkins Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, specializes in emotional regulation strategies for children and adolescents.

Last month, The New Century School hosted the latest workshop in Head of School Alicia Danyali’s parent enrichment series. This helpful, enlightening presentation on Mindful Parenting was given by Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish, a developmental clinical psychologist and faculty member at Johns Hopkins Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry—and a TNCS mom herself! The workshop was very well attended, but many who expressed interest were unable to be there. This synopsis of the event includes lots of Dr. Perry-Parrish’s published research, with her permission.

“Dr. Perry-Parrish specializes in improving emotion regulation in children and adolescents. Her clinical interests emphasize practicing and promoting evidence-based care, including acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions to improve self-regulation, parent management training for childhood noncompliance and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and cognitive-behavioral therapy for youth anxiety/depression.” For this particular presentation, she shared mindfulness practices to help children and parents alike cope with life stressors and improve their interactions, thereby decreasing the stress in the whole family’s life. Although she does focus clinically on emotional disorders, these positive parenting techniques are applicable and promise enormous benefits to everyone along the continuum of emotional experience.

For a bit of background, “mindfulness training is becoming increasingly popular in the United States as a way to reduce stress, improve attention, and cope with challenges,” said Dr. Perry-Parrish. “This form of awareness training is being taught to adults, parents, and youth with promising results.”

So let’s get to it, right?

Emotions

The presentation began with an eye-opener right off the bat, which is that emotions are not simply arbitrary reactions to catalysts or reflections of our inner states but serve real functions. We evolved to be emotional beings, after all. So when our kids display emotion, they really are telling us something about their current needs. In a nutshell, we consciously and unconsciously use our emotions to fulfill particular goals. Emotions are social cues. Kids face a lot of stress—academically, socially, recreationally—but that stress, and the emotions it elicits, can be positive in some ways. “Every day is full of emotional challenges and opportunities for emotional growth,” said Dr. Perry-Parrish. Here she drew a parallel between TNCS’s emphasis on child self-advocacy and independence, noting that mindfulness is certainly a very complementary practice.

Slide09When emotions are not regulated, or cognitive disruptions lead to intense emotional states, these disorders not only present tremendous challenges for the child, but the parent also, who is, for example, trying to get the child out the door to school on time.

Even in the absence of a so-called “problem,” parenting is stressful for any number of reasons, including that on-time-to-school bugbear. Dr. Perry-Parrish next described three parenting styles we commonly adopt in such situations: Dismissive (“Get over it!”), Disapproving (“You shouldn’t feel that way.”), and Laissez-Faire (“Anything goes.”). The message implicit in the first two examples is that the child’s feelings are not valid; however, recall that emotions serve very important functions. What underlies the emotion is what is important here (for example, “I don’t want to do what you’re asking me to do.”). In the third approach, no limits are set for misbehavior, which does not help the child sort out his or her feelings.

A fourth style, called “Emotion Coaching,” validates and accepts kids’ feelings while balancing the need for limits. This philosophy is backed up by decades of research and testing by psychologist John Gottman (among others), who found that children who were emotion coached were more successful as adults in peer friendships, gainful employment, and academic performance than were children parented in ways that focused on misbehavior without taking the emotions and why they were happening into account. A parent using emotion coaching is empathetic without condoning negative behavior.

Inherent in the concept of emotion coaching, as the word “coaching” gives away, is that regulating our emotions is a skill we can be guided in and cultivate. Heard of Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Study? In it, kids who were able to delay the gratification of eating a gooey, delicious marshmallow for a period of 14 minutes, grew up to be socially and professionally well adjusted, have a lower body mass index and greater psychological well-being, and be less likely to misuse substances.

Dr-Carisa-Perry-Parrish-TNCS“Children were most successful when they tried to occupy their attention with something else—make up a song, say, or turn their back on the marshmallow—or transformed the object of desire in their mind, perhaps by imagining it as a piece of cotton or pretending it was smelly or dirty. How children were paying attention could mean the difference between an automatic response and a delayed response reflecting self-regulation,” said Dr. Perry-Parrish. “We each have different capacities, but I think there’s a way to optimize what we’re naturally endowed with . . . And that’s where I think mindfulness can play a nice role,” she said.

