Resources and Links Page for TNCS Families

Time and again, The New Century School finds itself in the vanguard among schools using evidence-based education practices. With each new article that circulates about how best to educate our children, and about what so many schools are getting completely wrong, TNCS gets added validation—we’re doing it right. And that’s no accident.

Many of the posts in this blog focus specifically on a new finding and how it has been implemented into practice at TNCS; with this post, we announce publication of a “clearinghouse” for all of the many education topics we have covered—we’re rolling out a new Resources and Links page that we hope readers will find helpful, and maybe even enjoyable.

We call on you, families and friends, to help us keep this page current and meaningful. Please share any content you come across that relates to the importance of learning foreign languages; to preschool, kindergarten, and elementary education best practices; or to anything else you deem pertinent. We hope this page will become a forum to engage with and expand our community.

Happy reading! Resources and Links

Sanctuary Bodyworks: An Exercise Haven

The exterior of Sanctuary Bodyworks features a sign approved by the historical society.

The exterior of Sanctuary Bodyworks features an historical society–approved sign.

Sanctuary Bodyworks shares more than just building space with The New Century School, it also shares important values, like fostering personal growth, and a commitment to the surrounding community. Located at 710 S. Ann St., this “boutique gym” occupies the second floor of what TNCS families know as “Building North.” Perhaps more famously, this storied location originally housed St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, the hub of the Polish Catholic community in Fell’s Point from 1889–2000. With due reverence to the building’s exalted origins, Sanctuary Bodyworks opened there September 12, 2012, offering 5,000 square feet of personal and group fitness instruction. Of particular relevance to and convenience for TNCS families, several morning classes coincide with school drop-off.

If a former cathedral strikes you as being an incongruous site for a gym (the one divine, the other traditionally considered fully secular), think again. Owner Brandon Hallock’s choice of the former church to open his “bodyworks” was quite deliberate. Consider the name he gave it: Sanctuary—it’s not just a playful take on the building’s origins. Mr. Hallock says he wanted to create a “more therapeutic, spa-like, relaxing atmosphere—a retreat from urban living.” He even kept as is or repurposed architectural elements from the church to maintain the peaceful ambience this hallowed place continues to impart. Though no longer a place of religious worship, and re-created to focus on the physical body, it is nevertheless inherently spiritual.

He Sells Sanctuary

Owner Brandon Hallock wants Sanctuary Bodyworks to be the perfect blend of what  an exercise environment should be.

Owner Brandon Hallock wants Sanctuary Bodyworks to achieve the perfect balance in what an exercise environment should be.

Indeed, Sanctuary Bodyworks is not your typical gym. Design, aesthetic, and approach are unique to this special place. In terms of design, Mr. Hallock believes that his bodyworks’ image should match the space. He envisioned a place where multiple private sessions as well as group classes could take place simultaneously yet allow privacy to each. “The space speaks for itself,” he says, “it allows lots of things to be going on without disrupting each other.” There is plenty of room to breath within his open yet intimate design. Patrons are not packed in like sardines; rather, handmade wood and leather Gratz pilates equipment unobtrusively lines the walls for individual users, and classes take place either in separate rooms or in the loft above the main space. Areas in the main open space are discreetly delineated with lush green palms and other plants. There’s even a lounge furnished with leather chairs and a sofa to take a break in for quiet conversation or flipping through a magazine.

The Sanctuary Bodyworks’ aesthetic also strikes a lovely balance between form and function, modern and historic. The architects who transformed the space skillfully combined new industrial brick and steel with the existing graceful arches and faded though still ornate painted designs. Images of saints, their facial features somewhat rubbed away by time, hover on ceilings and walls as if sanctioning your fitness efforts. At Hallock’s urging, the architects used the cathedral’s stained glass wherever possible, adding brilliant jewel tones here and there in the space’s otherwise muted palette. The overall effect manages to be at once calming and invigorating. It’s probably safe to say that a more beautiful gym—boutique or otherwise—would be hard to find in Baltimore, and perhaps much farther afield.

