TNCS Gardens for Earth Day!

Earth Day happens on Sunday, April 22nd this year, with the theme “End Plastic Pollution”. But celebrating our planet is an everyday occurrence at The New Century School—green energy, ecological conservation, and sustainable gardening practices are themes TNCS students are very familiar with, as these are fundamental tenets of the school.

Earth Day itself is always special, though. For the second year in a row, for example, the TNCS Parent Council headed up Sakina Ligon, will host a Family Fun Day that, among lots of other super fun activities, includes crafting with recyclables (see below). TNCS Past year’s Earth Day observances include TNCS Takes Earth Day by Storm and Go Native for Earth Day 2016!

Greenhouse Effect!

Earth Day 2018, however, is extra special. Why? The greenhouse is back up and running, to the delight of students, staff, and families alike. With the changes in the lunch program for the 2017–2018 school year, the greenhouse lay dormant for a few months. Not so any longer! Meet Manuel Cueva, who joined TNCS in September as part of the new kitchen staff and has now taken over as Gardener.

tncs-earth-day-greenhouseSr. Cueva is originally from Cajamarca City, Peru, where he was a construction supervisor and engineer. “I worked at an NGO, IINCAP Jorge Basadre, focused on community development. I worked on projects related to the environment, youth development, health, community banking, and ending child labor,” he said. He came to the United States in June 2016.

Now that he’s here, he has begun working with TNCS students, teaching them to grow produce from seeds. “I like working with my hands and working outside, and I love taking care of nature,” he explained. They started last month, planting indoors, and, as the seedlings have grown sturdy enough, they are gradually moving them into the greenhouse beds (lovingly built last year by TNCS volunteers).

Sr. Cueva has worked with every TNCS class, from the 2-year-olds right on up through the middle schoolers. They have planted marigolds, beans, strawberries, tomatoes, and radishes, and any edible produce will be used in school lunch.

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On Friday, April 20th, Sr. Cueva took Professor Manuel’s students to the greenhouse for some transplanting.

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From the photos, it’s clear that students thoroughly enjoyed their greenhouse time as well as all of the advance preparation with the seedlings they lovingly raised. But children also learn and benefit in many other ways from growing things.

Through gardening, they can develop new skills, such as the sense of responsibility they derive from caring for plants; the scientific understanding they gain as they learn about cause and effect (plants will die without water, but thrive when they are properly tended); self-confidence from achieving their goals and enjoying the nutritious food they have grown; and the love of nature that develops as they learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place. From there, stewardship of the environment also develops naturally.

Physical activity, collaboration, and discovery are also built-in benefits that TNCS students will realize through gardening. For more on the science-backed ways gardening is good for children, read, Gardening with Kids: How It Affects Your Child’s Brain, Body, and Soul.

Do you have suggestions, recommendation, advice, or questions? Sr. Cueva is eager to hear your thoughts. “If anyone has ideas or suggestions for the green house, please let me know,” he asks.

TNCS March Madness 2018!

A lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March—no brackets needed.

Here is your rundown of all the exciting academic events that TNCS students have been participating in!

Spelling Bee!

On March 7th, TNCS held its first annual spelling bee competition, that was open to 3rd-, 4th-, 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-graders, and participation was optional. The bee was divided into two cohorts: 3rd- through 5th-graders competing in one division and 6th- and 7th-graders in the second. will participate in a separate group. Organized by TNCS’s English Language Arts specialist, Ilia Madrazo, the bee was a fun and challenging competition, and TNCS students were thoroughly absorbed.

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Three prize categories were up for grabs: The first-place winner would be presented with a $10 gift card for the Ozone Café, second place a $5 gift card, and the third-place winner would get a well-earned “high five” from the panel of esteemed judges. Students were given word lists well in advance to practice from, but participants were also asked to spell words they had not previewed.

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The competition was stiff, and spelling went into far more rounds than the judges had been anticipating—a testament to how assiduously TNCS students prepared. Although each student was trying his or her hardest, the camaraderie among contestants was beautiful to see: Each speller got a high-five for successfully spelling a word or a kind word of support if a word took him or her down.

An example of a Round One word:

An example of a Round Two word:

. . . And so it went . . .

And then there were five (in the 3rd to 5th cohort)—all boys!

IMG_0123.JPGAfter about seven or so rounds, three students remained standing, and it was quite a cliff-hanger!

