Admissions Fridays: Your Ticket To Getting To Know TNCS!

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Friday, April 25th, marked the first-ever Admissions Friday event at The New Century School, and what a success it was! The brainchild of Admissions Director Robin Munro, this weekly event is designed to give prospective families a taste of TNCS and to give currently enrolled families the chance to drop by and hang out. Ms. Munro says she came up with this idea to be able to respond to more families more quickly and hopes to make it a standing happening. Families interested in the school naturally have lots of questions; Admissions Fridays not only get those questions answered in a timely fashion, but also show you the real deal—this is what TNCS looks like and how it operates in real time.

The inaugural event was well attended by parents (as well as a couple of prospective students!) curious about TNCS’s inner workings. The morning began informally with attendees gathering in the Multipurpose Room for coffee and a nosh prepared by Chef Emma. (Her lemon poppyseed cake was divine!) Prospective parents were looking at a range of enrollment levels from nursery-age, to preschool-age, right up to elementary-age, which Ms. Munro was particularly glad to see. Although TNCS started as a preschool, it has grown up right alongside its original student body and is thriving as it broadens its scope to encompass school-age children. After a chat to get acquainted and a preliminary Q&A, Ms. Munro escorted the group around the school, giving everyone a chance to see each program in action and all of the other special aspects of TNCS that set it apart.

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham's Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef's own special flourish!

Chef Emma baked lemon poppyseed cake and provided bagels courtesy of Cunningham’s Cafe and Bakery. The butter rosettes were Chef’s own special flourish!

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee---the perfect combo! Cream is courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

Refreshing citrus and strong coffee—the perfect combo! Cream was courtesy of Trickling Springs dairy farm.

TNCS offers three divisions: pre-primary (ages 2–3), primary (ages 3–5), and elementary (ages 6 and up). A fourth division in the form of a middle school will debut in the Fall of 2016 for grades 6–8. Extended care and before care are also available. Across all programs, emphases include small classes, language learning, and independent (but guided) academic exploration. Though all share common guiding principles, each program also boasts a unique identity. The pre-primary is complete immersion in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, the primary is Montessori, and the elementary is progressive and technology- and inquiry-based. This is, of course, a very cursory description of program highlights. Observing these classes in action tells the complete story, and they really are wondrous sights to behold. The mix of ages all helping one another, the classroom harmony, the freedom-within-limits to choose a topic of exploration . . . these are very integral to TNCS and are best appreciated firsthand.

Then there are the features that put the finishing touches on this one-of-a-kind school—the Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop, the music and art programs, and The Lingo Leap. These are, again, aspects of TNCS that deserve to be appreciated in person, but, in brief, TNCS students have the option of a daily locally sourced lunch of the freshest, best ingredients around (if not from the school greenhouse itself); they get formal instruction in art and music by instructors Jenny Raccuglia and Martellies Warren; and they have gym class with Gerstung equipment and the Imagination Playground!

With so much exciting  information to absorb, Ms. Munro recognized that families might prefer to mull details over later and gave each attendee a comprehensive packet to take home. Prospective families enjoyed getting to know TNCS, while currently enrolled families relished the chance to be there taking part.

So if you are exploring options for where to educate your child(ren), register for an Admissions Friday now through June 6th. Figuring out where your child will be enabled to flourish is no small decision. TNCS openly welcomes your observation, your questions, and you.


Holidays at TNCS: How Do We Celebrate?

Decorating the maypole to herald Spring.

Decorating the maypole to herald Spring.

With Spring celebrations of all kinds popping out of the calendar left and right like whac-a-moles, it seems like a good time to explore The New Century School‘s special take on holidays. Rather than shying away from holidays, which often include a religious component, nondenominational TNCS opens its wide embrace to any and all. Though none are strictly observed, all are respected and welcome topics of exploration. And, as a multicultural, multilingual school with a diverse international student body, opportunities abound to do so, both as part of the curriculum and to enhance it.

Holiday celebrations offer an ideal opportunity to teach children about global cultures and traditions as well as history and geography.

Holiday celebrations offer an ideal opportunity to teach children about global cultures and traditions as well as history and geography.

Although some resent the commercialism that almost any U.S. holiday inevitably entails, holidays present ideal cultural teaching moments, both domestic and international. In addition to culture, holidays also educate us about history and geography as well as help us mark the passage of time and differentiate between the seasons. They serve real, important functions in the annual cycle. Finally, they bring together loved ones (or Peeps, if you will).