The approach, however, is what truly sets Sanctuary Bodyworks apart. “To provide both a space and instruction that maintain quality for like-minded individuals who take care of themselves” was Mr. Hallock’s original aim. That goal has grown even loftier in his 9 months of operation. He focuses not just on in-house training with his clients, but more broadly on educating them so they can carry what they learn in a session into their daily lives, to sit with postural efficiency at their work desks or while driving, for example. Moreover, the multidisciplinary team of practitioners he has assembled meet his own very high standards for instruction. With multiple practitioners, he believes, the most appropriate fitness plan can be implemented for each client. In fact, Hallock describes his approach to personal training as “thoughtful.” “I look at what gravity, stress, occupation, and time do to the body and develop a realistic plan for mitigating that damage. Instead of overloading a trainer with weights, I concentrate on maintaining or increasing his or her mobility by balancing length and tension.”

This approach is also holistic—when a client plateaus in his or her established fitness routine, another member of the team might suggest a deviation, into Rolfing®, for example, to regain momentum. Hallock emphasizes the skill of his instructors (both individual and group) as well as the uniqueness of their offerings. Group classes range from Zumba to tango and belly-dancing to several styles of yoga, including AcroYoga (more on that below). With quality foremost in mind, Hallock keeps group classes at a manageable size; this allows instructors to differentiate their instruction within a class to participants’ varying levels of skill. Whether beginner or advanced, each participant gets what he or she needs.

Together, design, aesthetic, and approach contribute to what Mr. Hallock calls a very “gentle, effective environment.” (Workouts needn’t be raucous affairs to get the job of physical fitness done.) As stated above, Sanctuary Bodyworks caters specifically to TNCS families by scheduling Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning classes starting just after school drop-off (personal training, moreover, can be scheduled by appointment whenever it suits). It’s the ideal of convenience, both in terms of timing and location. In the near future, Sanctuary Bodyworks also hopes to “piggyback” on The Lingo Leap classtimes so that while their kids are engaged downstairs, parents can work out one floor above, such as in one of the many group classes.

Some Unique Class Offerings

Eleanor Bramwell is one of Sanctuary Bodyworks' yoga instructors.

Eleanor Bramwell is one of Sanctuary Bodyworks’ inspiring yoga instructors.

For instance, Eleanor Bramwell (just one of Sanctuary’s many talented instructors), offers a variety of yoga classes that appeal to both men and women at every level of proficiency. This self-described “self-growth junkie” grew up in Baltimore, but after graduating she began traveling the globe—first to Costa Rica (where she started an experiential tutoring service for Montessori families) then to India (where she was project manager for a nonprofit created to educate the indigenous children on the benefits of recycling) to Nepal, Israel, China, Thailand—learning new skills the while, including Thai massage and Iyengar yoga, in each locale. “I’m not sure where I was trying to get to in such a rush, but I was in a rush,” she said. Along the way, she has lived in ashrams and mentored with yogis who required 14 hours of practice a day, among other exciting adventures. To Baltimore’s great luck, Ms. Bramwell has recently returned to share her well-honed practice with us. When asked what drew her to Sanctuary rather than to a more traditional yoga studio, she replied, “practicing and teaching there feels good. There is an amazing energy in a space where people went for more than a hundred years to pray.” And, she is no longer rushing. “I have learned to slow down and appreciate the simple beauty of life around me. Less is more,” she says.

Gina stands atop Amanda, who "flies" atop John, while Eleanor and Asa carefully spot them.

Gina stands atop Amanda, who “flies” atop John, while Eleanor and Asa carefully spot them.

Her dedication to her practice is evident in and elevates every class. “Yoga is an opportunity to fix and heal the body—it’s medicine,” she says. “You can heal your body with your body if you have the right guidance.” Indeed, she is a very spiritual person, which also “fits” the Sanctuary approach to fitness. “And,” she says grinning, “AcroYoga is my passion.” Imagine playing “Helicopter” with adults, and you have the first glimmer of what AcroYoga—one of the “unique offerings,” Brandon Hallock spoke of—is about. Watch a brief video of some more advanced AcroYoga here (but even complete beginners can achieve level-appropriate poses). AcroYoga isn’t just a great workout (and fun!), however. “It has taught me to communicate very skillfully,” says Ms. Bramwell, “because to succeed in an acrobatic partnership—or any sport for that matter—I must be clear what my needs are, ask for them to be met, and meet my partners or teammate’s needs. This clarity regarding needs translates off the mat, and into regular life.”

With private clients including members of the Baltimore Ravens and olympic trial swimmers, she is also interested in studying how yoga can improve athletic performance. Even though she’s back home, she’s still journeying.

View a schedule of available group classes here. Workshops, massage therapy, Rolfing, and personal training are also available.