Ultimately, two students tied for first in the 3rd to 5th cohort, making five total winners, pictured below. Although sharing the actual word lists online is prohibited by copyright, we can tell you that the two tied for first in the 3rd to 5th cohort went through 12 total rounds, both ultimately choking on the word, “outrageous,” fittingly!

Here’s what the winners had to say about their achievements:

Said Mrs. Danyali: “There was so much pride and courage in the room as each participant did their very best. Great job to all!”

Women Heroes!

The day after the Spelling Bee, another first occurred—the TNCS Women Heroes Assembly, in honor of International Women’s Day. Elementary and Middle School girls gathered in the gymnasium for a circle with Head of School Alicia Danyali to talk about historical women figures who helped further women’s causes, what it was like to be a woman before women had certain rights, and to imagine their own futures and what they plan to contribute to the world.

Math Kangaroo!

Next up in this chock-full month was the second annual Math Kangaroo for Grades 1 through 7!

Stay tuned for more about how TNCS students fared this year against their national and international peers—the results are still pending. In the meantime, check out last year’s competition: Math Kangaroo 2017!

Science Fair!

IMG_0262Always a big deal at TNCS, the 2018 Science Fair was an unqualified success, as the slide show below attests! From engineering and mechanics to chemistry, physics, and biology to even the social sciences, TNCS kindergarten through 7th-graders conducted their experiments and then presented to parent audiences throughout the third week of March.

 

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Science guru Jon Wallace said, “When [TNCS students] enter high school, I think they are going to be ready to deal with high school sciences. The big drive this year was representing data. That’s something they are going to have to be very good at because when they get to 9th-grade biology, for example, they will be graphing data, whether it be a line graph, a bar graph, or whatever, and putting data into data tables, then interpreting that data.”

The top project for Mr. Wallace was Curly Hair versus Straight Hair: Light Absorption, which he found very interesting and unique. It’s a thoughtful question that even has evolutionary overtones—which type of hair allows for greater ultraviolet light penetration and is therefore less protective? “Mr. Wallace also appreciated the very engineering-oriented The Influence of Spoilers on the Downforce of Cars. “I feel like [that student] learned a whole lot about fluids through research about wing design. It’s neat to see kids get so into it.”

“I feel like overall we have gained something in being able to represent data. That was the main outcome I was looking for this year, in addition to following the Scientific Method, of course,” he said.

Project Linus!

Finally, On March 19th, just before the epic snowstorm of Spring 2018 hit and Spring Break ensued, TNCS 3rd- and 4th-graders completed a service learning project as part of the TNCS core value of Service. Other TNCS divisions will also be completing service projects as the second half of the academic year winds out.

For the second year running, 3rd- and 4th-graders spent an hour with Baltimore City/Baltimore County Chapter Coordinator Fay Husted, “Ms. Fay,” from Project Linus to learn how to make blankets for sick and hospitalized children in need. See details from last year’s project, TNCS’s first time with Project Linus and Ms. Fay, here: TNCS Continues Annual Service to the Community with Project Linus. This project is annually organized by the TNCS Parent Council, headed up by Sakina Ligon.

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The group was so motivated by the blanket-making that they ended up taking Mrs. Sharma’s Teacher’s Choice period to complete them that very day! See the beautiful results for yourself!

So there you have it. March blew in like a lion, and TNCS students roared with achievement, learning, spelling, calculating, doing, and helping!

Meet the Teacher: Pei Ge Rejoins TNCS!

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Pei Ge first joined The New Century School as an assistant in 2016 after earning a bachelor’s degree at Towson University. She then decided to pursue a master’s in early childhood education also at Towson. On graduating this past January, she returned to TNCS in an enhanced role.

“Peggy,” better known as “Pei-Pei Laoshi” to her students, is originally from Shanghai, in China. There, she taught children ages 3 to 6 years. In 2012, she came to the United States and taught in the English program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Now, living in Towson and back at TNCS, she assists as a floater among the primary classrooms during the mornings, and then teaches the Mandarin Chinese language each afternoon to the lower elementary classes. In fact, the kindergarten/1st-grade level is her favorite grade, but she is certified to teach toddlers up through 3rd-graders. “I’m kind of flexible for the grade,” she said. “My hope is that, maybe next semester if they have a position available for me, I can take the whole class. The Chinese immersion program would be perfect for me.”

