TNCS Elementary Students To Enter BGE Video Contest!

Wires Down Video Challenge


Mr. McGonigal’s 3rd- and 4th-graders welcome BGE to their class.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) is running its third annual “Wires Down Video Challenge” among elementary schools in their service area to raise kids’ awareness about the importance of electrical safety, and guess who is participating this year? The New Century School‘s 3rd- and 4th-graders, that’s who!

The contest hearkens back to a widely broadcast BGE commercial from 2000 in which a very catchy, “do not, do not, do not touch” jingle got the message out to thousands of kids about what not to do if they encounter a downed electrical wire. The current video challenge encourages elementary students to create their own 30- to 45-second version of this kid-friendly public service announcement.

This contest is no small potatoes, either—the first-place prize is $10,000! To win, Mr. McGonigal’s STEM class will need to harness all their creative and technical skills as well as demonstrate impeccable teamwork and school spirit. To get the ball rolling, a team of three BGE employees visited TNCS on October 15th to give a presentation on downed wires. After educating the class, Mr. Dave Himlin, Mr. Simon Benjamin, and Miss Faviola Donato-Galindo then quizzed them on electrical power. Correct answers earned the proud students their very own BGE hardhats. Not surprisingly, each of Mr. McGonigal’s science-savvy students was crowned. “Doing these school visits is a lot of fun,” said Mr. Dave. “We all enjoy the kids’ enthusiasm.”


Video brainstorming

“You could win a lot of money for your school,” said Miss Faviola after the presentation. “After the submission period ends, ask your friends and family members to go online and vote for your video.” (We’ll be sure to keep you updated about that process, readers!) “We’ll announce the winners in January,” she said.

With their creative energy sparked, the lucky kids then got to help carry the specialized BGE equipment back out to the work truck and got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat. This truck is called a “boom lift” and is outfitted with a cherry picker on the back to lift engineers as high as 6o feet up to the height of power lines.

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They have until November 14th to get their video submission in, so send them all your positive “energy”! Shooting begins this week!

Quick Facts:  

• At least one winning school will be chosen from each participating county.

• Since the contest’s inception, BGE has awarded $50,000 to fund school enrichment programs.

• Possible awards include:

  • BGE Star Power Award – $10,000
  • BGE Spotlight Award – $5,000
  • BGE Cast and Crew Award (awarded for most student effort) – $3,000
  • BGE Director’s Cut Award (awarded to the most creative entry) – $3000
  • BGE Golden Pipes Award – (awarded to best musical performance) – $3,000
  • BGE Screen Gem Award (awarded to best entry in each county) – $1,000
  • Rock The Vote! Award (awarded to the entry with the most votes) – Backpacks and safety gear

• Visit BGE’s Electrical Safety page for more information on how to stay safe near energy equipment.

• Report downed power lines to BGE immediately by calling 1.800.685.0123.

• BGE turns 200 years old June 17, 2016 and is both the oldest gas utility in the country and one of Maryland’s longest-running businesses.

Theatre Workshop Promotes Team-Building among TNCS Elementary Students

On Thursday afternoons at The New Century School, elementary students attend Theatre Workshop with Alex Hewett. Immersed readers might already be acquainted with Ms. Hewett because she’s often doing something newsworthy and worthwhile around school! (See TNCS Drama Camp Brings Out Kids’ Inner Artists and Summertime Theatrics: Drama Camp at TNCS for previous posts.)

Drama Camp instructor, therapist, actress, and mom, the illustrious Alex Hewett!

TNCS theatre workshop instructor Alex Hewett.

Ms. Hewett is an accomplished actress in her own right and deeply believes that skills an actor/actress uses on stage translate to daily life. These skills can make us better communicators, boost our self-confidence and self-esteem, and help us trust one another—collaborate and cooperate. For all of these reasons, TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali asked Ms. Hewett to host theatre workshops for the elementary classes, as part of what she calls her “invisible curriculum” to foster community, empathy, and respect.

