Help TNCS Support Pratt’s Summer Reading Program!

The New Century School is pleased to be helping Enoch Pratt Free Library and Pratt Contemporaries get the word out about their summer reading programs to prevent the loss of academic ground known as “summer slide” that can occur when school is out and students lack scholastic materials to stay engaged with. “In 2014, more than 38,500 kids participated in Pratt’s summer programs, with more than 15,800 children enrolled in the cornerstone Summer Reading Program. According to last year’s records, kindergarten through 5th-grade participants logged more than 5.2 million minutes of reading, and teen participants read over 8,000 books,” said Pratt’s Deputy Director of Institutional Advancement, Shelly Terranova.

Studies show that reading helps reduce the academic loss that is “nearly impossible to make up, compounds over time, and particularly impacts children in underserved communities.” (Read more about summer slide in Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS.) Pratt’s 9-week Summer Reading Program encourages kids to keep reading during the summer months by making it fun with incentives (see below) and an annual theme. This year’s theme is “Every Hero Has a Story.” Participants are treated to performances by musicians, dancers, magicians, storytellers, authors, illustrators, and cartoonists. The program runs through August 8th.

Says Pratt Contemporaries board member and TNCS mom Jung Lieu, “Our focus is on funding children’s programs at the library and promoting child literacy. Many Baltimore city libraries serve as a safe haven for children, especially in underserved communities.” For just $60 each, you can sponsor one or more children for a whole summer’s worth of library programs. Footage from last year shows just how wonderful this program really is.

This year, however, brings even more compelling reasons to become a sponsor. “I think the Summer Reading Program campaign this year is very timely because of recent unrest in Baltimore city, and this is a way for us to be able to have a positive impact in these children’s lives and promote education as the solution,” said Mrs. Lieu. TNCS will be coordinating various community outreach efforts on an ongoing basis, but in the meantime, please consider sponsoring one or more children this summer.

Another great way to participate is by registering your own pre-K to rising 5th-grade children, who can win prizes (not to mention keep their brains fit) just by reading! Visit http://www.prattlibrary.org/home/summerreadingkids.aspx for details on how to register at your local library branch, see what fun prizes your kids can win, access suggested reading lists, and download a free tracker to chart your child’s progress. Got library fines? You can even read them away!

Finally, here are Tips for reading as a family from Baltimore City Schools for promoting reading as a daily activity.

TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor Report Card Release!

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TNCS upper elementary enjoyed their last field trip of the year that was fun and educational. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Record.)

On June 4th, The New Century School‘s upper elementary class took a walking trip to Harbor East to attend Baltimore’s annual “Healthy Harbor Report Card 2014 Release”. This field trip was the culminating event of STEM teacher Dan McGonigal’s yearlong in-class exploration of our local waterways—how to keep them clean, why they are so critically important, and what responsibility Baltimore citizens individually should assume regarding these bodies of water. It was an ideal theme, inviting exploration from many STEM angles, and it also set the tone for Mr. McGonigal’s extremely successful first year at TNCS. From the STEM Fair, to Earth Day community outreach in the form of storm drain stenciling, to attending the Health of the Harbor announcement, TNCS elementary students have made a deep connection with Baltimore’s very special natural environments this year.

Mr. McGonigal said that in addition to closing out the water theme of the 2014–2015 school year, he also wanted “to make the end of the year productive, but also fun for the students.” Achieved in spades if these photos are any indication!
And it’s no wonder—Baltimore has achieved something unique with its concerted efforts to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Swimmable?! Fishable?! You read correctly: Healthy Harbor is an initiative of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, and the Report Card, which is ultimately a tool that helps communicate the swimmable/fishable goal and track progress, is the result of the Waterfront’s partnership with Blue Water Baltimore (whom you may recall donated TNCS’s storm drain stenciling materials).
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The water wheel in all its glory—Fun fact: trash picked up by Mr. Trash Wheel generates power for Maryland homes!

To meet this lofty aim, which many once deemed utterly impossible, Baltimore installed the Inner Harbor Water Wheel at the end of the Jones Falls in May 2014 to intercept trash (which everyone who has ever laid eyes on the Inner Harbor recognizes as its biggest current plague). Invented by Baltimore resident John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, the water wheel has gained worldwide fame and provided the inspiration for similar water clean-up initiatives to be proposed globally, from Rio De Janeiro to Rotterdam. 

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The ingenious design of this water wheel is a “game-changer for trash in urban water bodies!”

