STARTALK 2015 Campers Get a Taste of Taiwan!

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The “costume room” at TECRO was filled with all sorts of interesting artifacts!

For the second year running, The New Century School is honored to be hosting STARTALK, the renowned language immersion program for students across the United States. As a key component of the program is cultural exploration, on Tuesday, July 14th, the lucky STARTALK campers traveled to Gaithersburg, MD to visit The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) Cultural Center.

TECRO is the Republic of China (ROC)’s principal representative office in the United States and maintains and develops bilateral relations between Taiwan and the United States. There are 12 satellite offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, but the Gaithersburg office is the main center. Its mission is to provide ROC expatriates and the locals in the greater Washington, D.C. area with an opportunity to learn more about Taiwan’s culture.

From decorative art, to dance, to cuisine, STARTALKers experienced Taiwanese culture firsthand! After exploring the displays of fine ceramics, figurines, and beautiful puppets, campers watched several dance performances. As the campers learned, China has 56 ethnic minorities, each of which has a culture that is characterized by (among other features) a unique folk dance. Each ethnic group’s folk dance reflects the particulars of that group’s geography, culture, and history through choreography and costumes. Although not all 56 groups were represented, STARTALKers certainly got an idea of the breadth of Chinese folk dance, from the Tibetan Xie Dance, to the Han Lantern Dance, to the Dai Peacock Dance, and more. They were understandably in awe of the talented young dancers!

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Authentic Chinese cuisine was served for lunch, which the kids devoured—and this was no “American” Chinese restaurant fare. Fried egg with spinach and tomato over rice, meatball with cabbage, and five-spice chicken made up the meal, and it was so good that some kids asked for another, to go!

The visit ended with some physical activity, as the kids learned how to perform the ribbon dance themselves, a welcome treat. Each camper also got a poster and a CD of traditional Taiwanese music to take home. Xièxie, TECRO, for a super day! 谢谢!

TNCS-Approved Resources: Avoid the Summer Slide!

Since its inception in 2010, The New Century School has annually offered resources to families to help prevent the “summer slide” phenomenon that can happen to kids over summer break when they might be less academically engaged than during the school year and lose scholastic ground as a consequence. Although this problem disproportionately affects underserved communities, it is nevertheless felt to a certain degree across the board, as teachers find themselves re-teaching concepts that were learned the previous year and then forgotten. Some research has shown that students can lose as much as 3 months of reading and math achievement over the course of just one summer. (See Making Summer Count for more details on relevant studies.)

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Enoch Pratt’s Summer Reading program awards prizes to kids who fulfill a specified reading requirement and also offers the chance to “read down” your library fines!

The best way to slow the summer slide, according to the research, is to provide students with resources and educational activities. For summer 2015, TNCS’s elementary teachers compiled their own special set, curated especially for TNCS students. They also remind parents that summer is the ideal time to take trips to museums and libraries, get involved in organized activities, and making sure kids have access to books. In fact, Enoch Pratt library offers a wonderful summer reading program to incentivize kids to read, read, and read some more during summer. See Summer Reading Program for more information.

Language Arts

After TNCS students have worked very hard on their reading and comprehension all year long, to keep these skills sharp, try to read with your child each day and ask questions or talk about what you have read together. Here are suggested lists of unforgettable books, differentiated by grades*:

*The TNCS elementary team says: “Please remember, each child’s reading level develops at different rates. Some of these titles or authors may seem too easy or too difficult for your child. If your child picks a book you think may be too hard, have him/her read a full page aloud to you. If there are five or more mistakes while reading, the book is probably too difficult. If there are fewer than 5 errors, the book seems to be a good fit!”

Another list comes from 4th- and 5th-grade TED-Ed Club Members, who shared the books that they’ve recently read and want to recommend to other kids their age: “TED-Ed’s Summer Reading List: 31 great books for students, chosen by students.”

TNCS students have also been introduced to multiple easy-to-access language arts websites. The students will be familiar with their log-in information, having spent time on them throughout the prior school year. These include:

Math

Math skills can also be lost without regular practice. Here are websites that TNCS students can use during the summer months:

World Languages

To keep current on both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese skills, your kids can visit the following websites (they will already know their log-in information for some of these):

The TNCS elementary team looks forward to seeing their students back for the 2015–2016 school year, refreshed and ready to hit the ground learning!

Help TNCS Support Pratt’s Summer Reading Program!