So, as the Northern Hemisphere bursts into bloom following the recent vernal equinox, which marked the point at which day equals night, a festive feeling naturally overtakes many of us. From Mardi Gras to Norwuz, from Easter to Shavuot, from May Day to Earth Day, folks want to celebrate. At TNCS, celebrating holidays focuses on the tradition and rituals inherent in the associated culture. Parents are integral here; they are encouraged to share their native holidays with their child’s class, to cook the traditional food that comes with the particular celebration, teach a special dance, or do a related arts and crafts project. They introduce the class to special cultural elements but also share their’s and their children’s identities: “This is how we celebrate where I come from, and where I come from is foundational to who I am.”

Chinese language and culture is integral to TNCS's identity.

Chinese language and culture is integral to TNCS’s identity.

The students are exposed to a kaleidoscope of cultures and celebrations, which is extremely academically meaningful and enriching, and, even more importantly, they learn to truly and deeply appreciate differences and each other. As Robin Munro, TNCS Director of Admissions put it, “An important part of this school is that kids understand their own backgrounds and come in ready to share that. They know who ‘they’ are, but through all of this beautiful cultural interchange, are also able to readily appreciate who ‘you’ are.” No one is excluded; likewise no holiday or celebration is held in higher regard than any other. Maria Montessori believed that this multicultural inclusiveness was the way to achieve no less than world peace.

Celebrating her birth and life, Montessori style.

Celebrating her birth and life, Montessori style.

Speaking of Maria Montessori, it’s worth mentioning that, in TNCS’s primary program, student birthdays are observed with that loveliest of Montessori traditions, “Celebration of Life.” Instead of cake and icing and all the sugar-laden trappings of conventional kids’ birthdays, the emphasis is on the child’s time on earth—metaphysics for 3 to 5-year-olds. Even those who don’t observe birthdays for religious or other reasons could hardly object to this sweet ritual that helps the child understand that his or her life has purpose and meaning. Though witnessing this lovely ceremony is priceless, here is a basic description: A candle is placed in the middle of the room, and the class gathers in a circle around it. The birthday child then circles the “light” while holding a globe to symbolize the earth revolving around the sun and the passage of a year. As the child makes a revolution, significant personal events that occurred during that year are recounted, such as learning to walk. The child’s age determines the number of revolutions. While the child circulates, his or her classmates recite:

We celebrate your birth
And your place on the earth.
May the sun, moon, and stars
Bring you peace where you are.
This elementary student wanted to celebrate his half-birthday by giving his class a concert. The class gave him three encores!

This elementary student wanted to celebrate his half-birthday by giving his class a concert. The class gave him three encores!

But birthdays in the non-Montessori programs are equally special, a chance for each child to bond with his or her classmates and deepen their shared community. Parents can participate by sharing details about the child’s life or by contributing a special snack for snacktime. One elementary student even decided to celebrate his half birthday by giving a violin recital to his class. He got three encores, and the class joined in to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Happy Birthday.” Said his mother and TNCS Executive Director Jennifer Lawner:

For a student to feel empowered and comfortable enough in his environment that he can share something special with the group is a rare and wonderful thing. An education that makes this possible is completely different from one that does not. It is setting up children to be contributing members to society in a very deep way from an early age. I’m so happy that my children can go to TNCS, and that such an experience is natural for them.

Whether small and informal in the classroom or organized for the whole school, these celebrations and rituals highlight and affirm TNCS’s values and vision. By learning to deeply appreciate others, TNCS students come fully into themselves as compassionate, engaged citizens of the world. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Meet the Big Kids with TNCS!

On Wednesday, April 9th, The New Century School had the honor of hosting the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance‘s annual event, “Meet the Big Kids’ Parents.” This event featured “local parents from neighborhoods all over the city, each with at least one child older than age 8 years, [to provide] the inside scoop on the challenges and benefits of parenting the school-aged child in our urban environment.” TNCS was perfectly situated to host this one, with plans to open its very own middle school in the Fall of 2016.

A synopsis is provided here if you missed the event or just want to revisit some of these important themes.

More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids' Parents (and the kids) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids’ Parents (and the kids) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

The event was very well organized and designed to accommodate working parents. A happy hour with complimentary light fare and wine gave attendees time to arrive at a leisurely pace, mingle, and recharge before getting down to business. The turnout was high—how to raise healthy, happy older children in downtown Baltimore is evidently foremost on the minds of city parents! DBFA solicited questions for the panel in advance to make sure everyone’s concerns were addressed in a timely fashion. So how do they do it? How do downtown parents manage “without yards, two-car garages, and shopping malls”?