Warming-Up Exercises

“Kids this age can find it challenging to work together because they are so full of individual energy,” said Ms. Hewett. “It’s a matter of taking that energy and using it on stage. We’re told in society to be quiet all the time, but then how do we express ourselves? That can be especially confusing for kids because they have a lot of questions; they have a lot to say. On stage, you have the freedom to express yourself.” There’s also a therapeutic component to theatre, which, for Mr. McGonigal’s homeroom class, took the form of a big expenditure of energy followed by several minutes of calm. Students were asked to collectively make the loudest noise they could—the subsequent screams were deafening—and then laugh their biggest laughs. This is followed by holding hands with eyes closed in a circle to harness their collective energy. “See what happens when we work together?” she asks the group. “Working together” is a phrase she repeats frequently, because team-building is really the thrust of this special class. She also emphasizes how the actions of one impact the group as a whole, which sends the dual message that each student belongs to this community and must show respect to its members and likewise that each is an important contributor and deserves that same respect.

Finally, they lie on stage in utter stillness, completely abandoning movement, speech, and thought for several minutes. The latter is no easy task for 8-year-olds, but they have worked up to it, and their ability to focus has clearly benefitted. In fact, all of these preparatory techniques have multiple benefits: They transition the students from the classroom to the stage, help them block out distractions, and provide a form of release. As she guided the students gently into deep savasana (“corpse pose”), she explained in a whisper that this helps them relax and get attuned to their surroundings and themselves, gain self-control, and learn self-discipline. “If you are supposed to be dead on stage, for example, it’s not going to work if you are yawning or coughing.” Good point!

That’s not to say that the energetic kiddoes don’t lose focus from time to time, but Ms. Hewett knows how to bring them back and always keeps a sense of humor. “And a gentle hush fell over the crowd . . .” she intones when the students start to get overly boisterous, and quickly her “ladies and gentlemen” are back to the task at hand.

The task at hand was rehearsal for a poem recital, in which they will alternate individual speaking parts and also speak some lines all together. But first Ms. Hewett had a fun way to physically demonstrate the results of well done collaboration. Together, they became a “machine.” “One little tiny screw falls off a machine, and the whole thing no longer works,” she said. “So I’m going to tell you one very specific thing to do, but don’t start until I tell you to start.” She configured them on stage, and away they went!

The Show Must Go On!

Ms. Hewett knows how to coax optimal performance from these kids. “How many times a day are you told to be quiet,” she asked about midway through the machine exercise. “Well, this is your chance to be heard! Work the room!” She also fields directorial suggestions and praises the kids’ efforts to be so actively involved and creative.


“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” was written by Maya Angelou and illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The workshop culminated with poem rehearsal, and the class will recite the poem for the primary classes during a special performance at the end of October. Here again, Ms. Hewett has integrated a therapeutic component with performance in her choice of poems. “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” by Maya Angelou delivers the message that fear can be managed; it doesn’t have to disarm us completely. “We’re all afraid of things,” Ms. Hewett told the class, “But how can you change your way of thinking about the scary thing so it doesn’t take over?”

For their performance, the students will read chunks of the poem, accent with sound effects, and intersperse poem stanzas with excerpts from their own personal experience of what they might be afraid of. In preparation for this piece, each student stood and told “their story”—what frightens them. Ms. Hewett encouraged them to use strong voices and be proud. She praised one girl’s improvement in projecting and making herself heard over last week when she was considerably more timid on stage.

Inside the Actor’s Studio

“I’m coming at this from two perspectives: How do you handle your emotions, and how do you do that on stage while still having fun with it? I can’t separate team-building with kids from performing in a theater setting. The very first day we talk about safety, for instance, because we’re on a stage with an edge and with curtains and props. You have to work together to keep each safe. And you have to listen carefully. What happens if a classmate drops a line or forgets? You have to be able to keep the performance going. You all affect each other. Sometimes that’s positive, but when it’s negative you have to learn how to not let it wreck your energy.”

Alex Hewett

And that is a lesson we could all benefit from learning!

The class lines up to take a group bow after their hard work during rehearsal. Well done kids!

The class lines up to take a group bow after their hard work during rehearsal. Well done kids!