The New Century School is pleased to be helping Enoch Pratt Free Library and Pratt Contemporaries get the word out about their summer reading programs to prevent the loss of academic ground known as “summer slide” that can occur when school is out and students lack scholastic materials to stay engaged with. “In 2014, more than 38,500 kids participated in Pratt’s summer programs, with more than 15,800 children enrolled in the cornerstone Summer Reading Program. According to last year’s records, kindergarten through 5th-grade participants logged more than 5.2 million minutes of reading, and teen participants read over 8,000 books,” said Pratt’s Deputy Director of Institutional Advancement, Shelly Terranova.

Studies show that reading helps reduce the academic loss that is “nearly impossible to make up, compounds over time, and particularly impacts children in underserved communities.” (Read more about summer slide in Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS.) Pratt’s 9-week Summer Reading Program encourages kids to keep reading during the summer months by making it fun with incentives (see below) and an annual theme. This year’s theme is “Every Hero Has a Story.” Participants are treated to performances by musicians, dancers, magicians, storytellers, authors, illustrators, and cartoonists. The program runs through August 8th.

Says Pratt Contemporaries board member and TNCS mom Jung Lieu, “Our focus is on funding children’s programs at the library and promoting child literacy. Many Baltimore city libraries serve as a safe haven for children, especially in underserved communities.” For just $60 each, you can sponsor one or more children for a whole summer’s worth of library programs. Footage from last year shows just how wonderful this program really is.

This year, however, brings even more compelling reasons to become a sponsor. “I think the Summer Reading Program campaign this year is very timely because of recent unrest in Baltimore city, and this is a way for us to be able to have a positive impact in these children’s lives and promote education as the solution,” said Mrs. Lieu. TNCS will be coordinating various community outreach efforts on an ongoing basis, but in the meantime, please consider sponsoring one or more children this summer.

Another great way to participate is by registering your own pre-K to rising 5th-grade children, who can win prizes (not to mention keep their brains fit) just by reading! Visit http://www.prattlibrary.org/home/summerreadingkids.aspx for details on how to register at your local library branch, see what fun prizes your kids can win, access suggested reading lists, and download a free tracker to chart your child’s progress. Got library fines? You can even read them away!

Finally, here are Tips for reading as a family from Baltimore City Schools for promoting reading as a daily activity.

TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor Report Card Release!

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TNCS upper elementary enjoyed their last field trip of the year that was fun and educational. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Record.)

On June 4th, The New Century School‘s upper elementary class took a walking trip to Harbor East to attend Baltimore’s annual “Healthy Harbor Report Card 2014 Release”. This field trip was the culminating event of STEM teacher Dan McGonigal’s yearlong in-class exploration of our local waterways—how to keep them clean, why they are so critically important, and what responsibility Baltimore citizens individually should assume regarding these bodies of water. It was an ideal theme, inviting exploration from many STEM angles, and it also set the tone for Mr. McGonigal’s extremely successful first year at TNCS. From the STEM Fair, to Earth Day community outreach in the form of storm drain stenciling, to attending the Health of the Harbor announcement, TNCS elementary students have made a deep connection with Baltimore’s very special natural environments this year.

Mr. McGonigal said that in addition to closing out the water theme of the 2014–2015 school year, he also wanted “to make the end of the year productive, but also fun for the students.” Achieved in spades if these photos are any indication!
And it’s no wonder—Baltimore has achieved something unique with its concerted efforts to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Swimmable?! Fishable?! You read correctly: Healthy Harbor is an initiative of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, and the Report Card, which is ultimately a tool that helps communicate the swimmable/fishable goal and track progress, is the result of the Waterfront’s partnership with Blue Water Baltimore (whom you may recall donated TNCS’s storm drain stenciling materials).
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The water wheel in all its glory—Fun fact: trash picked up by Mr. Trash Wheel generates power for Maryland homes!

To meet this lofty aim, which many once deemed utterly impossible, Baltimore installed the Inner Harbor Water Wheel at the end of the Jones Falls in May 2014 to intercept trash (which everyone who has ever laid eyes on the Inner Harbor recognizes as its biggest current plague). Invented by Baltimore resident John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, the water wheel has gained worldwide fame and provided the inspiration for similar water clean-up initiatives to be proposed globally, from Rio De Janeiro to Rotterdam. 

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The ingenious design of this water wheel is a “game-changer for trash in urban water bodies!”