To get things started, panelists explained what it is about Baltimore that has them committed to city living. “Has to be the diversity,” said a Federal Hill dad who grew up in a small New England town. The wealth of resources, such as easy-to-access harp lessons, was another advantage he cited. One mother expressed her love of the walkability of her Fell’s Point neighborhood and joked that it’s also the perfect excuse to prolong the process of getting her son a driver’s license. She also appreciates the sense of community pervading her neighborhood. Another Fell’s Point mom echoed loving walkability and that her pre-teen and teenage daughters can travel about independently to pick up groceries and snacks or go browse the local comics shop. She also appreciates the breadth of school choice available in Baltimore that allowed her to pick just the right schools to amplify and enhance her daughters’ particular strengths. A Canton mom expressed that her and her husband always assumed they’d move out of the city once children arrived, but found they preferred to stay and have been thrilled with their decision because of good schooling and the confidence and empowerment that city life has given their sons. A Federal Hill mom likes the small-town-in-a-city feel that is uniquely Baltimore. Neighbors look out for neighbors, and everyone knows each other, which creates a closely knit community as well as a sort of safety net. Another Federal Hill mom also appreciates the familiarity of her neighborhood and its strong sense of community. She knows “the shopkeepers, the restaurant owners, the teachers,” she said and considers giving that up to live elsewhere not worth the price.

Meet the Big Kids’ Parents: Questions for the Panel

Questions were sorted by topic, and each panel member was invited to provide his or her own take on the issue. The panel comprised both parents and their kids, who ranged in age from 10 to 15 years. Their responses have been edited and condensed for (relative) brevity.


Where do your kids friends live? In your neighborhood or do you have to drive them around town for play dates? 

Friends tend to be within walking distance, fortunately. Although Baltimore middle and high schools do not follow neighborhood zoning, meaning that students at a given school have come from all over the city, neighborhood kids have grown up together and just naturally gravitate to each other. That, and moms say they made “blood pacts” (which drew a lot of laughter and sympathetic head nodding) to make city living work and have stuck together from infant play groups right up through middle school and beyond.

One of the best things about Baltimore is the diversity. That being said, our child has started to ask for play dates with children who come from a much different background and we are not sure if we feel comfortable allowing our child to go to someone’s house that may not have some of the same rules, level of parental supervision, etc. How did you handle this?

This question really isn’t unique to Baltimore or even to cities, for that matter. Parents are going to vet the households of their kids’ potential playmates before sending them over. “Know the parents; know the kids,” said a Fell’s Point mom. It’s that simple. And, if you can’t always achieve a level of familiarity you’re comfortable with, meet for playdates on neutral ground, such as at the park. Backgrounds might be vastly different, but diligent parents aren’t unique to one type of family or another, said another mom. You can kind of sense it. The resident dad said the distrust is mutual. Crossing boundaries is hard, he said, but Baltimore and the country at large can’t make social progress until we learn how to explore the other side.

Urban Challenges

We moved across the city to a larger row house for more space. So space is not an issue, however, there are times we do wish we had a garage and yard. How do your kids feel about not having a yard? Where do they play? At your local park or front/back yard if you have one?

Green spaces abound in Baltimore, as the panelists enthusiastically attested. Baltimore parks are basically like expanded back yards, according to the kids, where everyone meets up and plays and hangs out. Then again, this is a city, and some kids choose the more urban atmosphere of the alley, where they can play soccer and lacrosse, for example. These cosmopolitan kids know how to warn of approaching cars and to stay safe. Many of these kids have never known a different environment and don’t experience the lack of a back yard as any kind of disadvantage in the first place. “Kids know what they know,” in the words of one mom. Sidewalks are fun places to play, too! And, as she put it, “Yeah, [so and so] might have a great backyard, but does he have a water taxi?” Great point!

Our children love all of the fun attractions and events that take place in the city and are truly happy. As they get older, do you feel like your children were happy with their urban lifestyle?

The kids fielded this one, exclusively, and very enthusiastically. Simply put, they love living in the city! Far from outgrowing what the city has to offer, they mentioned the wealth of fun, stimulating things there are to do at any and all ages. They also enjoy feeling sorta special à la “That Girl”! They’re urbane, shopping and going out to eat along the harbor in gaggles and thoroughly enjoying it. “Where else can you do that?” asked one girl rhetorically. They know how to get around with public transportation to school or activities. They’re savvy and independent, and these qualities will serve them well through adolescence into adulthood.