“Mr. Trash Wheel,” as the water wheel is now known, has accomplished some pretty extraordinary feats, as his Facebook page and frequent tweets attest (#MrTrashWheel). As of this week, in fact, Mr. Trash Wheel has intercepted 205 tons of trash before it reaches the Inner Harbor in its first year, and a whopping 45 tons from this past Monday’s storm alone! This more than doubles Mr. Trash Wheel’s former single-day record of 19 tons! Read more about the water wheel.

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Mr. Trash Wheel’s first year of very hard work was commemorated with the world’s most disgusting-looking cake!

Healthy Harbor showed its appreciation for Mr. Trash Wheel’s hard work at the Report Card Release by celebrating his first birthday with a cake made of refuse—Mr. Wheel’s preferred intake, of course. And there was certainly cause to celebrate, because the Report Card—for the first time ever—showed a passing grade for Gwynns Falls! That the grade, a D–, is only barely passing is not the point. As one TNCS student remarked, “even though things seem bad, they are getting better.” That’s exactly right! Baltimore waterways are moving in the right direction. The plan is working, as presentations by representatives from the various stakeholders, including District 46 Delegate Brooke Lierman, clearly demonstrate.

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Featured on the Report Card’s cover, these John Eager Howard elementary students are part of their school’s Green Team and gave a lovely speech on cleaning up the harbor.

Delegate Lierman (and TNCS parent) said of TNCS’s attendance at the event: “Involvement by students, like those at TNCS and John Eager Howard, is instrumental in helping us to ensure that Baltimore residents of all ages are invested in and working together to create a cleaner harbor! I’m so glad that students from both of these schools were able to attend the Report Card Release to learn firsthand about the need for advocacy and involvement to bring about positive change in our City.”

Afterward, Mr. McGonigal voted the walking field trip, “an awesome experience” and was very proud of his homeroom students who were respectful and focused during the speeches and presentations. “We learned a lot about the efforts in place to improve the health of the Baltimore Harbor and other area waterways. We also learned that there is a great effort by many people who are trying to help improve the situation. I hope we as a school can get further involved in projects related to the health of the harbor,” said Mr. McGonigal. He invites your suggestion and ideas for continued work by TNCS students.

In the meantime, you can read the 2014 Report Card here. Need still more good news? It’s here—officially announced just yesterday, Canton may be getting its very own water wheel! Also visit cantonwaterwheel.com for more information and to donate in support of Baltimore’s second water-powered trash interceptor.

TNCS Elementary Field Trip: A Natural Choice

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This is one happy TNCS elementary student!

A big theme of the 2014–2015 school year for The New Century School elementary students has been environmental sustainability. Ever a core school value, STEM teacher Dan McGonigal’s special focus on conservation efforts this year made environmental sustainability the axis on which many elementary projects turned, such as the STEM Fair and storm drain stenciling.

True to his “nature,” Mr. McGonigal organized an elementary field trip to the James and Anne Robinson Nature Center last month, so all elementary divisions headed out to Howard County to visit the state-of-the-art facility. Featuring interactive exhibits on local habitats, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay, the center was the perfect destination for TNCS elementary, who love joining learning with fun and also had studied habitats and local waterways in various formats throughout the year. Said Mr. McGonigal, “We chose this trip because it provided our students with exposure to the outdoors in a local environment, which most of our students don’t get a chance to see on a regular basis. The center provided a lot of hands-on experiences that were meaningful for the students and helped them to better understand conservation efforts. They also had several differentiated lessons for the students based on age and grade level. This allowed us to choose topics that better met our areas of study this year.”

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Between the discovery room and the digital, domed nature theater inside and the walking paths alongside native plants and rain gardens outside, the center kept TNCS students happily engaged. Additionally, each of the three divisions (K/1st, 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th) was accompanied by a guide who gave mini lessons, maintained an ongoing dialogue, and directed games and activities. “It was a wonderful experience. The classes were super interactive, the kids loved walking in the woods, and the exhibits were fun. The kids had a blast and learned a lot. It was fun to leave the city for the day!” said another TNCS elementary teacher, Adriana DuPrau.

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The center is also renowned for marrying form with function—it was designed not only to teach appreciation of the environment, but its design itself demonstrates environmentally sound practices! It has earned such awards as “Best Sustainability Project of the Year in New Construction” and Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy Design) Certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council—none of which was lost on Mr. McGonigal. “The center uses earth-friendly materials, such as solar panels for geothermal heating, a permeable or porous pavement, green roof, rain garden, and more. Our third and fourth grade students focused on environmental technologies that helped the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem as part of their STEM Fair projects, and they got to see some other projects in action as well,” he said.

“It was a great trip, and our kids seemed to really enjoy it!” said Mr. McGonigal. It was certainly a great wrap-up to a very productive—and environmentally aware—year!

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