TNCS and Councilman Kraft: Outreach for Our Shared Community

Partnering for Sustainable Community Growth

One relationship that The New Century School‘s Head of School Alicia Danyali works hard to cultivate is between TNCS and the surrounding community. That’s why she maintains frequent contact with Southeast Baltimore’s Councilman Jim Kraft. Councilman Kraft’s mission for Baltimore’s first district is to keep it “safe, smart, green, and growing”—which are certainly TNCS core values as well.

Councilman Kraft’s Communications Assistant Kaitlyn Golden explained that the Office’s approach to realizing this mission is via active involvement in the district’s schools. “Parents are community stakeholders,” she said, “and so they need to stay informed about what’s going on in their community. Schools are a great way to spread the news.” In addition, Councilman Kraft is passionate that Southeast Baltimore students are getting the best education and the best school experience possible. This does not stop with the student, however, but also means that families are getting the support they need to keep their kids in school and thriving.

Ms. Golden says that to this end, at the beginning of each school year, Councilman Kraft and members of his staff meet with each school principle in the district to map out what kind of assistance they might need from his Office. Some are more receptive to this partnership than others. “Ms. Danyali is great,” said Ms. Golden, “and is very proactive. We really appreciate when schools come to us with what they need because that’s how we can best help them.”

Thus, last month they paid their annual visit to TNCS to make plans, brainstorm initiatives, and discuss what interventions the Office could most helpfully make to further both the school’s individual goals and their shared goals for the community. “TNCS has a great set-up,” said Ms. Golden. “We love this wonderful learning environment, especially the greenhouse, which is such a unique outdoor education site. Ms. Danyali hopes to expand greenhouse learning opportunities, in fact, and asked the Office to mediate on TNCS’s behalf with BGE to move the big green electric boxes that occupy much of the available space surrounding the greenhouse. Negotiations are ongoing!


TNCS students regularly play at the Thames Street Park Playground. TNCS is helping fundraising efforts for a much-needed playground upgrade!

“Councilman Kraft is particularly pleased that the school is so involved in the community,” continued Ms. Golden, citing TNCS’s involvement with the Thames Street Park Playground upgrade as an example and explaining how the Office was able to facilitate that interaction. TNCS has just launched its Mixed Bag Designs fundraiser, proceeds from which will be donated to the Rebuild Thames Street Park Playground renovations. Order forms are being sent home with TNCS students and must be returned by 11/15/14.

What Else Is Happening?

So glad you asked! This fall two initiatives run concurrently—the Healthy Harbor Poster and Recycling Contests. Readers, you may recall that TNCS won last year’s Recycling Contest (read more here: TNCS Wins Southeast Baltimore City Schools Recycling Competition!). Katie Miller is the contact for the Recycling Contest, which began October 6th and runs through November 14th, and has already been working with TNCS students to help organize and manage this worthy project.


Let’s make TNCS Recycling Superheroes 2 years running!

Each participating school creates a Recycling Team of 10–15 students, who collect their school’s weekly recycling and report the amount to Councilman Kraft’s Office. Prizes go to the school who collects the most recycling, based on a per-student ratio. Ms. Golden also helped out with this project by donating recycling bins for use in the multipurpose room and delivering them in person. Here’s to maintaining championship status TNCS! Give your TNCS student a leg up by reviewing What is recyclable.

The Healthy Harbor Poster asks students to draw their version of what a healthy harbor looks like. Winners will be selected for each of the following categories: Grades K–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–8. This contest also started October 6th, and submissions will be accepted through November 14th. “We welcome all creative, thoughtful, and visionary Southeast students to participate!” said Ms. Golden. To download a entry form, click 2014 Healthy Harbor Poster Contest Flyer. Winning posters will be displayed at the Enoch Pratt Southeast Anchor library.

“And that’s not all,” she said. “There are other exciting projects I’m looking forward to following up on in the coming year, like the ‘If I Were Mayor’ Essay Contest for 4th graders this spring!” TNCS also looks forward to continuing this fruitful partnership with Councilman Kraft’s Office and doing our part to make Southeast Baltimore safe, smart, green, and growing!


Southeast Baltimore kids, show us what your version of a healthy harbor looks like!

Meet TNCS’s Newest Chinese Teachers!