 Mindfulness

Mindfulness is, basically, practicing awareness/paying attention with three key components: it’s moment-by-moment, it’s non-judgmental, and it’s intentional. It is in sharp contrast to the mindlessness of automatic responses and assumptions, which is a waste of our already limited resources and energy. To illustrate, she walked us through a brief mindfulness exercise—noticing all of the sensations involved in eating a raisin very slowly and using all of our senses to experience it. This not only helped us see how much of the experience of eating a lowly raisin we were probably usually missing, but also demonstrated how challenging paying attention can be when we are so used to our brains spinning like hamster wheels during the waking hours. “But specific exercises give us opportunities to practice noticing without judging,” said Dr. Perry-Parrish, who was emphatic about not liking raisins or dried fruit in general.

She proceeded to explain a much broader application for this exercise. “There are things I look forward to in my day and things I don’t look forward to, like diaper-changing. Starting to notice that I’m pulled to want to do some things and pulled toward not wanting to do others is very helpful on a primitive level. But if I look at it through the lens of parenting, if I’m overly focusing on how much I don’t want to do x, how does that change the dynamic between me and my child—does it help me to be more effective? Or . . . not?”

Slide28“When we are not fully present in the moment, we miss opportunities to discover what works,” she continued, followed by providing the list of mindfulness qualities shown at right, that we can try to cultivate. “Beginner’s mind” is akin to looking at something with “fresh eyes,” but the other terms are self-explanatory (albeit not all that easy to practice regularly!).

From there, she led us to motivation. When we like what we are doing, it’s easy to put forth the effort, but it’s hard to find the motivation when it’s a task we perceive as boring or unpleasant. The same goes for kids, naturally, so how we pay attention to them is the trick—notice and appreciate their efforts while acknowledging that some tasks are just difficult is going to increase their desire to keep trying. But, let’s face it, sometimes we are caught up in our own problems or can’t get off the hamster wheel, and we resort to a more reactionary response, what Dr. Perry-Parrish calls “parenting traps”:

  • Repeating commands (How many times do I have to tell you to…!)
  • Focusing more on negative behavior than positive
  • Praising and punishing the same behavior (Well, it’s about time you cleaned your room!)
  • Lack of consistency
  • Empty threats
  • Arguing
  • Unfair or delayed consequences
  • Letting stress dictate parenting style

Mindfulness in Parenting

Dr-Perry-Parrish-TNCSAnd here’s where it all comes together: interrupting our habitual reactions to stress to communicate in a chosen and more effective mode. “Stress hijacks the moment and cuts us off from our internal sources of wisdom,” she said. “Mindfulness is going to be the best supporting actor for what we already know how to do as parents.” She used yelling as an example. We already know that yelling isn’t effective, so why do we do it? Mindfulness can give us the reset to handle the situation calmly and attentively.

Dr. Perry-Parrish gave some very useful techniques to begin cultivating your mindfulness skills, including starting a “meditation diet,” pausing to attend to your child with all of your senses, putting yourself in your child’s shoes, deep breathing, having 10–15 minutes every day of one-on-one time with your child, and doing yoga together.

She also provided this very helpful reading list:

  • Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Everyday Blessings, Myla & Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their parents), Eline Snel
  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman
  • Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: Heart of Parenting, John Gottman

Immersed also offers several mindfulness websites and articles under the Resources and Links tab. When parents engage in healthy human interactions, children reap those benefits and then pay it forward. The implications for society are huge. . . and quite wonderful.

Slide34

Planet Uptune Debuts CD at Dunfest 2015!

planet-uptune

Angela Lazarony is founder and lead singer of kids’ band Planet Uptune.

Kids’ band Planet Uptune is the pet project of Angela Lazarony, who is otherwise known to The New Century School community as one of TNCS’s original primary Montessori teachers. She founded the band back in 2008 and uses a rotating roster of Baltimore’s finest musicians to lay down the original tunes she writes and sings.

planet-uptune

Planet Uptune debuted their new CD Saturday, May 9th, at Dunfest in the Dundalk Heritage Park.