Pei-Pei Laoshi is really a perfect fit for the TNCS approach to education. “I really like it here because they have a lot of choice for the language,” she explained. “Teaching Spanish and Chinese provides children with a really great opportunity to learn new languages at a young age. I really think that’s a good idea for young kids, especially with Chinese, because they are able to correctly reproduce the tones when they’re that young. When they’re older, there will be no problem for them.”

She also appreciates the TNCS emphasis on meeting each child at the child’s level: “Because in my class I know there is a Chinese level difference, I try to make sure that I meet everyone’s needs. I use differentiation for each one to make sure that they can learn based on their level.” She works with Li Laoshi to get an idea of each student’s learning profile, as many of her current students were formerly taught by Li Laoshi. They communicate regularly.

Her own style also aligns with TNCS’s overall approach:

For me, my goal is that students can play while learning—not just sitting there while I say, ‘you have to remember this and remember that’—we play and have fun, but we learn something, too. They enjoy it more and learn more when they have hands-on activities. For example, instead of rote memorization of vocabulary words, they might create their own books and vocabulary charts, which will be fun for them as well as being something they created.

For the Chinese Lunar New Year, she and her students made dumplings together. Pei-Pei Laoshi is a lucky rat in the Chinese zodiac.

In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, reading, and painting. She also likes to relax at home and favors Towson for being a small, quiet town. When she feels like being social, she watch movies with friends and scouts out new restaurants to try (for good, authentic Chinese food, she recommends Orient Express, near the Hopkins campus).

Traveling is also important to Pei-Pei Laoshi. So far, she has visited San Diego; Los Angeles; Seattle; Las Vegas;IMG_0910 and, of course, Orlando.

In closing, she affirmed, “I want the students to want to come to my class everyday, and happily. Then, parents will feel the same, and that’s my goal, too.”

Well said, indeed, Pei-Pei Laoshi!

New, Year-Round High School Coming to Southeast Baltimore!

Although it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by, The New Century School‘s oldest students will soon be facing a giant decision: Where will I go to high school? Baltimore City has some great options, and a very special new one will be opening in the Highlandtown area that might particularly interest TNCS families.

Introducing The DaVinci Collaborative!

11a8d397-eacd-4a4c-ba38-b1f80eb537d0The DaVinci Collaborative, as it will be named, is a “year-round high school with interdisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities infused with the arts and technology,” according to their website. In some important ways, this is a continuation of a key TNCS approach to learning—especially in being driven primarily by inquiry, by focusing on the whole student, and by cultivating mentor–mentee relationships.

As appropriate for high school students, DVC will not just be a continuation, however: “Students will take charge of their learning and the design of the collaborative. They will work and learn alongside community organizations and businesses that co-locate in our space.” In other words, the DVC model incorporates learning through internships with community business liaisons. It’s learning by doing at the meta level. By focusing on career from the outset, students will graduate into a world where they can thrive, not flounder, having cultivated skills as well as practiced making connections.

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Helene Luce, Co-Founder, The DaVinci Collaborative

DVC is the brainchild of Helene Luce, who is passionate about education and about supporting Baltimore and helping its residents flourish. Ms. Luce joins her vast education experience that ranges from high school history teacher, serving on a charter school board, professional development for faculty, to curriculum design and writing, with a keen social awareness in cofounding the DaVinci Collaborative (along with an extended 25-member team including fellow Baltimore educators and others).

“I had this idea of starting a high school,” she explains, “that really got off the ground when we applied to win ‘super school’ funding with Project XQ.” Project XQ is an organization devoted to “reimagining high school”—because the status quo system has failed so many U.S. students in so many different ways. Schools that apply to be XQ super schools seek to revolutionize how high school is done to better serve our nation’s students and to optimize their development using their innate gifts rather than . “Out of 1,400 total applicants, we were 1 of 50 finalists,” continued Ms. Luce, “which validated that our ideas were worth pursuing. Even though we didn’t win, we knew we had something and decided to apply as a Baltimore City charter school.”

Big Picture Learning

DVC is currently at a critical point in its evolution: The application for charter school status will be submitted by the end of this month, and potential school locations are being scouted in Southeast Baltimore (psst—they have a strong lead on a great spot!). Ms. Luce feels strongly that DVC will achieve these short-term goals, the founders having spent the last 2 years building community support and awareness, making useful connections, and applying for grants. And, recently, DVC has come under the aegis of Big Picture Learning.