With its thoughtful menu of exercises, its attention to community restoration and sustainability, and its talented and dedicated staff, TNCS’s sister site is a wonderful addition to the South Ann St. compound. Check it out—it’ll really lift your spirits!

Honoring Parenthood at The New Century School

Right in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as we are, let’s celebrate being parents! In fact, The New Century School’s word of the week this week is celebrate, and students learned to say it in Spanish—celebrar—and in Mandarin—qìng zhù (庆祝). This week TNCS also hosted lovely Mother’s Day breakfasts for each class to give Moms (or another special person who was able to attend) a chance to spend some time with their little ones in their school environment, eat a healthy breakfast, and socialize with the other Moms and kids.

Mother and son

Having a great time together at the Pear Tree Mother’s Day breakfast!

Some classes even performed songs or handed out flowers to each Mom. This annual TNCS tradition is just about as nice a celebration as you could want. And the kids . . .  they were beaming from ear to ear, proudly introducing their moms to special friends (and handling the delay in getting outside to the playground with admirable restraint). Sundai Valcich, mother of two children in the primary program at TNCS says, “The Mother’s Day breakfast is one of my favorite events of the year. I love the excitement my children have leading up to the day, and the pride they have those mornings bringing me into their school. It’s so nice to share a meal with them there and is a wonderful way to celebrate being their Mom.”

Even though school will already be out for the semester by the time Father’s Day comes around, TNCS is making sure Dads get their turn, too. TNCS Services Manager Lindsay Duprey says, “the primary classes invite fathers (or significant other male figures or mothers) to join their child for breakfast at Thames Street Park.” Bulletins from class teachers will provide dates and times.

So to help keep the celebratory spirit going, let’s indulge in some more exploration of what it means to have children and to care for them. After all, parenting is at the heart of this blog as well as at the heart of why we care about the quality of our kids’ educations. Here is some empirical evidence with which to reassure ourselves that we’re raising happy, well-adjusted kids. Of course, none of us manages to do all of it right all of the time, but all of us get it right some of the time—cause enough to celebrate!

A Top 10 Evidence-Based Parenting Checklist 

1. Joke with your kids: Researcher Elena Hoicka at the Economic and Social Research Council believes parents who joke with their children are helping them develop social aplomb—no kidding! Though “joking around” certainly counts, click here for some kid-friendly quips to add to your personal stand-up routine.

2. Stay positive: Researcher Michael Lorber from the University of Minnesota originally reported in Child Development that negative parenting can result in aggressive kids. Even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing when confronted with bad behavior, correct with a smile and gentleness.

3. Foster self-compassion: Pioneering self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff suggests that accepting our imperfections is a very important life skill, helping people stay resilient in the face of challenges. Parents can use self-compassion when coping with difficult times with their kids, but even better, as we show ourselves compassion, we set a great example for our kids.

4. Let go: This is the hard one for many, but researcher Neil Montgomery found that so-called “helicopter” parents have neurotic kids who are more dependent on Mom and Dad throughout life.

5. Nurture your marriage (or partnership): Surprisingly, researcher Anne Mannering at Oregon State University discovered that marital instability caused sleep difficulties in young children—at ages when sleep is most critical for healthy development. The implied converse is that stability allows for healthy sleep with all of its concomitant developmental benefits.

6. Tend your mental health: Researcher Heidemarie Laurent showed that depressed parents display muted responses to their childrens’ distress and could also contribute to depression, stress, and other problems in their kids down the road. Getting help when you need it will help your child also make necessary adjustments for health.

7. Develop secure attachments: Researchers from the University of Maryland believe this is especially important between mothers and sons and leads to better interpersonal (including romantic) relationships in their adulthood.

8. A little sassing is okay: Kids are learning to stand up for themselves, say researchers, and this is especially important for withstanding peer pressure. Again, smile, smile, smile . . .

9. Abolish perfectionism: Researchers found that parents who believe society expects perfect parenting from them ironically become worse parents and could transfer that stress and self-doubt to their kids. Good enough is good enough!

10. Tailor your parenting to your kids. We know this on a really deep level, but somehow the other voices manage to creep in. No matter what other parents think and advise, we know our own kids’ personalities best. Researchers say to be flexible and adapt your parenting style to your particular kids for their lifelong emotional health.

So parents, pat yourselves on the back and celebrate the great work you’ve done!