For example, in her latest show, which was a performance and CD release party at Dunfest in Dundalk’s Heritage Park, she was thrilled to have bassist Dave DeMarco of progressive rock band Crack the Sky, the Dave DeMarco Band, and others; world-renowned jazz saxophonist Paul Soroka, luthier and gutarist Mike Forrester, and John Davis, also of the Dave DeMarco Band. The CD is called “Welcome to Planet Uptune” and was recorded with additional special guest musicians at Invisible Sound Studios in Highlandtown (a.k.a., the Guitar and Amplifier Museum).

Although Baltimore native Ms. Lazarony did not have much formal training beyond piano lessons as a child, she says she has always been a musical person. Writing songs and singing and playing keyboards with area bands form most of her musical experience; she’s a natural. In 2008 during a stint at St. Joseph’s Hospital daycare center where she was offering math and Spanish enrichment classes, she felt inspired by the kids she taught, and her songwriting ramped up accordingly. “During that year, I heard rhymes and melodies almost constantly, so I wrote, wrote, wrote—and then wrote some more,” she said. And then the band name came to her in a further moment of inspiration. “I thought, I want to live on a planet that’s all about music, that’s really upbeat. Sometimes you need a mood tune-up, so you go to Planet Uptune!”

How children see a certain thing is sort of the make-up of each song, and, even for adults, revisiting this wonderful, fresh perspective on the world is not only fun but also rejuvenating. Take the song El Camino, for example, which Ms. Lazarony sings with a lively Spanish accent a là Carmen Miranda. “The headlights are like eyes; the taillights are like horns . . . My ’59 El Camino!” Can’t you just see it now? Very cleverly, each stanza ends not with an “olé!” but with a chorus of “Chevrolet!” Each song demonstrates a different musical style; her range is amazing. We go from the Latin beats of El Camino to blues in Haircut Blues to nursery rhyme turned rock song Dr. Foster—and lots more.

Ms. Lazarony’s onstage persona is equally fun. With lots of colorful scarves and other accessories in addition to a tailor-made galaxy-patterned dress, she is really out of this world. “I love to play live with other musicians—it’s a lot of fun!” she said. “And I like for children to see different kinds of music.” Videos from Dunfest are posted below, but do yourselves a favor and get the CD*; your kids will love it and so will you!

Planet Uptune Theme Song

This next one is well known to many TNCS primary students past and present, who have learned all about the life cycle of butterflies!

Metamorphosis

Downy Oshun

Paint a Rainbow

*To order “Welcome to Planet Uptune,” please email lazarony@thenewcenturyschool.com to purchase the CD for $10 and pick it up at TNCS. In a few weeks, it will also be available on iTunes CDBaby and other digital distribution sites.

Gilman School Seniors Visit TNCS for Some Spanish Fun!

May has finally arrived, and you know what that means—Cinco de Mayo is but days away! Accordingly, The New Century School has been ramping up Spanish language activities, and Immersed is here to bring you up to date (that is, al día) on all the goings on!
TNCS-Gilman-Spanish-interview

TNCS and Gilman forged a very productive partnership!

Last week, TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali invited senior Spanish conversation students from the Gilman School to speak with two TNCS Spanish teachers for a class project. Accompanied by instructor Erin Butler, the Gilman students were primarily there to complete their interview assignment, but during their time on campus, they also put their language skills to use by interacting with TNCS students, which was to everyone’s mutual benefit. “It is important that our students make connections with older students who are competent language learners as role models and to find opportunities to be ‘risk-takers’ with others willing to explore communication together without feeling judged,” said Mrs. Danyali.

The results were increíble. The Gilman students had time to let off a little steam and get acclimated during an impromptu playground soccer match with TNCS elementary students, who were positively starstruck by the attention from the high school seniors. Said Mrs. Danyali, “I actually couldn’t tell who was having more ‘fun’! The elementary students were very comfortable connecting with the older kids and vice versa.” Ms. Butler agreed: “I know my students had a great time playing with the kids on the playground, and it was wonderful that they had the opportunity to meet two different native speakers. I know they enjoyed the visit and I hope it was a positive experience for the teachers as well. I really appreciate their willingness to participate and Mrs. Danyali’s help in setting it up.”

