A TNCS Original

Interview with Grace Addison Lintz

With The New Century School’s 2013–2014 school year starting back up this past week, we thought we’d get an insider’s perspective on how things are going. Miss Grace Addison Lintz is one of the original children to start at TNCS’s forerunner, Patterson Park Montessori, and has been a member of the student body from the ground up, as it were. As you will see, Grace, a.k.a., “Gracie,” is a true original, in all senses of that word. Read on to learn all about TNCS through Gracie’s eyes.

Wearing her TNCS shirt, Grace represents the school beautifully!

Wearing her TNCS shirt, Grace represents the school beautifully!

In TNCS’s library:

TNCS: Can we begin by you telling me a little about yourself?

Gracie: I’m Grace Addison Lintz, and I’m turning 8 years old on September 30th. And I’m going to Costa Rica in October to meet my baby brother Lucas.

TNCS: How exciting! How long have you been attending TNCS?

Gracie: I think 6 or 7 years . . . I was either 2 or 3 when I started, and now I’m in the third grade.

TNCS: Wow! You must really like TNCS, huh?

Gracie: I love it! It’s my favorite school! Wait—it’s my only school! (Ba dump bump)

TNCS: Do you remember who your very first teacher was?

Gracie: (Pointing to a spot slightly below her shoulders) She had black hair to here. I don’t remember her name. I only remember Mrs. DuPrau; I’ve been with her since I was 3 or 4.

TNCS: What’s it like to be one of the oldest students here at school? You must feel very special to be a third grader!

Gracie: (Unmoved) I thought I was still in 2nd until I saw the list. (Pause) Mrs. Roberts is the new elementary teacher, and I have homeroom with her.

TNCS: You have homeroom this year? What’s that like?

Gracie: (Thoughtfully) You know how you go home? Mrs. DuPrau is my reading and global studies teacher, and Mrs. Roberts does math, science, teacher’s choice, and snack—and a few other things—and that’s a homeroom teacher.

TNCS: Got it. What is “teacher’s choice”? That sounds kind of exciting!

Gracie: Okay, teacher’s choice is like the teacher can choose. It can be anything, like music. (Here we were interrupted by a knock at the door. Gracie ran to answer it and saw Señor “Freddie” there, who was just checking on why the library door was closed. Grace scampers on back, having been reminded of something important to tell me by his brief appearance.) And aftercare is really fun!

TNCS: Ahh. What makes aftercare so fun?

Gracie: Well, you get to play outside, and you have to join clubs. Last night on the computer, Mommy signed me up for some clubs . . . story club, origami club, and another one but I don’t know what it is. (Pause) Your breath smells like gum.

TNCS: (Giggle) Thanks. I think. So what are your favorite subjects in school?

Gracie: Weeeeell, I love to read—it’s really fun. And I like art because I get to paint. And music because we do a lot of plays. And math. And science. (Pause; coyly) Why are you asking me these questions?

TNCS: (Amused) For the TNCS blog. Do you know it?

Gracie: Yeah, well, my mommy gives it to me to read sometimes.

TNCS: (Throwing caution to the wind) Do you like it? (Long silence) I bet you’re going to read the next one, because it’s going to be about you!

Gracie: Do people read the blog?

TNCS: (About to crack up) I hope so! (Regaining composure) Do you have a favorite book?

Gracie: Yes!!! I do! I have two: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Babysitting War.

TNCS: (Seeing a preferred line of questioning) Are those chapter books?

Gracie: Mm hmm. I love chapter books. I don’t really read picture books anymore . . . now I’m onto chapter books without pictures because I like to just imagine the pictures.

TNCS: Can you tell me what your favorite thing about TNCS is?

Gracie: (Perplexed) What do you mean?

TNCS: Imagine you met someone who had never heard of TNCS and didn’t know anything about the school—what would you tell that person to give him or her an idea of what TNCS is like?

Gracie: (Promptly) It’s on South Ann St.

TNCS: So it is!

Gracie: Wait—wait! It’s very good because it has a lot of fun things.

TNCS: Like what, for example?

Gracie: Music, art, aftercare . . .

TNCS: (Trying to trigger more details) Do you like the stability balls you sit on?

Gracie: The what? Oh, the bouncy balls? Yeah, because it’s more comfortable. (Switching subjects and tracing a finger from the bottom of her foot to the to the top of her head) A thought starts here and comes all the way up here where I keep five at a time.

TNCS:  That will come in handy at test time.