BPL’s mission is to “put students at the center of their own learning.” By educating “one student at a time,” they have flipped the conventional, grading-based school paradigm on its head. Instead of standardization, BLP adopts “an education system that inspires and awakens the possibilities of an engaged population of learners.” The organization began in Providence Rhode Island in 1995 at The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center and quickly attracted national attention with its immediate success in graduating students who were prepared to contribute meaningfully to the world. Just 1 year after it graduated its first class of students, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation named “The Met” its favorite high school and awarded funding to U.S. schools to replicate its revolutionary approach.

Being 1 of the 65 BPL schools nationwide will provide the DaVinci Collaborative with an immense library of resources, which will be an enormous help to a new school. “Our values and their values are very much aligned,” said Ms. Luce. “They will support with lots of innovative programs and services—we won’t be dangling out there on our own.”

It’s also an honor in it’s own right. What does it take to be a BPL school? BPL enumerates “10 Distinguishers“:

  1. One student at a time
  2. Advisory structure
  3. Learning through interests and internships
  4. Parent and family engagement
  5. School culture
  6. Authentic assessment
  7. School organization
  8. Leadership
  9. Post-secondary planning
  10. Professional development

Next Steps

With plans to open in summer 2019, DVC needs an essential component in place: founding parents. If you think the DaVinci Collaborative sounds like an educational environment that Southeast Baltimore students could benefit from, consider joining as a founding parent—no commitment to attend the school is required to do so.

Provide your support in bringing this exciting model of engaged learning to life by downloading and completing this form and sending it to sierra.boney@davincibaltimore.org by March 16th, 2018.

Meet the Teacher: Donghui Song Brings a Nice Note to TNCS Preprimary!

The New Century School accepts students as young as age 2 years into the preprimary program. The teachers who instruct the toddler classrooms, therefore, must be very special people in order to start their young charges’ academic journeys off on the right foot. Joining Laura Noletto and Elizabeth Salas on the preprimary team, Donghui Song took over as lead Mandarin Immersion teacher for the 2017–2018 school year.

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Song Laoshi came to the United States in 1996 with her husband, who took a position in Oahu, Hawaii in oceanography research. While there, she began volunteering in her son’s preschool. She soon realized how critical these early years are for optimal social and intellectual development and started thinking about taking classes in early childhood education.

But first, she moved with her family to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. After 6 years in beautiful Hawaii, her husband took a new research position at the University of Illinois. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree in music back in China, Song Laoshi saw Illinois as the perfect opportunity to get her early childhood education degree. She began working at a preschool with 2- and 3-year-olds. “The people are all so nice there,” she said, “and the preschool where I worked was very international, like here.”

Another move took her family to New York, where Song Laoshi’s husband was offered a position at Columbia University. In New York, she once again worked with toddlers. Three years later, in 2011, her family moved to this area.

Before joining TNCS, Song Laoshi worked at the McDonogh School, where she was a full-time substitute for 1st, 5th, and 6th grades. Now that she is at TNCS, she has a Chinese immersion classroom of 16 children. “The children we teach learn a lot and really remember, so I want to teach them more,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. I have two assistants, and we know what children need. It’s great.” She also says she has felt welcome and supported by her fellow teachers.

Her philosophy of teaching early childhood education is simple, but effective: “First, I think you have to make it fun and meet their needs. It’s very important for attachment, and you have to be loving, too.”

 

download.jpgShe also now has the opportunity to bring her music background back into play, as TNCS highly prizes music of all forms. For Chinese New Year last month, she brought her erhu to school and gave a performance. She also plays piano.

In addition, she has been teaching at the Howard County Chinese School for the last 3 years. Her students there are kindergartners and first-graders.

Her other pastimes include exercising with a group of friends who attend classes together. Her son, now college age, attends UMBC, and she also has a daughter in the 9th grade.

As for where oceanography will next take Song Laoshi’s family, she believes Baltimore is the last stop. “I think we will retire here,” she said. “Moving around was fun when I was young, but now I don’t want to move again.”

That’s music to our ears, Song Laoshi!

TNCS Welcomes Chinese Visitors for the Lunar New Year Holiday, Part 2!

As recounted in last week’s Immersed, The New Century School takes advantage of the 2-week holiday many Chinese have in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year by hosting special programs and inviting various groups to TNCS. For the Year of the Dog, first came a group of 15 university students, eager to take home innovative education ideas, followed by three 3rd-grade students and their parents.

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The purpose behind this second visit was some cultural exchange—immersion in an English-speaking classroom for the Chinese students for 2 weeks, and a chance for TNCS students to practice conversation skills in Mandarin with their visiting friends Myra, Tony, and Michael.