The idea for this very fruitful exchange came from Ms. Butler, who has taught Spanish at Gilman since 2012 (with a hiatus in 2013 to complete a Fulbright grant in Peru, where she taught and completed a research project). For the last quarter of her senior conversation class, students complete a series of interviews with native Spanish speakers who now live in the Baltimore area in order to to both practice their language skills as well as to gain a better understanding of the community. She explains, “The students are paired in teams of two, and each group is responsible for conducting an interview and writing a reflection paper. Our interviews have taken place across the city, and we have met people from various countries and cultures. Students ask questions about the person’s life, family, job, transition to the United States, what he/she likes and dislikes about living here, etc. We have done interviews with nurses, teachers, business owners, scientists, and more.” For their visit to TNCS, the seniors interviewed Spanish Language Program Director Jennifer Hodapp first, followed by a chat with Pre-Primary Spanish Immersion Lead Teacher Johanna Ramos.

Ms. Butler’s approach to teaching another language closely parallels TNCS’s 5 Cs approach. “I believe that students should be given as much contextualized exposure to the language as possible,” she said. “The purpose of learning a language is to be able to use it to communicate, so what’s a better way to learn and practice than by having a conversation with a native speaker?” ¡Bien dicho! She chose TNCS as an interview site quite deliberately, having done a Spanish internship during college at a bilingual immersion  charter school. “I saw firsthand how amazing the program was, and when I heard about TNCS, I really wanted my students to have the opportunity to see and learn about the type of education that the school offers,” she said.
One thing is certain—TNCS will continue to build on its language program and open up new worlds for participants. “I would love to explore other opportunities for the students to communicate with native speakers as well as those experienced in learning other languages,” said Mrs. Danyali.
Watch the video below to see some of the interview with Srà. Hodapp in action.

TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

Recently, The New Century School elementary students participated in their annual STEM Fair, and each division (K/1st and upper and lower elementary) tackled a problem related to water. The upper elementary students, in particular, focused on the Chesapeake Bay and what steps can be taken to reduce pollution in the bay and protect its natural flora and fauna (read TNCS STEM Fair 2015 Makes a Huge Splash! for more).

Last week was Climate Education Week, with Earth Day being the week’s main attraction. Earth Day 2015 was the 35th annual and a very big deal, globally . . . and locally! To reinforce the concepts his students had begun exploring during STEM Fair preparations, TNCS’s STEM teacher Dan McDonigal revisited the problem of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay for a clever and very rewarding Earth Day project: Operation Storm Drain Beautification!

blue-water-baltimore

Blue Water Baltimore offers community-led solutions to clean up Baltimore’s waters.

The idea for the project came to him from Blue Water Baltimore, an advocacy group dedicated to using community-based restoration to achieve clean water in Baltimore watersheds. One way is by stenciling storm drains to educate the community and raise awareness about the improper disposal of household garbage, overflowing street corner trash cans, and litter on sidewalks and in gutters and storm drains. Because storm drains are entryways to our bodies of water, including the Chesapeake Bay, when it rains, trash and pollutants in the streets are carried into the storm drains and directly to our waters.

So, Mr. McDonigal attended one of Blue Water Baltimore’s stenciling workshops, applied for and obtained the necessary materials to paint two nearby storm drains, and celebrated Earth Day 2015 by making a difference in our wonderful Fell’s Point community! His students were thoroughly engaged in this project, which demonstrates its inherent worthiness. Really, what’s not to love about an activity that applies scientific concepts studied thus far, helps the environment, teaches responsible community involvement, integrates art, and gets the kids outside?

However, TNCS students were not the only group to appreciate this endeavor—Ann St. residents stopped by periodically to see what was happening and were thrilled to receive this community gift. Well done, indeed, TNCS upper elementary! And a huge thanks to Mr. McDonigal for this initiative!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

TNCS’s Go-Green-for-Earth-Day Raffle!

TNCS-uses-green-energy

TNCS supports and uses green energy!

One of The New Century School‘s core values is a commitment to environmental sustainability, and TNCS demonstrates this commitment in a variety of ways. From serving lunch from homegrown or locally sourced produce, to running recycling campaigns, to powering the school buildings with green energy, TNCS strives to keep its carbon footprint as low as possible for the good of the planet.

