Second-Annual TNCS Black History Month Celebration Lifts Parent and Student Voices!

More than anything else, the 2020–2021 school year at The New Century School has been a testament to what can happen when a community thrives. In the midst of the many and ongoing upheavals we’ve collectively experienced, the members of the TNCS community at all levels continue to not only surmount would-be obstacles, but turn them into new opportunities to connect and grow. This echoes a sentiment expressed by TNCS Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner a year ago, when they entreated the community to support each other through the crisis we faced, emerge stronger from it, and look back proudly on our conduct. Their steadfast vision of what TNCS can be and do has also grown stronger.

Celebrating Community

That’s why, having debuted a Black History Month Celebration just last year in characteristically stellar fashion, TNCS was not about to forfeit the promise to make this essential sociocultural event an annual occurrence, despite the practical challenges of not being able to gather in person. TNCS finds a way to forge ahead. While last year’s event was a celebration of music and culture and largely composed of student performances, this year’s event took a different tack to grapple with some of the United States’ societal ills—some of the very issues that underpin why Black History Month evolved. (Note that last year’s event certainly also brought its share of gravitas, especially when renowned artist Harold Caudio took the stage.)

To back up a bit, earlier this year, TNCS Head of School Señora Shara Khon Duncan and staff announced their plans to implement the Pollyanna Curriculum throughout school as one way to give TNCS students a way to talk about what they were seeing and hearing about racial and social injustice—the spring and summer of 2020 were socially turbulent not just because of the pandemic. According to their website, “Pollyanna is a national nonprofit helping academic and other institutions achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”

Racial Literacy

That brings us to the Black History Month event on Wednesday, February 24th, which featured a talk and Q&A by illustrious Guest Speaker Jessy Molina, currently of Molina Consulting (and a consultant for Pollyanna, among many other institutions and organizations). Ms. Molina founded Molina Consulting in July of 2020 in her Baltimore home after having served as the director of diversity, equity, and social justice at two local independent schools as well as working in nonprofits for the prior 15 years. She describes her path to Molina Consulting this way:

I am an attorney, a mediator, and a facilitator. I decided to move into full-time consulting work because I wanted to support more organizations and institutions to make long-term, sustainable change around equity and justice. I also had an interest in doing more conflict mediation and healing work with people and communities.

This is the best professional decision I have ever made. I am thrilled that I get to support people in healing from racial trauma every day, and in doing so, continue my own healing journey. Our bodies are carrying the weight of racial stress, anxiety, and trauma, and I’m grateful to support people to find more freedom and joy. We have to learn how to talk about race and racism in this country, and to make systemic changes with big impact. I am grateful to be part of that.

Schools are ideal places to start these conversations and to develop “racial literacy.” “Racial literacy,” explains Ms. Molina, “is the ability to understand race and racism in the context of our history, understand race as a social and political construct, understand how racism is institutionalized and perpetuated through systems, and know how how to shift practices, policies and protocols to make systemic change that leads to more equity and justice for more people.” Her presentation, “Talking to Children about Race and Racism,” was designed to help us parents understand our own orientation toward these subjects to better, more productively engage with our children. This starts from the ground up. “Parents are a critical part of helping our children develop healthy racial identities and learn how to stand up for—and build—more racial justice in the world,” she explained. “We can model being open and honest, acknowledging and repairing mistakes, leveraging our privilege for equity, and sharing resources and power. Research suggests that children learn more about racial justice from what we do, not what we say. Our children are watching everything we do—the best way to teach them is to be our best selves.”

After opening remarks by Sra. Duncan, Ms. Molina took the (virtual) stage.

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The event was exceptionally well attended (thank you, zoom!), and Ms. Molina’s presentation generated some very robust audience engagement. It was clear that parents were ready to talk about this. They were also overflowing with gratitude for Ms. Molina’s eye-opening talk and for Sra. Duncan’s efforts to make the event happen.

Ms. Molina is obviously committed to her work, and the world will be a better place for it (Molina Consulting’s fitting tagline is “Training to Change the World). “The most important part for me was connecting to my purpose,” she says. “Who am I and what I am here to do? Serving as a mediator, facilitator, and trainer helps me get closer to my purpose of building connection and community among people and supporting people to live full, free, and whole lives.” In addition, she gets more family time, which many of us are also experiencing. “I’m thankful that I get to work at home with my children. It’s a joy to help them with their homework, sneak in a favorite episode, or make cookies after lunch. It’s certainly difficult to balance on some days, but overall, I am loving the extra time we have together.”