The outgoing and adaptable trio meshed immediately with their new schoolmates and were welcomed into Mrs. Sharma’s 3rd-/4th-grade homeroom with open arms. It must be said that having the visitors in class for 2 weeks meant that TNCS students got a bit of a holiday as well, getting to go on four field trips during that time!

First up was the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in honor of February being Black History Month.

Next the students visited ANG Pottery in Fell’s Point and saw a master at work, then crafted their own masterworks.

This was followed a few days later by bowling at Patterson Bowling Center.

The Port Discovery Children’s Museum was last, as appropriate, featuring Year of the Dog exhibits (among others).

Meanwhile, lots of fun things happened during school time as well, like making tacos with Chef Danielle!

Even after the school day ended, the visitors were made to feel a special part of the TNCS community, as TNCS families welcomed them into their homes for dinner. . .

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. . . or for a musical interlude during an unexpected snow day!

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Their stay culminated with a farewell and awards ceremony held at TNCS, as their proud parents watched.

TNCS students were sad to see them go, but plans are in the works for keeping in touch with Myra, Tony, and Michael, who will always remember TNCS!

TNCS Welcomes Visitors from China for the Lunar New Year Holiday!

In China, the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year, culminating on February 16th this year, are generally a time off for many Chinese. For the past few years, The New Century School has hosted many visitors from China coinciding with this break, with 2018 seeing the largest overall numbers of visitors yet.

The first group comprised 15 university students, who clearly wanted to have a good time in addition to learning about TNCS’s unique educational approach. They had fun and made sure everyone around them did as well. They all came from various cities in Hunan Province—Chongqing (Holly), Wugang (Phoebe), Zhuzou (Dragon), Changde (Bella), Zhangjiaie (Jamie), Beijing (Elaine), Hengyang (Tiffany), Wenzhou (Bunny), Urumqi (Michelle), and the capital Changsha (Fire, Miki, Ishine, Shirley, Jane, and Smart).

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Their stay at TNCS was brief, as they had lots of sightseeing around the country on their trip itinerary. So, to make sure they got the most of their time here, their 2 days at TNCS were very full. They visited classrooms and interacted with students among other activities, divided into two alternating groups. They were eager to learn firsthand how education is handled in an independent school, and they were very receptive to the innovative ideas presented to them.

They even got the chance to participate in some group exercises designed to get them thinking and problem-solving creatively. While one group played “Lost at Sea” in the Ozone Snack Bar with half of the upper elementary students, the second group joined the remaining upper elementary students in a bucket band with Mr. Yoshi. The late January day was surprisingly warm, so the bucket band played outside.

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Not only was it a special treat to be outside in the middle of winter, but there were some subtle messages here as well. The Chinese university students saw that TNCS is an urban school, asphalt and all, and they also saw that with so much going on around the school campus, adaptability and flexibility are necessary (not to mention often make for fun surprises). Mr. Yoshi first gave a short talk, describing his background and explaining that he is a proponent of El Sistema—using music to promote social change. From there, he demonstrated some simple techniques until the group was able to play “Rufus My Dog.”

Then, it was time for the group to go off script and add their own flourishes, working in pairs of one university student and one TNCS student.

They all enjoyed that a lot. As one put it, “This kind of activity makes kids very creative and is very interesting. In China we just repeat, repeat, repeat.”

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Back in the Ozone, TNCS Co-Founder and Executive Director Roberta Faux led the group in playing “Lost at Sea,” working in teams of four or five. “Imagine you chartered a yacht and are sailing from Baltimore to New York,” she instructed. “In 100 miles, your boat blows up. You’re on a little raft, wearing a life vest waiting to be rescued. There are 15 items listed. Number your paper from 1 to 15 and rank the items you would want from most to least. There are no right or wrong answers, and you have 5 minutes.”

The results varied widely, but no teams would have survived and only one individual scored high enough to just barely make it! Despite the high number of casualties, this exercise got everyone thinking as well as collaborating. Oh, and laughing.

Download the rules and how to play here. It’s loads of fun and would be perfect for Family Game Night!

The day ended with a cooking lesson and dinner from Chef Danielle.

The group left Baltimore a day later but were unanimous in saying that they would not forget TNCS and the fun they had while there!

Part 2 continues next week when Immersed checks in with the second group who came to visit TNCS during the Lunar New Year holiday. Stay tuned!