“Mr. Trash Wheel,” as the water wheel is now known, has accomplished some pretty extraordinary feats, as his Facebook page and frequent tweets attest (#MrTrashWheel). As of this week, in fact, Mr. Trash Wheel has intercepted 205 tons of trash before it reaches the Inner Harbor in its first year, and a whopping 45 tons from this past Monday’s storm alone! This more than doubles Mr. Trash Wheel’s former single-day record of 19 tons! Read more about the water wheel.

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Mr. Trash Wheel’s first year of very hard work was commemorated with the world’s most disgusting-looking cake!

Healthy Harbor showed its appreciation for Mr. Trash Wheel’s hard work at the Report Card Release by celebrating his first birthday with a cake made of refuse—Mr. Wheel’s preferred intake, of course. And there was certainly cause to celebrate, because the Report Card—for the first time ever—showed a passing grade for Gwynns Falls! That the grade, a D–, is only barely passing is not the point. As one TNCS student remarked, “even though things seem bad, they are getting better.” That’s exactly right! Baltimore waterways are moving in the right direction. The plan is working, as presentations by representatives from the various stakeholders, including District 46 Delegate Brooke Lierman, clearly demonstrate.

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Featured on the Report Card’s cover, these John Eager Howard elementary students are part of their school’s Green Team and gave a lovely speech on cleaning up the harbor.

Delegate Lierman (and TNCS parent) said of TNCS’s attendance at the event: “Involvement by students, like those at TNCS and John Eager Howard, is instrumental in helping us to ensure that Baltimore residents of all ages are invested in and working together to create a cleaner harbor! I’m so glad that students from both of these schools were able to attend the Report Card Release to learn firsthand about the need for advocacy and involvement to bring about positive change in our City.”

Afterward, Mr. McGonigal voted the walking field trip, “an awesome experience” and was very proud of his homeroom students who were respectful and focused during the speeches and presentations. “We learned a lot about the efforts in place to improve the health of the Baltimore Harbor and other area waterways. We also learned that there is a great effort by many people who are trying to help improve the situation. I hope we as a school can get further involved in projects related to the health of the harbor,” said Mr. McGonigal. He invites your suggestion and ideas for continued work by TNCS students.

In the meantime, you can read the 2014 Report Card here. Need still more good news? It’s here—officially announced just yesterday, Canton may be getting its very own water wheel! Also visit cantonwaterwheel.com for more information and to donate in support of Baltimore’s second water-powered trash interceptor.

TNCS Elementary Field Trip: A Natural Choice

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This is one happy TNCS elementary student!

A big theme of the 2014–2015 school year for The New Century School elementary students has been environmental sustainability. Ever a core school value, STEM teacher Dan McGonigal’s special focus on conservation efforts this year made environmental sustainability the axis on which many elementary projects turned, such as the STEM Fair and storm drain stenciling.

True to his “nature,” Mr. McGonigal organized an elementary field trip to the James and Anne Robinson Nature Center last month, so all elementary divisions headed out to Howard County to visit the state-of-the-art facility. Featuring interactive exhibits on local habitats, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay, the center was the perfect destination for TNCS elementary, who love joining learning with fun and also had studied habitats and local waterways in various formats throughout the year. Said Mr. McGonigal, “We chose this trip because it provided our students with exposure to the outdoors in a local environment, which most of our students don’t get a chance to see on a regular basis. The center provided a lot of hands-on experiences that were meaningful for the students and helped them to better understand conservation efforts. They also had several differentiated lessons for the students based on age and grade level. This allowed us to choose topics that better met our areas of study this year.”

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Between the discovery room and the digital, domed nature theater inside and the walking paths alongside native plants and rain gardens outside, the center kept TNCS students happily engaged. Additionally, each of the three divisions (K/1st, 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th) was accompanied by a guide who gave mini lessons, maintained an ongoing dialogue, and directed games and activities. “It was a wonderful experience. The classes were super interactive, the kids loved walking in the woods, and the exhibits were fun. The kids had a blast and learned a lot. It was fun to leave the city for the day!” said another TNCS elementary teacher, Adriana DuPrau.

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The center is also renowned for marrying form with function—it was designed not only to teach appreciation of the environment, but its design itself demonstrates environmentally sound practices! It has earned such awards as “Best Sustainability Project of the Year in New Construction” and Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy Design) Certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council—none of which was lost on Mr. McGonigal. “The center uses earth-friendly materials, such as solar panels for geothermal heating, a permeable or porous pavement, green roof, rain garden, and more. Our third and fourth grade students focused on environmental technologies that helped the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem as part of their STEM Fair projects, and they got to see some other projects in action as well,” he said.

