TNCS Honors Dia de los Muertos!

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Mary from Maja gave a presentation to the students about how Day of the Dead originated and what it symbolizes.

In keeping with the school’s core strength of exploring cultural heritage and traditions around the world, The New Century School students learned all about Dia de los Muertos this month. Known as the Day of the Dead in English, this Latin American holiday honors deceased loved ones each November 1st with lively festivals and celebrations. Rather than being morbid, this celebration is full of happiness and joy because those who have passed on would be insulted by mourning or sadness.

Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and maturity, to become a contributing member of the community. On this day, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.

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The handmade altar in Maja’s storefront is beautiful.

The most familiar symbols of Dia de los Muertos are the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy dress and engaged in entertaining activities. These can be seen everywhere, but especially gracing the altars or shrines that many make on which to place offerings of, for example, food, candles, incense, marigolds (the traditional flower used to honor the dead), and photos and mementos of departed souls.

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The ladies from Maja are true artists and passed on some of their craft to TNCS students.

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This is fun waiting to happen!

For this year’s Dia de los Muertos, TNCS students joined forces with Maja, a Fell’s Point boutique featuring “an international collection of clothing, jewelry, artifacts, home decor, crafts and music” to craft a special Day of the Dead display. The ladies who own and run Maja visited TNCS’s K/1st classrooms to collaborate on a sugar skull–making workshop, and the grinning, glittering, feathered, festive results can be seen in front of Maja’s altar, located on the corner of Aliceanna and Ann Streets and visible from the store windows. Maja’s unique celebration will culminate with an in-store party with “sweets, treats, laughter, music, and stories” from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sunday, November 1st. A Frida Kahlo lookalike contest is also on the itinerary—not to be missed!

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Can you spot your child’s sugar skull?

After making their sugar skulls, TNCS students watched The Book of Life (in Spanish, ¡por supuesto!), which takes place during a Day of the Dead celebration and emphasizes the importance of writing a good story for your life—fulfilling your potential, in other words. Once the sugar skulls were dry, they were taken to Maja, where you can drop by and see them . . . and maybe even leave a memento on the altar for a departed loved one.

TNCS K/1st Classes Get to the Core of Apple-Harvesting!

A trend in U.S. schools in the last few decades has been to reduce the number of field trips outside of school. Whether because this brief “truancy” from school prevents educators from attaining their stringent in-class goals or because such trips are treated as rewards for good behavior (in which case, the trip is more likely to be escapist than educational), the original purpose of field trips seems to have been largely obscured.

Fortunately, The New Century School has not forgotten that culturally enriching field trips broaden students’ minds and horizons—similar to how reading books does, except that this experience is first hand. A recent study from the University of Arkansas demonstrated that students learn quite a lot on field trips: “In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.”

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Away we go!

Last week, all three Kindergarten/First-Grade classes traveled to Milburn Orchards in Elkton, MD to learn about apple harvesting. Milburn Orchards was an appropriate destination for TNCS students for many reasons: they have been family owned and operated since 1902, they are committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices, and they offer local produce—something that TNCS’s Garden Tuck Shop values highly. Although the kids enjoyed the interactive activities and being outdoors on a gorgeous fall day, the trip was bursting with educational opportunities, from history to agriculture to engineering, so they learned bushels while having fun!

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So load up the old yellow school bus kids, field trips at TNCS are here to stay!

Cutting Edge Skills at TNCS

A recent Food for Thought article that aired on NPR explored the seemingly counterintuitive notion of letting toddlers play with knives. Sujata Gupta, the author and mother of a 3-year-old, writes, “Both my mother and mother-in-law recoiled when I suggested letting my son try his hand at chopping. Yet research, and the experience of educators, suggest that parents such as me would be wise to hand a tot a knife.”

That “recoil” is understandable, given that maternal instincts are to protect, not arm our children with implements of self-destruction. But, as Gupta discovers, allowing small children to wield real tools is a means of attaining self-efficacy, something that kids these days urgently need.

It may come as no surprise to TNCS parents that The New Century School has always operated according to this principle. TNCS primary classrooms follow the classic Montessori curriculum, a huge part of which is fostering independence, even in the very young. The Montessori philosophy is based on the observation that children learn by doing. They crave hands-on experiences, which is also a form of “play.” (In this sense, there’s a profound difference between “playing with knives” and “playing” with knives. The former is an invitation to accidents; the latter is an absorptive lesson in proper use.)

Of course, TNCS students are not handed honorary steak knives on matriculation. Step by step and through practice with preliminary “works,” they earn the privilege of using knives in the classroom for helping with food preparation in the Practical Life mode of the curriculum. Says TNCS primary teacher Martellies Warren: “I trust students with real tools once they show that they can be responsible individuals in other areas of the curriculum—such as if they have mastered or are working toward mastery in the art of using materials with care, working with materials from start to finish, working independently, caring for the classroom environment, and just overall being gentle and empathetic toward others.”