Camp Invention Returns to TNCS in June

Does the thought of summer-long video games give you a headache? Do you find the notion of watching the antics of mutant turtles—ninja or otherwise—a little creepy? Does the prospect of relinquishing your child to 9 weeks of these frequently vapid pursuits fill you with dread?

Parents, despair no longer: enroll your boys and girls entering grades 1 through 6 in Camp Invention this summer and give them the opportunity to explore, create, invent, and have loads of active, imaginative fun! Important: your child does not need to be enrolled at TNCS to join—this is a community-wide opportunity. Nationally acclaimed Camp Invention is a week-long summer day program, the brainchild of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Presenting kids with real-world challenges that encourage them to solve problems and present their solutions through themed, scientific, engaging hands-on investigation, the program integrates four key components:

1. STEM enrichment: These four vital education areas—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—are explored via hands-on, creative problem-solving activities. Camp Invention inspires kids to be curious about their world and prepares them for a future of responsible, engaged participation within it.

2. Consistent and effective implementation: Programs are all-inclusive; Camp Invention provides curricula and step-by-step instructions for the TNCS instructors to follow as well as training and all program materials. This ensures that programs are carried out correctly and consistently, maximizing the benefits to participants.

3. Collaboration and other 21st-century skills: Working in teams, children are presented with real-world challenges that promote the direct application of critical thinking and communication skills demanded by colleges, careers, and citizenship in the 21st century.

4. Teacher and student development: Teachers gain direct, reproduceable experience in how to integrate STEM content in daily lessons and beyond. Kids benefit from the student-centered approach to learning; they are led by their own desire to solve the presented problem, to see it through.

Camp Invention Comes to TNCS!

Camp Invention is returning to TNCS for Summer 2013! Enroll for June 17–21!

The honor of hosting this exciting exploration is reserved for only about 1,200 schools nationwide, and TNCS has earned the distinction of being the only location in the downtown Baltimore area to host the camp this summer. Says TNCS Summer Camp Director Lisa Warren, “We got first dibs—it’s a great honor for us to be hosting it here for the second year!”

TNCS’s Camp Invention session will be held during the week of June 17–21, and camp runs for a full day, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This year’s program theme is CREATE, which features four modules the kids cycle through each day: Problem Solving on Planet ZAK, SavingSludge City, I Can Invent: Launchitude, and Geo-Games (click the CREATE link above to read more about what skills and learning each module focuses on). Each one promises some really wacky fun, including re-engineering household items to create the ultimate Rubber Duck–Chucking Device, for example. What kid isn’t going to love that? Best of all, they’re using scientific principles in actual applications. These lessons will stick. Or fly, as the case may be. Even kids who have previously participated in Camp Invention will benefit from brand new adventures throughout the week.

Space is still available! To register your child for Camp Invention at TNCS, click here!

Summer camp at TNCS

Enriching summertime activities make happy kids!

Other specialty summer camps open to the public are also available at TNCS, including Lego + Brain Games, Drama, Music, Mandarin Immersion, Painting, and Launch Pad Academic Bridge Camps, as well as camps for younger children. As we wrote in “Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS,” using summertime to learn while having fun will enrich them academically throughout their school careers.

To register for any TNCS camp, click here.

Mandarin immersion camp

Don’t let the important skills your child has practiced all year atrophy over summer—keep them happy and engaged at TNCS summer camp!

Strengthening Friendships, Creating Art: TNCS Welcomes Back Baltimore Love Project

Welcome BLP!

Over two art lessons, BLP helped TNCS elementary students understand what public art is and how it can help communities.

In “Baltimore Love Project” last fall, we profiled artist Michael Owen’s and executive director Scott Burkholder’s joint mission to connect people through public art. With the goal of painting 20 LOVE murals across Baltimore city, they have made significant progress in that lofty aim; as of this writing they have completed 16. They returned to The New Century School in March to update TNCS on their progress and their future plans as well as to teach the elementary students about public art.

Mr. Burkholder was first to visit the elementary kids’ art class, and Mr. Owen stopped by 2 days later. Presenting to schoolchildren is something Baltimore Love Project (BLP) does frequently because kids are so receptive to their message, but TNCS elementary students were their youngest group so far. Mr. Burkholder began by asking the group, “What is art?” to which he received some pretty insightful answers, such as “art is a mixture of colors . . . imagination” and “art is making up your own theme.” He next showed the group several slides and asked whether what was depicted there qualified as art. When a Mark Rothko abstract painting flashed up on the projector screen, one boy said, “I see a portal leading to an imaginary scene . . .” (yes—he really said “portal!”) and another said, “it makes me feel really weird” and turned away. Needless to say, there were a lot of laughs that day!