Have you had problems with crime in school?

In fact, big school-related violent crimes seem to happen outside the city. Petty crimes such as having a cell phone stolen at a bus stop are easily avoided, said the parents. Teach your kids a few common sense practices, like don’t walk around the city with your valuables on display, they said. The kids spoke up to say they feel safe, despite not always going to school in “the best neighborhoods.” As must be the case in any U.S. school these days, they are coached on what to do in a variety of adverse circumstances.


How do you deal with freedom/extending the “leash”? I feel like if we were living in the suburbs I’d be able to say to my oldest go out and play . . . but in the city you can’t really do that. Any suggestions for letting him feel like I’m trusting him to do more but still being safe?

A Fell’s Point mom turned this question on its head and made a really great point in so doing. “I feel like we can extend the leash more because we live in the city,” she said. The assumption tends to be that cities are dangerous and suburbs are safe, but relevant data hardly bears that out. City neighbors are closer in proximity and more likely to be looking out for each other, for example. Another great point she made is that with so much to do in the city, kids are less likely to go looking for trouble. Another parent pointed out that this generation of parents is much more cautious to begin with; it’s not that the city is inherently more dangerous for kids. Finally, one mom shared her strategies for reeling out freedom gradually. As your child successfully handles each milestone, he or she is granted a little more at a time, such as 15 minutes of independent exploration at the aquarium and then meeting back up/checking in at the cafeteria. “It’s really just another version,” she said, of the same kind of freedom suburban parents give. Kids can go three or four houses away to play but probably aren’t going all the way across town by themselves.

Afterschool Activities

Where do your afterschool/weekend activities take place? Suburbs? In the city/close by? 

This is one area where Baltimore has the hands down advantage. The variety and quality of available extracurricular activities is staggering. Whether your kids are into art, music, drama—whatever—there’s plenty to do! And much of it is even free. With sports, the answer is a little different, according to these parents, but that’s just the way it is no matter where you live. With competitive sports, you’re almost certainly going to have do some driving because the teams travel to compete, which requires both a commitment and a bit of a lifestyle change to keep up with weekday practices and games on weekends. It’s a decision your family and your kids will probably have to make. “Don’t get into ice hockey!” warned one mom, who finds herself driving regularly up and down the east coast, though it started as “Hockey in the Hood” (more laughter). This situation is not unique to the city, each parent was quick to remind the audience, but is the state of travel leagues in the suburbs also.

Where we grew up in the suburbs, we had great sports programs. Are there many options in the city?

Without the travel league aspect, there are plenty of kids’ sports facilities in the city, probably more than one in your neighborhood alone! Coppermine and DuBurns came up repeatedly. The Lingo Leap (where we were all sitting, coincidentally) also offers plenty of fun, unique ways to engage in physical activity!

Our child does Fitness Fun and Games after school. Are there any options for older children?

This, again, is far from a troublesome issue. One working mom explained that her daughters like to hang out at the library after school with their friends. They get their homework done there as a bonus! Each school also usually offers really terrific afterschool options, which vary from tennis to volleyball to the Audubon Society to mandolin lessons. This, said one mom, is quite different from county schools who don’t offer such school-based afterschool clubs. Another parent suggested making the afterschool offerings a criterion for choosing the middle school and high school that’ll best suit your child.

Schools (the Biggie!)

We were lucky enough to get into a great public charter school. It runs from preschool to 8th grade. But now I’m already starting to worry about high school. (My oldest is ONLY in 1st grade but I’m a planner!) Have you been through the high school process? What are your thoughts? I think that is weighing heavily on my mind as we start thinking about our next (forever) home.

The high school process is not easy, said parents and kids alike, but it’s well worth it—moreover you’re amply prepared for it in middle school. Baltimore is unique in “matching” students to schools much like is done for medical students looking for a residency hospital. There are no neighborhood-zoned schools any longer. Each child picks five schools and ranks them according to preference, then makes his or choice among those that awarded acceptance. It’s a bit complicated, but it means that your child goes to school where he or she wants to, which must make a dramatic difference in the overall high school experience.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t that many great ones to choose from, currently. Of course we have great private schools, but public options really narrow in the high school realm. The kids, however, explained “shadowing” at various highs schools and that, instead of being disappointed by their lack of choice, were almost equally enamored of each school they toured. Their excitement for high school was palpable.