Catherine Lawson, TNCS’s most senior Montessori teacher, agrees. “Children want to do activities that include using knives; however, they know that they have to show that they are focused and responsible.” Once students have shown this level of consistency, says Mr. Warren, “they are allowed to use such tools as knives, hammers, graters, and peelers to prepare real food as well as serve themselves and each other.”

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A TNCS primary student carefully spreads hummus on mini toast.

TNCS primary teacher Maria Mosby describes her process this way: “We use knives for spreading first (hummus, cream cheese, sunflower seed butter). The kids love to practice spreading butter on their bread at lunch time, and it’s a great opportunity to help out and practice at home with toast or sandwiches.”

Once the children demonstrate responsible spreading, they can move on to slicing, starting with softer foods and progressing to firmer fruits and vegetables. “We always stay nearby, but trust that the children are capable,” said Ms. Mosby.

And that, says Mr. Warren, encapsulates the “spirit and uniqueness of the Montessori philosophy!” He says that this type of “honor system” stems from Maria Montessori’s belief that the child should self-direct. “I often tell parents to ‘let go and trust’ their little individuals. In my experience this has been one of the most challenging task for parents to do.”

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A TNCS primary student cuts cucumbers, slices bread, and spreads cream cheese to make a cucumber sandwich.

Letting go and trusting might come more easily if parents knew just how successful this model is for cultivating that self-efficacy mentioned above. Ms. Mosby offers this explanation: “I have never been let down. I think it’s the fact that the students know they are using real tools that makes such a difference. They don’t use them as weapons. They are very careful and know that tools used improperly can be harmful.”

So, as Gupta says, “Go ahead and give your toddler a kitchen knife.” You might just get breakfast in bed from your aspiring cheflets.

The Most Important Partner: You!

by Alicia Danyali, TNCS Head of School


Education reformists are clear that cooperation between school and home is essential to meeting a child’s needs, and parent involvement is where that connection is made.

From volunteering to participating in school events, each TNCS family is a member of our diverse community and a partner and stakeholder in our students’ success.

From Parent Involvement

With the school year back in full swing, transitions and boundaries ensue on everything from bedtime routines to extra-curricular interests, and the involvement in your child’s classroom community. I started to think about how all of these parental responsibilities come down to one word—partnership. We all make partnership choices for ourselves and the ones we love. We partner with our spouse, our children’s teachers, colleagues, coaches, tutors, leaders, camps, friends, family members, caregivers, and the list goes on.

To me, partnership is defined as “I have your back and you have mine.” “We are in this together” with similar understanding that respect and honesty will pursue.

The many synonyms that come up online when I search the word “partnership” also deepen and add nuance to this basic definition: cooperation • association • collaboration • coalition • alliance • union • affiliation • relationship • connection.

You and your family have chosen to partner with The New Century School for the 2015–16 school year, and here is what you can expect from TNCS’s role in this partnership:

  • Learners that are influenced daily through world language and culture.
  • Curricula that are inquiry based, hands-on, and exploratory.
  • A safe, supportive, nurturing community for the entire family.
  • Character development in every aspect of the day that embraces and demonstrates respect and empathy.
  • Individualized instruction based on student need that fosters Independence and self motivation to learn.

I invite you to visit this link to explore additional articles, videos, and other resources to help you participate in and contribute to  your child’s educational milieu and a rich and meaningful partnership with TNCS. Because it’s true—you are the most important partner in your child’s education.

I look forward to engaging with you to fulfill and go beyond your expectations.

TNCS Performs at Continental Bridge Celebration!

In 2015, Baltimore City marks the 30-year anniversary of its sister city relationships with Xiamen in China and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Creative Alliance hosted a Chinese and Dutch art exhibition as well as an event to explore these cultures through various art and movement workshops and performances on September 26th.

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Xiamen is home to many U.S. companies and, as a port of call for international merchant ships, is the heart of Chinese trade with Baltimore City.

The New Century School elementary students were there to support the Baltimore–Xiamen Sister City Committee by singing two Chinese songs and performing one dance. BXSCC ” . . . has been and continues to be an active sister city creating opportunities in Baltimore City and Xiamen, China for business, education, and cultural exchanges” for the past 30 years. Xiamen is in China’s Fujian Province, along the southeast coast and is a port city like Baltimore.

Education Chair Vida Willis was on hand to express her appreciation for TNCS’s continued participation in BXSCC initiatives. With her customary warmth and graciousness, Ms. Willis presented TNCS with a series of Mayoral Certificates, including students, teachers, staff, administration, and even parents in her commendations.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for—the performance!