What TNCS Students Had to Say

And let’s not forget, all that extra “together time” translates to time spent modeling an open, honest, and compassionate way to be in this world. Something is paying off, if these student presentations that followed Ms. Molina’s talk are any indication. At the behest of ELA teacher Jalynn Harris, students could read a Black History Month–themed poem (some in tanka form) they recently wrote for class or present research on a world-changing Black figure (or both in the case of one enterprising 8th grader!).

The evening ended in just about the most perfect way possible, with a beautiful rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing by high school students in Tallahassee, Florida. The audience was moved beyond description and came away brimming with thoughts and feelings about the event that could very well lead to important changes.


Resources from “Talking to Children about Race and Racism”:

TNCS Rings in Year of the Ox with Lunar New Year Game Night!

Last year might have marked The New Century School‘s first-ever Lunar New Year Event, but, not to be outdone, this year’s event on Thursday, February 11th was the first-ever virtual Lunar New Year Event and the first-ever Game Night!

Hosted by TNCS Chinese teachers Wei Li and Pei Ge, the evening was full of fun and games and was exceptionally well intended by students in divisions K–8th-grade as well as their families. Señora Duncan provided opening and closing remarks.

It’s safe to say that no one left disappointed. Whether Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig, everyone in the audience enjoyed the competition and the chance to experience some Chinese culture.

The night chosen had very special significance as well: Lunar New Year’s Eve is traditionally the night when families gather and dine together. Togetherness was very much a part of this evening, as individual families joined in on the zoom where they merged with the larger TNCS family. We hope Li Laoshi and Ge Laoshi felt the abundant love locally, even if they couldn’t be in China with their immediate families.


The format of the evening was divided into timed sets of trivia, classified by division. The only rules were: 1. Brush up on your Chinese culture knowledge beforehand and 2. Wear red!

Oh, and have two devices handy—one to view the Kahoot screen and another to submit your answers.

Here are some special moments from the lively and very well put-together trivia game. Some answer choices (for students) were even in Chinese, meaning that players had to put their ability to read Chinese to work!

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The first-, second-, and third-place winners in each of four groups (K, 1/2, 3–8, parents) will be awarded special prizes in the form of Year of the Ox decorations. The winners from first place to third place in Kindergarten are Nathan, Karim, and Clara, and, in the 1st- and 2nd-grade groups, Ariel, Adam, and Bay. The photos below show the winners from the Parents’ and 3rd- through 8th-grade groups.

After the event, the compliments poured in, congratulating and thanking the TNCS Chinese team for their wonderful efforts at bringing us all together to honor each other and bring good luck to the year ahead. Here is a smattering of the many testimonials:Read more about Year of the Ox (and other members of the Chinese zodiac) here!

新年快乐 / 新年快樂!

Xīnnián kuàile!

Valentine’s Day at TNCS is about Caring for Our Community!

For upcoming Valentine’s Day 2021, students at The New Century School are making a “wholehearted” push to spread some love to the Baltimore community. Compassion and service are two core values at TNCS and, along with respect and courage, are part of the day-to-day “invisible” curriculum. Finding new ways to demonstrate these values has been an ongoing goal of the 2020–2021 school year. This winter, students in all divisions have come together and overcome the practical challenges of partial remote learning to put these values to work in meaningful ways. TNCS students are showing our community within and beyond the campus walls what’s in their hearts.

Due to the changes this pandemic year has brought, service initiatives have largely come from the TNCS Parent Council and its committees, with the support of Señora Duncan and the TNCS administration. Continuing to emphasize service has been important to the TNCS community, who understand why this kind of engagement is so beneficial to children’s social, academic, and emotional development. And, according to research by Edutopia, “A schoolwide focus on cultivating traits like self-discipline, courage, and perseverance helps students meet high expectations.” This focus also stretches beyond the classroom, preparing students to contribute to the world as adults.