As if reading the collective audience mind, the Federal Hill dad spoke next and “threw some numbers” on the problem, because many of us were probably wondering if our kids would be facing the same glorious choices that the panel kids described, or would ours not fare so well? The available spots in Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore City College, Baltimore School for the Arts, and Western High School, for example, which are Blue Ribbon schools universally considered outstanding, are enough to ensure that kids in the upper quartiles of eligibility will land one. “The fact that you’re here, concerned about your child’s education,” he continued, “says your child stands a pretty good chance.” Eligibility (except in School for the Arts, which is exclusively audition based) is based on a composite score from tests and grades in middle school, and each school weights aspects of the score differently, depending on the thrust of the school (i.e., science or art driven). Choosing a school, moreover, is based on many nonacademic aspects, and you and your child will make the choice based on what’s right for you and your circumstances.

Also, Baltimore has a way to go, said one mom, to develop the same diversity of options for high school that we have for elementary. And that’s only going to happen, she said, if families stay in the city and demand it.

Our son was lucky enough to get into a great public school that goes through 8th grade. Unfortunately, it is across the city and can be a nightmare cutting across the city. We realize that there are others who travel much farther for school. As they get older, are there transportation options?

Carpooling is a popular way to address this very real issue, so that each family is only having to drive a couple times per week. Traffic snarls, I83—driving any distance within the city can be a huge hassle. Or, not so much, said one mom. She embraces this opportunity to chat with her 15-year-old daughter who is not very forthcoming about what’s going on in her life under less “captive” circumstances.

For the parents who are sending their children to a Baltimore City Public school—do you have any safety concerns? Do you feel like they are getting a quality education and on par with other children their age?

This was another one that parents downright rejected. One mom pointed out that there’s really nothing to the stereotype that suburban schools are good and city schools are bad. Another mom cited hard data, and, if anything, her daughter’s school outperforms those in the county. Why? One mom says it’s because city schools, frankly, have to try harder. The resident dad likewise picked apart the assumption that private is better than public. There followed several personal anecdotes about school experience, with the upshot that everyone is doing just fine. A mom then spoke up with some great advise to visit the school under consideration during a typical day to see what going there is really like. Do you like what’s happening there? Is it a good fit for your child? She finished with, “You know your kid better than anybody else. You’re the expert on your child. Some kids need more structure; some are really going to do better in an environment where they can explore. You know your kid.” Another mom chimed in to say make note of what you don’t like also, because no school is going to be perfect. Which imperfections can you live with?

The bottom line is, not an audience member could have walked away without being utterly reassured that raising a family in downtown Baltimore is not only fine, but that it confers lots of advantages over suburban life. The kids on the panel were bright, articulate, self-confident, and clearly happy. They spoke for themselves in more ways than one!

Cultivating a Growth Mindset at TNCS

“You can do hard things,” author Barbara Kingsolver regularly told her Montessori-educated children as they were growing up. The independence that the Montessori method fosters in the youngest of children manifests later as the perseverance to work through difficult math problems, learn another language, and make deadlines in upper grades. And there’s that word again—perseverance. It has peppered this blog ever since author Paul Tough spoke at the Patterson Park Public Charter School during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 about his latest book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Power to Succeed. Since then, grit and perseverance (they’re never solo anymore, always hand in hand, the Brangelina of the education world) have become superstars, rising meteorically to the top of the class. So pervasive has perseverance become that it even gets billed as one of the skills your preschooler will learn by watching “Peter Rabbit” on Nick, Jr.! (Peter is always getting into scrapes and must think on his furry feet, take chances, and make a few mistakes before ultimately avoiding the hungry Mr. Fox’s stewpot or the broadside of angry Mr. MacGregor’s garden spade by the end of the show.)

The New Century School, although strictly Montessori only in the primary program, embodies the principles of independent learning, self-guided discovery, and the curiosity to delve deeply into a topic of inquiry throughout its curricula, from primary all the way up through elementary. Independence, curiosity, the wherewithal to see something through . . . what does it all add up to? Self-esteem, which, in turn, cultivates better learning. In an interview with The Sun, Kingsolver explained“There’s this myth that self-esteem comes from making everything easy for your children and making sure they never fail. If they never encounter hardship or conflict, the logic goes, they’ll never feel bad about themselves. Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s not even a human life. Kids learn self-esteem from mastering difficult tasks. It’s as simple as that.”