In honor of Earth Day 2015, which is Wednesday, April 22nd, TNCS is inviting you to join in and go green, too! As detailed in TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose, TNCS sources electricity through green-energy company Viridian, who has helped avoid more than 4 billion pounds in carbon emissions to date. By enrolling with Viridian, you not only opt to affordably supply your home with green energy, but you also earn cash rewards for TNCS without lifting a finger. There is no cost to change your energy provider to Viridian, and all you need is your current utility bill to quickly and easily make the switch.

You Win, TNCS Wins, Earth Wins!

TNCS-green-energy

Why enroll for green energy with Viridian? Reduce your carbon footprint, show your support for socially responsible companies, and raise funds for TNCS!

Many of you have probably been considering signing up with Viridian, but, for one reason or another, just haven’t gotten around to it. Well, now’s the time! To sweeten the deal, TNCS and Viridian are jointly hosting a raffle for enrollees to be held at the April 24th Potluck. Just for enrolling, you receive a TNCS tee shirt, and you will also be entered in a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card, donated by Viridian.

How do you enroll? It’s so easy to do, and you have three convenient options to choose from!

1. Register online at: www.viridian.com/newcenturyschool. (Helpful tips include: Use Internet Explorer or Firefox rather than Safari, which is glitchy, and if you are opting for electricity only rather than electricity and gas, make sure to select “Not at this time” for gas on the Step 1 page.)

2. Call Viridian Customer Care at (866) 663-2508 (be sure to mention TNCS!).

3. Bring your current electric bill to the Potluck on April 24th, where TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali will be manning a sign-up table to switch you to Viridian on the spot.

And, regardless of how, when, or where you enroll, as long as you bring proof of registration to the Potluck, you will receive your TNCS tee and be entered in the raffle.

viridian-faqs

Viridian FAQs.

If you need more information, please download this informative brochure of FAQs and other details, visit the website above, or contact Viridian at the number above.

This Earth Day—the 45th annual—is going to be a very special one, and some are calling 2015 the the most exciting year in environmental history. With the slogan “It’s Our Turn To Lead,” the Earth Day network is galvanizing countries globally to participate in this great enterprise. Choosing green energy is how we can contribute our voice and our support. With the coming week being Climate Education Week, we can also teach our future citizens the importance of behaving responsibly toward the environment—in fact, Thursday is Renewable Energy Day!

Other resources for your information include Affordable_Energy and Why Go Solar Now?.

Read-a-Thon Opens New Chapter for TNCS Outdoor Activities

read-a-thon

This is the mascot RAT (get it—Read-A-Thon?), who always has his long nose in a book!

On March 22nd, 2015 The New Century School launched its first-ever Read-a-Thon, which ran through Spring Break. To say that the event was an unqualified success is true on several levels. Collectively, TNCS students read about a ton of books, the school earned an impressive amount of funding for playground equipment and greenhouse materials, and the already-strong TNCS community galvanized in an altogether new way.

Before we get carried away with all of the excitement, though, let’s give some well-deserved credit to the mastermind behind this plan—three cheers for TNCS K/1st-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby! Hip hip hooray!!!!

Mrs. Jacoby, who specialized in literacy, says she has experience with the idea of read-a-thons, having put one together for a graduate school project. “I wanted to find something that would make kids interested in learning but also benefit the school, so I put together my own read-a-thon.” Fast forward to this, her first school year at TNCS, and she has does it again—but this time drew on some external resources. She says she really likes the ease and convenience that readathon.com affords. “Kudos to the people who designed this website,” she said. “Everything has been super easy to initiate and track, and the kids really seem to love it. They are reading, and that’s the important thing.”

read-a-thon-session

These TNCS students are part of the way through a pre-bedtime 20-minute reading session. The timer really motivated the kids!

TNCS students, indeed, read up a storm. Fledgling readers gained confidence and took off, confirmed bookworms luxuriated in the additional reading time allotted to them, and several readers progressed from picture books to chapter books during the event. Parents logged on with their special child-specific codes, set the timer for 10, 20, or 30-minute sessions, and word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page were hungrily absorbed by the eager readers. It was amazing how happily everyone embraced this endeavor!

