Multilingual Media for Kids: Explore Beyond Dora; Bid Kai-Lan Farewell!

This week’s Immersed post comes to you from David Broiles, a TNCS parent and enthusiastic supporter of language-learning. Mr. Broiles has devised a method to ensure that his children are continuing to be exposed to Spanish and Mandarin Chinese outside of school in fun, natural ways and very  generously offered to share his system with the The New Century School community at large.

Although U.S. television programming has made some inroads into acknowledging the existence of other languages, these shows offer only scant tidbits—a mini-vocabulary lesson at best. Watching a show in Spanish, however, is akin to immersion, the proven effective method for learning a language.

Says Mr. Broiles:

The most current scientific articles on language development have said that children’s brains are wired to learn languages prior to hitting puberty, so to be effective, we really want to emphasize languages now. Since my wife and I are not fluent in either Spanish or Mandarin, we are trying to increase our kid’s daily exposure with the resources we have available outside of TNCS. This includes alternating Spanish & Mandarin Netflix days, using books from Scholastic’s Club Leo (Spanish) and ordering comics from TaoBao (Chinese site similar to Amazon or eBay),  using YouTube Spanish and Mandarin children’s playlists during rides in the car, having fun Android and IOS apps installed on their tablets that focus on game play and don’t feel like homework, and even attending the Baltimore Chinese School on Sundays to increase exposure.

“How clever!” you are probably thinking to yourself. Or even, “But, I’ve tried that and was not successful in obtaining the materials.” Well, Mr. Broiles has you covered. He compiled all you need to know in an instructional youtube video (as well as provided the written steps farther below).

Bonus! He also created a youtube video of his adorable kids using the materials!

Instructions for Netflix Profile and Language:

  1. Go to the full Netflix site on a desktop/laptop.
  2. Add/create a Profile for Spanish; “All Maturity Levels” must be selected (i.e., do not click “Kids”).
  3. Click on Browse, choose “Subtitles & Captions,” and then select “Spanish.”
  4. Add desired shows to “My List” by clicking on the “+” sign located in the bottom right corner.
  5. Once you are done adding shows, click on the profile icon, then “Edit/manage profile,” and change language to Español. Now, whenever you launch that profile and start a show that has been added to “Listo,” it will start automatically in Spanish on all of your devices/TVs.
  6. You can also create a profile for Chinese/Mandarin and add the following shows to  “My List”: Netflix LEGO Bionicle, Netflix Puffin Rock, Netflix Lego Friends, and Netflix Popples. (Theses are currently the only shows Mr. Broiles could find in Mandarin.)

Note: You can also enable subtitles, if desired, by clicking on the screen while the show is playing or by pressing the down arrow on your remote.

Pro Tip: You can use the Google Translate app with your Phone.

Folks, this is a goldmine. So many parents long to enhance their children’s language acquisition and language fluency and/or bemoan the hours spent in front of a screen to seemingly no cognitive benefit. This system addresses both issues brilliantly. Immersed sends a huge thank you to David Broiles for this truly wonderful system!

¡Gracias! Xiè xiè (谢谢)!

Go Native for Earth Day 2016!

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The Official TNCS Weeping Willow!

Earth Day is always an important occasion at The New Century School, and this year is no different. In honor of Earth Day 2016, the theme of which is Trees for the Earth, all TNCS classes gathered on the playground to witness the planting of a native Weeping Willow. Poetry and singing rounded out the tree dedication ceremony. Trees are basically the lungs of our planet, filtering out harmful gases and leaving the good stuff for us to breathe. Click here for more on Why trees?

But now let’s zoom in and focus some good Earth Day vibes a little closer to home. Trees aren’t the only environmentally beneficial plantings we can make. Indigenous plants—plants that occur naturally in the region in which they evolved—also make huge contributions to keeping the local environment healthy and thriving. The Patterson Park Audubon Center urges Baltimore City and surrounding residents to “Take Climate Action” and to preserve biodiversity by using native plants in your garden, be it potted or full-scale.

One of the primary reasons this is particularly important for our area is because Baltimore (a.k.a. Birdtown), as part of the Atlantic Flyway, is a vital stopover point for many species of migrating birds. Yet, over time, the number of green spots in the city where these birds can refuel during their long journeys has dwindled. PPAC is working to change that: “Audubon has observed over 200 species of birds in Patterson Park, with over 40 of those species using the park to breed and raise their young. Our habitat gardens in the park are filled with a diversity of native plants from Maryland which serve as hosts for insects—birds’ favorite food—as well as provide essential seeds, berries, nectar, shelter, water, and places to raise their young.”

PPAC can also help you create your own wildlife sanctuary (or, garden, patch, or windowbox) through workshops, resources, and more. But first, let’s explore why native plants are so vital.

Benefits of Native Plants

According to the Audubon.org website, native plants are great for:

  • Wildlife: In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well. The colorful array of butterflies and moths, including the iconic monarch, the swallowtails, tortoiseshells, and beautiful blues, are all dependent on very specific native plant species. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. They provide protective shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.
  • Low maintenance: Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance.
  • Beauty: Many native plants offer beautiful showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and brilliant seasonal changes in colors from the pale, thin greens of early spring, to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn.
  • Healthy places for people: Lawns and the ubiquitous bark-mulched landscapes are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10x more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. By choosing native plants for your landscaping, you are not only helping wildlife, but you are creating a healthier place for yourself, your family, and your community.
  • Helping the climate: Landscaping with native plants can combat climate change. In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
  • Conserving water: Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water.