Hygiene Kits for Beans and Bread

So, classrooms in all divisions are collaborating on hygiene kits for Baltimore’s homeless population to provide basic supplies that are heartbreakingly out of reach for some. The timing is critical. Not only is it nice to show some love during “heart month,” but after the end-of-year holidays pass and the new year has begun, charitable donations taper off, which sadly coincides with the time of year those in need most require support and warmth.

Explore the Issue

Larger themes underlie this initiative as well, and the PC Community Engagement committee member and TNCS mom Mary Kay Page, who organized it and has kept it running so smoothly, was careful to make sure those themes became part of the process:

It’s important to me that service projects further compassion and empathy. I believe one way to accomplish that is to more deeply understand the people and the issues you support. To that end, I wanted to help ensure this was a service-learning opportunity by providing some resources for both the service and the learning aspects.

Ms. Page also credits her contact at Beans and Bread, Evan Gough, Senior Volunteer Coordinator for his help along the way.

An age-appropriate video was included with the resources distributed among the TNCS community that demonstrates economic inequality with Legos. “Brookings Fellow Richard Reeves shows the chances that the poorest fifth of Americans have to rise to the top, based on their race, the marital status of their mothers, and their level of education.”

In addition, a Fact Sheet for Kindergarteners through 2nd-graders is another way to start meaningful conversations with children and de-stigmatize homelessness, which is vital now more so than ever with the pandemic-related economic catastrophe affecting so many.

For older students, a game called PlaySpent simulates the choices that go into how to make ends meet after losing a job (“It’s just stuff until you don’t have it”).

Stories about local people provide a powerful reality check about how the pandemic has wrought such havoc in the lives of our neighbors.

Other informative resources were also included for adults, such as links to National Coalition for the Homeless and Homelessness in Baltimore | Healthcare for the Homeless.

Assemble the Kits

Kit collection was originally supposed to end on February 12th for distribution around Valentine’s Day, but the initiative is gaining momentum, and the original goal of 150 total kits for men, women, and children lovingly assembled by TNCS students seems well within reach with another few days tacked on. The initiative will now run through Friday, February 19th.

With clear instructions provided in English and Spanish, TNCS students and their families got to work.

Here’s how TNCS Parent Council Director Tilly Gurman describes her experience with her two children:

[My son] and I watched the video with the legos to talk about poverty in the United States. Then, I worked with [him] to help calculate how many of each item we would need, before we went to the store. I then took [my son] with me to the store, and he helped me count the number of the items we needed. I picked a store where I could get all the items I needed in one place, in order to save time. The next day, [my son], [my daughter] and I worked together to create the bags. We made it a fun activity for everyone.

Other TNCS moms also got impressively strategic with their approaches. Haleigh Forbes plans to donate 54 kits in the coming days. How did she manage to assemble a full third of TNCS’s overall goal?

We went out and bought the stuff for 10 kits at the Dollar Store, and I thought why not crowd sourse this! It was just such an easy and inexpensive way to help someone meet their basic needs. So we raised $430 from posting it on Instagram, and I bought all the items and packaged them all up.

I’ve also encouraged everyone to make 3 and always have them in your car so you can give them out while driving.

Ms. Forbes suggestion of having three in the car to distribute while driving is a great one and is what many TNCS classrooms encouraged families to do last year. This allows students to see first hand the difference their efforts can make in someone’s day.

(Note the socks, which are one of the most needed and least frequently donated items for individuals experiencing homelessness.)

At the inception of the TNCS Hygiene Kit Drive, 150 kits was acknowledged as quite an ambitious goal. With the way the TNCS community has joined forces since then, that goal is on track to be surpassed by dozens, translating to helping that many more individuals maintain some dignity in the face of extreme hardship. What a testament to and an embodiment of the values we share 💚💛🤍.


Although February is a big month for showing that you care—in fact, on the heels of Valentine’s Day comes Random Acts of Kindness Day on Monday, February 17th—it’s not the only time this year that the TNCS community has come together to show love to those who need food or clothing or even just a pick-me-up. Throughout the year, families and students have showered teachers with tokens of appreciation, and food and clothing drives got the most donations ever this year.

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

Chinese Proverb

Your Parent Guide to i-Ready, TNCS’s Math and Reading Platform!