Gracie: Yeah, but sometimes I just have to pick one. Can I get water? (Returning) I love to talk. Can I see your notebook? I’m going to see how many pages we wrote. (Counts 9, which would ultimately become 12)

Grace was very impressed by the number of pages we generated during our interview. We could have chatted for hours!

Grace was very impressed by the number of pages we generated during our interview. We could have chatted for hours!

TNCS: So, as an elementary student, do you get homework?

Gracie: No, we only have to read every day. Mrs. DuPrau says 15–20 minutes, but I like to read for an hour. Mommy says I should talk about reading because I love it. Sometimes we get a few math problems.

TNCS: (In closing) So, Grace, what final thing would you like to tell me about TNCS?

Gracie: Um, like what?

TNCS: (Coaxingly) Think about it this way: you kind of know TNCS the best because you have been here since the very beginning—

Gracie: Kathryn and Fiona and I know it the best because we were the first ones to walk in here. Our little sisters weren’t born yet. (Returning her attention back to the question) Like what?

TNCS: Anything at all from your point of view. (Mischievously) Try bringing a thought up from your foot.

Gracie: We have a lot of classes in our school . . . Let me think for a minute—is that okay?

TNCS: (Really struggling to suppress laughter) Of course—whatever you need.

Gracie: Okay, I’m going to go check on something, and I’ll come back with an answer.

TNCS: (Only able to nod at this point but utterly charmed by her gravitas) Okay—try to think about what makes TNCS special.

Gracie: (Bursting back into the room after about 30 seconds) Spanish and Chinese languages in our school!!!!!! A lot of people from TNCS speak lots of different languages. How could I forget about that?! In Spanish class we learn lots of new things . . . And this year we have new teachers! And the lunch program is yummy!

TNCS: Well done, Gracie! I think you hit some of the most important things about TNCS. By the way, the foreign languages and the lunch program are two of my favorite things about TNCS, too. So, that’s it! I want to thank you very much for your time and for answering all of these questions. I enjoyed this very much.

Gracie: Wait—I want to talk about something else! It’s SuccessMaker. SuccessMaker has reading and math. There’s a cool game in math; you have to use your brain a lot to solve the problem before time runs out. There’s a board that has all our names on it, and we put a sticker on each time we do a reading or math game. (Gush over, she sits back with a satisfied smile.)

TNCS: I can’t wait to learn about SucessMaker firsthand. Thanks again, Gracie. You did great!

. . . And there you have it, readers—TNCS through the eyes of one very clever, charming, special (and sweet!) little girl!

Talking to Grace is both informative and really entertaining!

Talking to Grace is both informative and really entertaining!

Immersed Is Here!

And here it is—your new blog! Earlier this summer we mentioned feeling that the blog needed a little sprucing up, and Immersed (new name, new look) is the result. It’s also a way to ring in The New Century School‘s 2013–2014 school year, which is brimming with wonderful new things: exciting events, curriculum refinements, additional staff, and even another grade added to the elementary program, so we also wanted to put our best foot forward with a refresh.

You helped with the name; will you help now with the appearance?

Hack the Trash: Community Art Project

Hack the trashOn Sunday, August 11th, an exciting new public art project began in Patterson Park of particular interest to The New Century School community. Merging social activism and environmental awareness with art, “Hack the Trash” is part of a city-wide venture to improve our parks. Hack the Trash, a trash drum painting project, targets three main goals simultaneously: 1) adding more trash cans in public areas to deter littering, 2) beautifying the drums to promote increased use, and 3) raising awareness about a social issue—the art delivers a message on a chosen theme. The first session centered on Chesapeake Bay consciousness; the next, to be held Sunday, August 18th, also in Patterson Park, will focus on the park itself.

Led by artist Ben Peterson, Session 1 began with an explanation of “the importance of the Harris Creek Watershed and its connection to Patterson Park,” said the project’s main organizer, photographer Brian Schneider. Harris Creek runs below Canton, with its watershed covering a geographic area from Clifton Park down to the harbor at Harris Creek (north/south boundary) and from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Patterson Park (west/east boundary). In urban watersheds, stormwater management becomes highly important insofar as stormwater runoff transports bacteria, nutrients, sediments, toxins, and trash through storm drains into tributaries and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. So, about 15 people gathered to paint the eight cans raising public awareness about the watershed (photos courtesy of Brian Schneider Photography shown below).