On August 8th, 2014, The New Century School welcomed two new teachers from China, Cong (a.k.a., “Grace”) Jun and Fan (a.k.a., “Fiona”) Hongtao, courtesy of the Confucius Institute. Our new guests will remain with us for 1 year to fulfill their contract with the Confucius Institute (which hosts teacher-training programs for teaching Chinese as a foreign language) and are rooming together in Fell’s Point in a TNCS apartment used to accommodate out-of-town staff. The teachers have been in Baltimore exactly 2 months now and have settled in nicely, so this is a great chance to get to know them better! In their words, this post “is a great channel for more parents and staff members of TNCS to get to know us.” This is the first visit to the United States for both of them.


Cong Laoshi, from Shandong Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Cong (pronounced “tsong”) Laoshi is from Liaocheng city, in the Shandong Province of China. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Liaocheng University. Before joining TNCS, she worked as an educator for more than 20 years and has won many awards and accolades for excellent teaching. She is now very interested in primary education, which she believes is the most important period in a person’s life. She has been exploring interesting ways to teach children. Cong Laoshi plans to share Chinese art, culture, and cuisine with TNCS’s community.

When asked what she is most enjoying about being here so far, Cong Laoshi replied, “I like the children here, and I like the teachers. I especially like the parents—everyone is so friendly and kind. Everyone cooperates so well together—perhaps our school is famous for this?” You are indeed correct, Cong Laoshi! TNCS is very big on community building :)! This is her first time in the United States, and she is enjoying this trip. She plans to travel when she can and has already visited Washington, D.C. along with Fan Laoshi, in addition to Baltimore. Her favorite food so far is the iconic American hot dog, which she eats as often as she can.

The Confucius Institute connected Cong Laoshi to TNCS. After a series of tests at progressively larger levels (i.e., local up through provincial), she came out on top and was selected by the institute to become a teacher/volunteer in the United States. When she interviewed with Xie Laoshi (a.k.a., “Jewel”) via Skype, she says that the type of education TNCS offered appealed to her very much. Moreover, “it was a good chance for me to learn about the real America,” she said. “I will have a chance to communicate with many educators.” She laughed when she explained the irony that she had been teaching English in China for the last 10 years, then flipped and came to the United States to teach Chinese!


Fan Laoshi, from Liaoning Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Fan (pronounced “fun”) Laoshi is from the Liaoning Province of China. She was an English major in college and is now an Associate Professor of English. She says she has always had a dream to come to the United States and that, for many Chinese, coming to America to pursue their dreams signifies their diligence and is a symbol of excellence. For Fan Laoshi, the United States shares similarities with her homeland and also offers differences. “The local people are so friendly; this was my first impression of America,” she said. “I was also pleased to find that the climate here is very similar to what I am accustomed to in the Northeast of China. Baltimore has a clear division of four seasons, just like we do,” she said.

Fan Laoshi also connected with TNCS via the Confucius Institute. In order to advance in her career, she says, she needs to work at least 3 months in an English-speaking country, but she also wants to “broaden her horizons personally,” she said. “The teaching environment at TNCS is so different here from that of my local university. I get the opportunity to perceive the local culture, the American way of life, and the American way of education. This is the biggest achievement for me.” She particularly wanted to work at TNCS, she says, because she has a 7-year-old daughter in Grade 2 in China and wanted to be in a comparable stage in an American elementary school. The parental point of view on education is also something she is enjoying studying.

Fan Laoshi is amused by how independent even the youngest TNCS students are and how they assert themselves. She attributes this can-do attitude largely to the Montessori approach and says she hopes to employ some of it back in China. “We should learn to give our children more freedom, more space,” she said. She feels very lucky to be working at TNCS and respects the educational style.

Our two teacher/volunteers alternate mornings and afternoons in Mr. Warren’s and Mrs. Lawson’s classrooms, immersing the primary students in Mandarin Chinese (they speak only Chinese within the classroom). Both find American students to be admirably self-motivated, and especially so at TNCS. “In our country, we help our children a lot, but, here, they are very independent. They know a lot and can do a lot of things by themselves!” said Cong Laoshi.

The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM) is TNCS’s primary vehicle for interaction with the Confucius Institute overall. CIM’s mission statement is: “Established with support from Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International (CLCI), CIM promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” At TNCS, we are grateful to have our Chinese ambassadors, Cong Laoshi, Fan Laoshi, and all of our other Chinese instructors both past and present, to acquaint our students with the rich Chinese culture and help teach Mandarin Chinese.