At The New Century School, Curriculum Specialist Adriana DuPrau is always looking for ways to effectively engage students in their learning. One long-standing method is the i-Ready platform, which TNCS adopted several years back to help teachers assess the math and reading areas their students might need additional support in, personalize their learning, and monitor their progress throughout the school year. TNCS teachers immediately appreciate the targeted, individualized instruction i-Ready allows.

The early implementation of i-Ready turned out to be rather prescient, when TNCS students found themselves distance learning nearly a year ago now—fortunately, i-Ready was at the ready, and students were able to continue making their math and reading gains without a hitch! For some families, one thing did change, however, and that is the presence of parents working at home alongside their students. Parents, having seen your children working with i-Ready first hand, many of you have questions about the platform, and that’s what this edition of Immersed hopes to address!

Mrs. DuPrau finds that a commonly expressed concern is that, “Parents feel [i-Ready] isn’t placing their child at the correct level and also find it repetitive. We are hoping to help families feel better or to help educate them on the program.”

Here are three important links where you can find a treasure trove of super helpful information:

But we’ll also walk through some of the key points so you have everything in one place.

Perhaps most importantly, you should know that your participation in this process is not only welcome by TNCS teachers and staff, it is also beneficial for your student. According to i-Ready’s website, “Helping families understand i-Ready and encouraging them to talk with their child about strengths or areas for growth support a growth mindset and student success.”

i-Ready Resources

The first item you’ll want to keep handy is the Family Guide. This is available in English and Spanish as well as other languages. Your students already know much of this information, but you never know when you might need to revisit the basics.

You can also view these helpful videos, available in English and Spanish.

View Resource

View Resource

Next, download these “Fridge Tips” to make sure you are supporting your student in ways that will serve them best in their distance learning endeavors and ensure their digital readiness.

Finally, a host of technical support as well as resources for how you can track your child’s progress at home and how your child’s placement is determined are available at these links:


See? With just a few clicks, you are ready for i-Ready!

TNCS Gives the Trex Recycling Challenge an Extra Pinch of Fun!

Logo_with_tagline3For the second year running, The New Century School is participating in the Trex Recycling Challenge, only this year, TNCS has upped the stakes!

Environmental sustainability is a key message at TNCS, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo! Last school year, then TNCS Parent Council member and now TNCS PC Director Tilly Gurman heard about the school recycling challenge and thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join.

Trex School Recycling Challenge

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You can get the scoop on what qualifies as recyclable here (as well as in an explanatory video below) and where to drop off your materials here. We’ll explain more about the need-to-know info of the school challenge itself in details outlined throughout this post, and you can get just about everything you need to know in this handy presentation from the TNCS Parent Council Special Events Committee.

But first let’s explore that “extra pinch of fun”!

What Was That About a Competition?

And now on to the really good stuff! In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom!

This year, the Special Events committee of the TNCS Parent Council is running a Name the Blue Crabs Challenge! In a “crab shell,” here’s how it goes:

“You’ve seen the crabs in action. What would you name them? Share your ideas [in Google Classroom]! The class with the highest total of recycling in December gets to name the crabs and keep them in their classroom for the month of January!”

Friday, January 8th, is the last day to log your weights and and drop off your Trex Recycling items at the various sites for for the naming contest. (Note, that the overall challenge runs through April 15th.)

To keep TNCS students invested in the process, videos of the crab duo’s journey to TNCS were posted in Google Classroom.

As if all this isn’t great enough, for the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win special prizes from Trex such as our very own park bench made from Trex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.

So What Is the Challenge?

TNCS will compete in the Trex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and take them to specific drop-off locations to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. Trex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).

💚♻️ Trex Recycling Challenge How-To Guide

  • Collect your plastics (bread/newspapers wrappers, bubble wrap, etc.); see below.
  • Weigh them when a sufficient amount is reached.
  • Fill out this form with your weight.
  • Drop off the plastics at Safeway, Harris Teeter, Home Depot, etc. (See locations here; check that location is still participating during COVID-19 restrictions.)
  • 👍👍👍👍Show your support on Facebook!

To clarify what qualifies as recyclable for this program, basically, it’s down to #2s and #4s. Also, download a handout here.

 

To learn more about the Trex company, see TNCS Has NexTrex Recycling Challenge in the Bag and watch this informative video!


Note: Even after Earth Day and the Trex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to our partner locations.