“It was a great trip, and our kids seemed to really enjoy it!” said Mr. McGonigal. It was certainly a great wrap-up to a very productive—and environmentally aware—year!

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TNCS Elementary Skypes with Students from other Countries!

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Señora Hodapp and her upper elementary Spanish class hold their first Skype call with the Colegio Margaret Mead in Peru.

This spring, The New Century School elementary students began an exciting new multilingual endeavor—connecting with other students and schools around the world via Skype! This program is the fruit of the joint efforts of TNCS Director of External Programming Catalina Dansberger Duque and the school’s Language Directors Jennifer Hodapp and Xie Laoshi. Ms. Dansberger Duque credits the germ of the idea to TNCS Co-Founders/Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner, however, saying, “I believe it is part of their mission to connect TNCS with world culture and create authentic experiences for the students.”

Other cross-cultural exchanges are also potentially in the works, such as with summer camps with both Spanish and China through groups like Each Futures, who TNCS has worked with in prior years to bring Chinese students to the school. “They have also had individual student exchanges from Spain and China that were very rewarding for everyone,” said Ms. Dansberger Duque. To augment these efforts, Ms. Dansberger Duque has been developing a program for visiting Chinese students to attend TNCS for 2 weeks, with classroom time and tours of nearby historic points of interest, with the help of TNCS Chinese intern Monica Li.
The next step was to expand such efforts to Latin America. Ms. Dansberger Duque and Ms. Li came up with the idea for a series of Skype chats as a way to launch their bigger programs. These could take the form of class to class, teacher to teacher, family to family, etc. “The idea behind the chats is to provide options for schools to build a relationship with us that would instill trust and inspire families to come visit us and vice versa,” said Ms. Dansberger Duque. As it is turning out, though, the Skype chats are in and of themselves an enormously beneficial way to make languages and cultures come alive for TNCS students.

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Intercambio internacional—everyone was all smiles for this fun and rewarding class!

As a native of Bogotà, Colombia, Ms. Dansberger Duque has a deep understanding of Latin American culture and was able to prospect 14 schools across Central and South America and the Caribbean that were both Montessori based and/or multilingual as well as interested in building a relationship with TNCS. “The first school I found was the Montessori British School in Bogotà, Colombia. They teach Spanish, French, English, and Mandarin. They already have an established exchange program with China and are interested in setting one up with us. The Colegio Margaret Mead in Peru, while having maybe the least amount of technology resources compared to some of the other schools I contacted, was the first one to come through and commit to a specific date and time to do a classroom chat,” she said.
As mentioned, Colegio Margaret Mead was the first school TNCS students connected with, and the unqualified success of this chat will pave the way for regular exchanges of this kind. On Thursday, April 30th, TNCS 3rd- and 4th-graders gathered to find out all about their new Peruvian friends. They were each prepared with written questions and took turns in front of the screen, as did the students on the other end.
Señora Hodapp facilitated and also provided the sometimes necessary encouragement when a student got stuck. “Our students were shy but also very excited!” she reported. “We will also start an in-class pen pal program with the Margaret Mead School.”

One especially rich moment was when the Peruvian students asked TNCS students in Spanish how to say “hello” in Mandarin. Think about that for a moment, because it’s tremendously impressive that TNCS students can field a question in one non-native language about a separate non-native language altogether.

But, as the ever-diplomatic Ms. Dansberger Duque reminds us, this endeavor has much larger implications than just the cognitive acrobatics necessary to manage more than one language:
I think this program is important for TNCS students because it is through meeting people of other cultures that people build bridges. By promoting an international language and cultural community students become accustomed to a world view of inclusion and diversity as the norm. While it obviously has long-term personal, academic, and professional benefits in a world market, in my opinion, its most important quality is that it dissolves the idea of foreign and creates a sense of unity and appreciation in the diversity that exists in the world. It helps to mold our young ones into understanding world citizens. That is something difficult to come by from secondhand experiences like textbooks and movies.
The next chat will take place Tuesday, June 2nd with a class from the British Montessori School in Bogotà. The native Spanish-speaking students are also fluent in Mandarin and English, so all three languages will be spoken during this call, with an emphasis on Mandarin. Ms. Dansberger Duque says, “There are schools in Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Grand Cayman, and Bolivia that have also expressed interest. The school in Grand Cayman, Montessori by the Sea, has opened their summer camp experience to our students.” TNCS is fortunate to offer these extraordinary programs thanks to the ongoing hard work of our TNCS ambassadors!

TNCS Primary Students Have Something to Crow About!

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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!

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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!”