Mr. Schneider says that Hack the Trash is actually part of a bigger venture called “Hack the Parks,” a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT) and Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks, which challenged Baltimoreans to improve our urban green spaces. A series of grants was awarded in June to the cream of the project proposals. Hack the Trash was one of six pilot projects receiving this seed money in addition to park space and Rec and Parks resources. Though MOIT underwrites the project, technology is not necessarily a prerequisite for getting funded. The Hack the Park website states: “By hacking, we mean [that] citizens develop their own applications (whether they be technology-based or not) which create simple, tangible benefits for the community.” Now the name “Hack the Trash” begins to make a lot of sense—but with “paint application” rather than something we can run on our smartphones!

Altogether, Hack the Trash plans to hold 5–10 sessions, depending on the number of artists and participants, to paint a total of 30 cans purchased with their $1,200 grant. Mr. Schneider told the Baltimore Guide that he and his neighbors “applied for the grant because they got sick of seeing trash blowing all over Patterson Park.” Comparing Baltimore to larger cities that have less litter, they felt that part of the problem was simply not enough trash receptacles, and Hack the Trash was born. The project will also make sure that the receptacles are immediately visible but in an aesthetically pleasing way, rather than blending in with the background and getting missed, as sometimes might be the case.

So Patterson Park lovers, be sure to look for the new cans during your next visit—as well as consider joining Leanna Wetmore from Banner Neighborhoods at the Friends of Patterson Park House for Session 2 on August 18th at 4 p.m.  All ages can participate, and the kids would get a chance to have some fun, beautify their surroundings, and learn, all at the same time! Isn’t “technology” wonderful?

International Camp at TNCS

For 2 weeks this summer, The New Century School will be hosting five visitors from China to participate in International Camp. From August 5th through 17th, three elementary-age girls and two of their mothers joined TNCS elementary students for an opportunity to be immersed in English. As TNCS moves more fully into its own foreign language immersion style, this pilot camp presents a unique way to reciprocate—to immerse foreign students in English. Let’s meet them!

Mr. Lapreziosa and our Chinese and American friends say cheese!

Mr. Lapreziosa and our Chinese and American friends say cheese!

Alice (Cui Jianing*), Grace (Kuang Juoqui*), and Michelle (Ma Rai*), each age 9 years, came all the way from Guangzhou, China’s second largest city and located in the southeast. During their stay, they will participate in camp activities such as cooking and gardening, they will visit key Baltimore sites such as the aquarium and the Walter’s Art Museum, and they will take daytrips to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Michelle, mom Kelly, and Grace are staying at the home of TNCS Executive Director Roberta Faux and her family. Alice and mom Jane are being hosted by another hospitable TNCS family.

As is China’s custom, the girls presented a gift to their American campmates upon arrival. The girls had lots of fun together wearing their beautiful handpainted masks.

Having lots of fun together is more or less the itinerary every day, in fact. They love playing with each other’s toys and games, for example, making the most of that particular cultural exchange. Here are some excerpts from a visit to the classroom:

TNCS: What is the one thing you want to do most while you are here?

Alice: (Thoughtful pause.) Maybe shopping.

TNCS: What would you like to do during your visit to Washington, D.C.?

Grace: Play on the playground!

Michelle: Go shopping for long, pink dresses!

TNCS: What has been your favorite part of being here so far?

Alice: Playing with Michelle and Grace.

Grace: Playing with Kathryn’s toys . . . her weaving set.

Michelle: Playing with kitty Ebony (Kathryn’s cat).

TNCS: What is your favorite thing to eat here in the United States?

Michelle: Blueberries and spaghetti! (Not together.)

TNCS: What flavor of ice cream do you hope to get later at Pitango (the afternoon’s scheduled activity)?

Alice: Chocolate!

Grace: Cookie dough!

Michelle: Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla!

As you can see, the girls are simply delightful! When asked why they decided to come to International Camp at TNCS, their mothers said, “We want the kids to experience a different culture and to improve their English.” The girls had studied English for 3 years prior to coming here, but there’s nothing like immersion to encourage fluency. The TNCS natives agree. “Our job is to help them learn English and not speak bad grammar,” explained the TNCS gals when asked whether they were taking the chance to practice their Mandarin with their new friends. Moms Kelly and Jane report that by Day 2, they could hear a big difference in their girls’ English, so the no-Mandarin-allowed policy strictly enforced by the TNCS cohort seems to be working!