Authors Kingsolver and Tough aren’t just waxing poetic, either. “Grit” in the education context (as in the persistence, determination and resilience needed to succeed at learning) was coined by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth, who won a MacArthur Genius grant for her pioneering research. Thanks to work like hers, we now recognize that academic mastery requires an enormous outlay of time and effort as well as being able to start over if at first we don’t succeed (something that artists of every stripe have always intuited). The next logical step must be to figure out how to systematically inculcate grit, perseverance, and the self-esteem they engender in students. Can grit be taught?

Mindset Works

Mindset Works has developed the Brainology curriculum to teach students that they have the power to learn. IQ is not ultimate benchmark for learning!

Mindset Works has developed the Brainology curriculum to teach students that they have the power to learn. IQ is not ultimate benchmark for learning!

According to Janna Peskett, Curriculum and Professional Learning Specialist at Mindset Works®, yes it can! Profiled recently on NPR’s Morning Edition, Mindset Works’ flagship product is the Brainology curriculum, which is designed to cultivate a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. “Growth mindset,” the brainchild of Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, means believing that success comes from effort, not inborn intelligence or talent. Dr. Dweck is a cofounder of Mindset Works, and, like the gritty Dr. Duckworth, hopes to help students believe that not only are frustration and mistakes part of learning, but that intelligence is not static—it can be developed; it can grow.

Mrs. Peskett says, “Cultivating a growth mindset is connected to the grit and perseverance movement, but goes a step further into developing student agency.” Students who have a fixed mindset tell themselves things like, “This just isn’t my thing” or “It’s [so and so’s] fault that I can’t do this” in response to failure. Eventually, avoiding the risk of failure becomes habit, and scholastic progress comes to a screeching halt. With a growth mindset, by contrast, students faced with failure ask themselves, “What can I learn from this?” and “What different strategy can I approach this with next time?”. “Whereas fear of making mistakes holds students back, struggling and taking risks facilitates learning,” explains Mrs. Peskett.

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed, whereas a fixed mindset holds that intelligence is static

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed, whereas a fixed mindset holds that intelligence is static


Underwritten by a grant from the Raikes Foundation (“Empowering young people to change their lives”), Brainology is currently being implemented in eight Washington, D.C. middle schools. The D.C. school system is undertaking this pilot year as a research study to determine whether the curriculum’s concrete strategies will improve education outcomes in its underserved communities. For example, in one lesson, students are taught about how negative emotions can interfere with learning and are given four specific strategies for circumventing those negative emotions:

  • Square breathing: Inhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts. This allows time for emotion to drain out from the frontal lobe and let the rational brain take over.
  • Positive self-talk: Reframe negative thoughts in a positive way. “I don’t understand this word” becomes “I don’t understand it yet, but if I ask for help or practice a different strategy, over time, I will get it.” (Recall that Dr. Bonnie Zucker named similar strategies in her recent TNCS presentation.)
  • Visualization: Visualize a desired outcome; see yourself doing it. “I want to read this book from start to finish.”
  • Avoiding “fight or flight”: Recognize that the brain is sensing a threat when, for example, the palms start to sweat. “Recognize it, name it, and then let it go,” says Mrs. Peskett.
Just like our muscles, our brains can be shaped and toned---worked out.

Just like our muscles, our brains can be shaped and toned—worked out.

Brainology is a blended curriculum (some takes place in class and some online) and is appropriate for 4th through 10th graders. Says. Mrs. Peskett, “it all boils down to helping students believe that their brains are malleable.” She sums up this concept of neuroplasticity by telling kids, “You can change your intelligence through effort.” Because fixed mindsets can affect students of all socioeconomic backgrounds and prevent them from realizing their potential, Brainology potentially has quite a broad appeal. Even at TNCS, where cultivating growth mindsets is inherently part of the everyday curriculum, students naturally experience frustration, negative thinking, and anxiety. Helping them learn how to respond to failure can subvert such barriers to learning. Of course, exercise, sleep, and nutrition also play important roles and are integral to Brainology. Certain foods (e.g., those containing omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, etc.) increase neuronal communication; exercise also gets those synapses firing. Sleep optimizes waking brain function. But all of this relates back to those conjoined concepts, grit and perseverance. “Everything you learn from is going to require you to take a risk and possibly fail,” says Mrs. Peskett.

We can help our kids recognize that they can do hard things.


What’s your mindset? Find out here.

Want more Mindset Works resources? Click here.

Find Brainology and Mindset Works on Facebook here.

Read about the perils of overpraising your kids here.