In fact, the embrace soon spread. Originally slating the Read-a-Thon as a K/elementary event, Mrs. Jacoby opened it to the primary students once requests from primary parents started to pour in. (Those Montessori language drawers in the primary classes really work!) One key part of Mrs. Jacoby’s involvement was in making sure students had access of plenty of books to be able to read independently. She sent home Reading A to Z books for her students and also increased the number of books students could check out of her classroom library from two to five.

tncs-read-a-thon-supporters

This is just a small sampling of the outpouring of support TNCS students received from donors. What a great community to be part of!

So how did this all start? Mrs. Jacoby says that TNCS teachers were lamenting that students did not have more games to play outside during recess, and the lightbulb went off in her head. “I think a Read-a-Thon is a good way to raise money. It’s really nice to have friends and family support reading. For example, I just loved the notes that supporters were leaving for participants.” She went on to say that many of her students were on the brink of becoming fluid readers and that the Read-a-Thon represents that little push over the hump they needed to achieve reading ease. So, she brought the idea to an elementary staff meeting and was given an immediate green light. (And also volunteered to handle the project start to finish—win-win!)

From the start, the Read-a-Thon was a hit. Even the other elementary teachers were surprised at how quickly funds began accumulating. Of course, the TNCS community always faithfully supports TNCS initiatives, but perhaps a key difference with this particular fundraiser is that it involved the kids in a very integral way. It’s one thing to ask for donations to help achieve a specific goal; it’s quite another to make that donation contingent on active student participation in the form of learning. Sign us up!

TNCS students will actively participate in another important way: They will have a say in what is purchased with the money they helped raise. Moreover, they are the end-users of whatever outdoor equipment and materials are bought, so they are vested stakeholders in this outcome! “I want the kids to be involved in all aspects of this,” said Mrs. Jacoby,”the reading, the raising money, and what we do with that money.” Ideas so far include a zipline, monkey rings, and some kind of alternative to swings, which TNCS is unable to have in the given space. An outdoor classroom with chalkboards is also being discussed with a possible archeological dig site included (the dinosaur bones, alas, would most likely have to be artificial). And, oh yes, parents, sports and games are very much a part of these brainstorms. We might see something along the lines of an outdoor ping-pong table, but no definitive purchases will have been made until the most effective use of resources has been determined. In addition, Mrs. Jacoby says she would like to see each TNCS class get a raised garden bed to individually tend, with the various beds producing at different times so TNCS students are harvesting year round. Another very exciting idea is to raise chickens. Baltimore City would allow TNCS to keep five at a time, and one of the farms that TNCS regularly orders lunch ingredients from could potentially be asked to overwinter them.

There is no shortage of ideas, she says. “I like that the students will be able to do so much more outdoors, and I also really like that the Read-a-Thon means that TNCS students are reading independently. I hope every year it grows and becomes the ‘Big Spring Thing’.” TNCS teachers don’t like to give a lot of homework over Spring Break, but using that time for the annual Read-a-Thon would keep kids’ minds engaged yet won’t interfere with family time or plans. Books are eminently portable!

tncs-student-reads-from-school-library

This TNCS student explores the hall library for a new chapter book to read during Spring Break. He also very helpfully provided the following recommendations: “Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions” and anything from the Frank Einstein series.

Annual? That’s right. Mrs. Jacoby spoke excitedly about how each year the funding theme could change. Maybe next year we’ll raise money for the school library,” she said. Here again, TNCS students would act as stakeholders, identifying any gaps in current content coverage, for example, and suggesting topic areas to buy books in. This is a double boon—“Students would not only be looking at and reading all of the books in the library, but they would also be asking us to order what they’re interested in,” she said. Having books that they are interested in makes all the difference, especially for boys, she has learned from experience. “Make it available to them.”

“The more that children are encouraged by everyone around them to read, the less intimidated they will be, and the more they will read,” said Mrs. Jacoby. “I am so grateful that everyone participated!” You can see additional details, such as more parent comments and totals raised ($3,925!) by visiting TNCS’s dedicated Read-a-Thon page at http://www.read-a-thon.com/school/The-New-Century-School_4792.