The camp is being taught by a newcomer to TNCS, and we’re very fortunate to have him and his special expertise. Craig Lapreziosa is a former engineer turned English as Foreign Language instructor, who says, “If you have to communicate in a foreign language, you will.” Of the experience so far, he says that the biggest challenge has been keeping the Chinese and American students integrated during learning activities. They tend to cluster off because it’s more comfortable for them. Socially, it’s a different story, however. “I was worried about how to break the ice among them, but they did it on their own—there’s no shyness among them at all,” laughs Mr. Lapreziosa and points to where the girls were supposed to be having their morning snack. Instead, they were all dancing and singing along to the Beatles playing over the computer, not a drop of inhibition to be seen from anybody! Six 7- to 9-year-old girls will certainly tend to be an exuberant group. “I have new respect for elementary teachers,” jokes Mr. Lapreziosa.

With their daughters having such a nice time, Kelly and Jane have decided to extend their trip a week longer to visit New York City, Boston, Niagara Falls, and (of course!) Disneyworld after leaving Baltimore to take full advantage of being in the United States. Neither Kelly nor Jane has been here before, though Kelly got her M.B.A. in Canada. She now teaches business at Guangdong AIB Polytechnical College, and Jane is a data processing engineer. They describe how different education is at TNCS in contrast to home, where instruction is always lecture style. “Here, they can actually experience things to learn,” says Kelly. She describes Mr. Lapreziosa as being very patient and helpful with the girls. The ladies have some good camp ideas of their own brewing, too. We just may see them back again next year, which would be a real honor. They are most welcome!

Fortunately, our visitors didn't actually have to walk here ;).

Fortunately, our visitors didn’t actually have to walk here ;).

"Walking around the world from China to the United States": This related art project was done during Mandarin Immersion Camp, held earlier this summer.

“Walking around the world from China to the United States”: This related art project was done during Mandarin Immersion Camp, held earlier this summer.

*English spellings helpfully provided by Charlotte Chen—our former and well-loved Chen Laoshi! Thanks Charlotte!

Making the Case for Cursive

The summer of 2013 will go down in American history as the summer that polarized the country over the fate of Trayvon Martin and the man accused of killing him. Another rather unforeseen partisan debate also arose from the Zimmerman trial, however, that is particularly relevant for The New Century School elementary students: reading and writing in cursive. Witness Rachel Jeantel, age 19 years, told the courtroom that she was unable to read a letter written in cursive, a key piece of evidence (see story here). Suddenly, whether cursive should be taught in schools or not has become the education polemic du jour.

In the New York Times, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education Morgan Polikoff wrote that there’s no good reason to continue teaching cursive. It has been left out of the Common Core Standards and fewer and fewer people use it anymore (in favor of printing or keyboarding). “Additionally, there is little compelling research to suggest the teaching of cursive positively affects other student skills enough to merit its teaching,” he writes.

TNCS student practices writing in cursive.

TNCS student practices writing in cursive.

Advocates of cursive vehemently disagree. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Suzanne Asherson from Handwriting Without Tears, a handwriting program for teachers, says, “Cursive is faster and more efficient than print. When [children know] the mechanics of forming letters in cursive, they can better focus on their content.” A somewhat controversial study of SAT scores found that test takers who wrote in cursive rather than print on the essay portion scored significantly higher. Analysts suggest that this is because the efficiency, better flow, and connectedness of cursive writing allowed the students to focus on making coherent arguments. The kinesthetic process paralleled the cognitive one.

Another consideration is that regardless of whether cursive continues to be taught, documents written in cursive will nevertheless exist . . . should we be able to read them? Finally, many argue that cursive—unlike print or especially keyboarding—boosts brain activity in positive ways. Read a blog post by Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of  Educational Strategies here.

Although Maryland is an adopter of the Common Core State Standards, which doesn’t require that cursive be taught, many schools in the state teach it nevertheless. At TNCS anyway, elementary students are taught to write in cursive. Both Montessori and Waldorf schools believe that cursive writing promotes the mindfulness required of genuine scholastic engagement. In fact, last year, TNCS took the issue head on with typical good humor when the elementary kids made “Cursive Haunted Houses”:

“There once was an old house on a hill. No one would go near it. Someone said it was Cursive! It started in the tall dry grass around the house. People noticed how wavy and spiky it was: VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV.

Then they notice how the paint on the house peeled in long and short curls: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.

And when the shutters flapped on a stormy night, people saw shapes in the windows—shapes that looked like letters! It was the old house speaking to the town’s people in a spooky and beautiful way.”

It might be considered just plain “loopy” by some, but cursive isn’t gone yet!

What do you think? Should cursive be taught in or omitted from elementary curricula? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!