Welcome, ladies! We hope you have a wonderful year at TNCS!

TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose!


Power with Purpose!

The New Century School has always prioritized environmental sustainability through recycling, community responsibility, and supporting local agriculture to name just a few ways. TNCS has also always strived to use and to support green energy. Remember our Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge? Although Clean Currents was shuttered due to circumstances beyond their control, TNCS has now partnered with Viridian, a larger socially and environmentally responsible energy company. Says Head of School Alicia Danyali, “Leaving a smaller carbon footprint can make a big long-term difference for our environment. The more invested, the bigger impact on conservation.” TNCS has once more gone green!

Raise Money for TNCS while Lowering Your Carbon Footprint!

Even better, Viridian is sponsoring a TNCS fundraising initiative. By enrolling in Viridian’s affordable green energy service, you can monetarily support TNCS. That’s right—every time you pay your utility bill, TNCS receives income! More importantly, you can make a significant and measurable impact on the environment. Says Viridian’s Eric Forseter, “We help TNCS raise money and simultaneously help green the Earth. Instead of paying a sales person a commission, for every electric meter that signs up under TNCS, Viridian donates a minimum of $24 a year to the school. If 20 families sign up, that’s nearly $500 in annual donations.” Not bad! Key here is that this is an ongoing donation. Unlike Clean Currents that made a 1-time contribution to TNCS per enrolled family, Viridian pays out every time you pay your utility bill. “This goes on forever!” said Mr. Forseter.

And it’s so easy! Instructions for enrolling are given below, and you continue to get the same delivery, service, and billing from your current utility (BGE for most of us). Enrollment in either of two electric options (50% green or 100% green) takes less than 5 minutes. Mr. Forseter explains that the 50% option costs less and is therefore what many people opt for (saving the earth while saving money). Even going 50% green for 1 month is the equivalent of recycling for 1 year, so just imagine what going 100% green would do for the environment! Enrollment in a green gas option is also available.

Seeing Green

Check out these truly wonderful benefits—benefits to our shared environment, to our beloved school, and to your individual pocket.

  • Viridian donates a minimum of $24 annually for every customer TNCS enrolls.
  • Choosing Viridian will result in an average offset of 11,000 pounds of carbon annually, the equivalent of planting 134 trees.
  • Your rates will remain competitive with your utility, and your billing service will never change (you are only choosing the supplier of your energy, not your utility, which distributes the energy).

Note that Viridian is guaranteeing a better rate than the utility can provide on the 50% green option. The average household can expect to save $5 to $50 per month. “A great deal is that the company will refund you 110% if their rate exceeds the utility’s,” says Mr. Forseter.

How To Enroll with Viridian

To sign up, you will need your electric account number; BGE customers will need your Electric Choice ID on your bill:

  1. Go to (Make sure you have your energy account number.)
  2. Click the “Become a customer” link at the top of the page.
  3. Enter your zip code and electric utility, then select Electric. Select Gas if you want a carbon offset for Gas supply.
  4. Follow the steps to enroll in the 50% fixed-rate plan 3DOM for electric and 25% carbon offset for gas (if you choose 100%, your environmental contribution will be higher but your bills will increase).
  5. If you are interested in going solar, check the box to receive a free consultation with SolarCity, the solar partner for the program. Solar customers result in a donation of $100 to TNCS and ongoing annual payments.
  6. Questions? Contact Eric Forseter ( or call Viridian Customer Care at (866) 663-2508 for more information.

Please spread the word—Viridian is not just local to Maryland, but is also licensed in Washington, D.C. on up through Massachusetts. As long as your friends and families sign up for responsible energy under the special TNCS-specific Viridian URL given above, TNCS will reap the fund-raising benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please click FAQs for answers to many of your questions. Then join us and the more than 3,800 other non-profit organizations in “greening the energy grid!”

TNCS elementary parent volunteer LaShon Johnson ( will be coordinating this fundraising event. Ms. Johnson will be contacting the TNCS community with additional information as this fundraising initiative gets going!