BLP executive director Scott Burkholder

BLP executive director Scott Burkholder visited TNCS elementary art class March 19th.

Once the merriment died down, the group talked about different kinds of art—sculpture, music, performance art, collage, television shows, even cooking. “Humans use art,” said Mr. Burkholder, to “tell how we feel, to express an idea.” And with that, he threw out the “biggie.”

Why Does Art Matter?

The elementary students initially had mostly practical answers to this question, such as, “without art, we couldn’t make buildings,” but Mr. Burkholder pushed them to examine a deeper meaning. With Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother up on the screen, he explained that art should evoke strong feelings and encourage discussion. “Art gives us the opportunity to engage with it and with what the artist may have been feeling. It helps us think about what we are feeling, too,” he said. Art also helps us understand what our world is really like or puts a face to a story that might have otherwise been overlooked, such as the Lange photography does. Or, art might express something you wish were true. “It’s powerful to be able to share your ideas about the world with other people,” said Mr. Burkholder, “If you have the opportunity to change the way people think, then you can change how they act.” With art, he says, you can change the world.

TNCS elementary art class

The elementary students wax poetic on their feelings about art with Baltimore Love Project’s Scott Burkholder.

As the visit drew to a close, the kids turned the tables on Mr. Burkholder, putting him on the spot. One girl asked him what he hopes to accomplish in his lifetime. It was a surprisingly mature question and revealed that she had really taken in his message. Mr. Burkholder did not miss a beat, however, and said simply, “I would like to help people value art.”

Q&A with Michael Owen

BLP artist Michael Owen demonstrated how collaborating on art can change environments and cultures in meaningful ways.

DIY Muraling

Mr. Owen’s visit took a slightly different tack, as you may have guessed it would. “I came here to show you some secrets about mural painting,” announced Baltimore’s reigning mural king. He showed the kids a time-lapse video of himself painting a LOVE mural (see it here) and then gave them the four-step list of instructions he uses for the BLP:

  1. Project a picture on a large vertical surface (i.e., a wall).
  2. Trace the picture with sidewalk chalk or pencil.
  3. Paint it in with primer.
  4. One day later, cover over with black paint.

Voilà! Mr. Owen then asked the kids what a LOVE mural makes them think of, feel, or do. Their responses ranged from profound to poignant. “It stops people from fighting,” said one; “I imagine what a lovely place Baltimore is,” said another. “It makes me think of the loved ones I’ve lost,” said one girl, tearing up. Mr. Owen must be accustomed to having such an effect on people. After all, he creates those murals, he says, “to inspire people to show how they love each other.” What really must have blown him away, though, was the response he got when he asked why the hands spelling out L-O-V-E on each mural are in black. “They can be anybody’s hands,” he began. “But there are four of them,” interrupted one child, “so it takes two people. That’s how the love starts to spread.”

Sketchwork

TNCS elementary students sketch out their ideas for the mural.

By now the kids were literally itching to make some art. Inspired? Definitely. Having allowed all of their feelings and ideas to surface, they were now ready to turn them into something beautiful. “Have fun drawing,” said Mr. Owen, and rushed off to go inspire more people.

TNCS Kids Paint a . . .

Mural! Surprise! Art teacher Jenny Raccuglia said having BLP present was “really a very special treat.” Her idea all along was to have this lesson on public art culminate with her class creating their own mural. Like BLP, the students also wanted their mural concept to center on an inspirational word. There are currently more than 10 elementary students, so they needed a nice, big word to give each kid equal canvas space. See for yourselves what word these clever kids brought to colorful, glorious life in their collaborative work.

Friendship mural

The finished product shows friendship as conceptualized by the TNCS elementary students but also represents friendship in another way: the students joined together—engaged in this project together—in an act of joyful creation. It was made by friends to spread friendship. Way to go, kids!

“This engagement,” said Scott Burkholder, “is what it’s all about. . . In our society, we tend to appreciate art because of craft and aesthetic, but we miss important aspects like the idea, the concept.” Getting people engaged, talking, thinking—that’s the true value of art.