Gardening with Native Plants

Unfortunately, most of the plants available in the larger, nationally known nurseries are not native to the region where they are being sold. These alien species can degrade the local habitat, the ecological basis for insects, birds, and, by extension, humans. By using native plants in our urban gardens (such as they are), however, we preserve the natural symbiosis of our area.

Using any number of native plants is going to help the environment, but if you really want to go the extra mile (as the crow flies) toward making your green space a sanctuary for wildlife, follow the scheme from PPAC shown below.

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And now, you ask, where do I avail myself of these native plants? Partnering with PPAC, Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery has all the native wonder you could ask for—over 250 varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers that support butterflies, pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Can’t make it out to Herring Run? No problem–PPAC  will once again be hosting a Native Plant Sale in Patterson Park during the Butchers Hill Flea Market on Saturday, May 14th.

So, in honor of Earth Day, let your garden grow for the environment this year!

TNCS Elementary Engages in Conservation By the Barrel

With Earth Day 2016 only a week away, you must be wondering, what awesome environment-friendly project will The New Century School students be involved in this year? You are certainly recalling that, since his tenure at TNCS began, elementary STEM teacher Dan McGonigal has made the most out of Earth Day annually to explore conservation and ways to help the environment both locally and globally. Read about last year’s efforts here: TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

And this year will not disappoint! In fact, this year’s project is one of those learning experiences where individual components come together in a beautiful whole worth far more than the sum of its parts. Mr. McGonigal managed to harness science, art, team-building, environmental advocacy, and fundraising for TNCS to do some actual, measurable good for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area.

What is the product of this amazing, synergy? Handpainted rain barrels! Even better, these rain barrels will be raffled to four lucky winners on Friday, April 29th!

The project was a partnership with Barrels by the Bay, which Mr. McGonigal learned about through Blue Water Baltimore, who he worked with on last year’s storm drain stenciling. According to their website, “Barrels by the Bay is a non-profit organization focused on contributing to sustainable development of the communities within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and surrounding regions. [They] work to help combat flooding and stormwater runoff concerns throughout communities within these regions, educate community members about our world’s water issues and the importance of water conservation efforts, and inspire students to preserve our world’s water resources.”

The organization came into being on the 22nd Annual United Nations World Water Day, on March 22, 2015, in Annapolis, Maryland, kicking off with a project for area schools to repurpose 50-gallon Coca-Cola syrup drums as rain barrels. In 2016, they expanded their reach to other schools within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region, including TNCS. Their efforts are having quite an impact: An average of 700 gallons is collected in one rainfall (1 inch of rain in 24 hours) in the 50-gallon rain barrel drum. If Maryland has an average of 41 inches of rain per year, then in just 1 year, one barrel can collect 28,700 gallons of water. That’s no mere drop in the bucket!

But, as mentioned, collecting tons of water is not all they are good for. Says Mr. McGonigal: “In the fall, we used the barrels to develop teamwork and cooperative learning skills in the 2nd–5th grades. They designed the artwork and then voted on the best designs (two per class). They then prepped the barrels for painting by sanding and priming them. They traced their designs on the barrels and, finally, painted them.”

You can watch the 6-month evolution of their creations in this slideshow.

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“This was also another opportunity for us to put our environmental learning into action. It was a great experience and I hope to make this a yearly event in my class,” said Mr. McGonigal. They then decided to turn the rain barrel project into a fundraiser for TNCS and Barrels by the Bay (each organization gets half of the proceeds). “We also have one more barrel that will be used on our school campus. This will be decorated by student handprints on Earth Day. We hope to use it to help water our school garden,” he said.

Don’t miss the chance to win one of these beautiful and functional rain barrels for your home—get your raffle tickets through the TNCS office through Friday 4/29/16 (by 8:30 am). And don’t worry, Barrels by the Bay even offers workshops to demonstrate how to  harvest rainwater from your roof, store it, and use it for your own home as well as to explain how rain barrels also improve water quality in our rivers and streams.

Thanks to TNCS 2nd–5th science classes, Barrels by the Bay, and the TNCS community, what a great Earth Day this one will be! And a big shout-out to Mr. McGonigal for his continued in-class focus on environmental conservation!

Why You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family!

Given its firm emphasis on global citizenship, The New Century School is working harder than ever to expand cultural programming for 2016. In addition to the ongoing guest interns from around the world who act as assistant teachers and immerse TNCS students in their native languages in the classroom, a big part of this year’s push will include hosting separate groups of teachers and students (and chaperones) both during the rest of the school year and during the summer months.

International Campers

Camp Instructor Craig Lapreziosa and our Chinese and American friends say cheese!

A trial of such programming happened in the summer of 2013, when a group of three Chinese girls age 9 years and the mothers of two of the girls attended a 2-week International Camp at TNCS. On the heels of that initial success, TNCS Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner are finding ways to make international exchanges a regular happening.

Later this month, for example, a group of 15 Chinese kindergarten and preschool educators will be visiting Baltimore, hosted by TNCS, for a week-long conference on various aspects of education. Their conference will include lectures on such topics as Montessori education, multilingual education, classroom management, and more as well as school tours of John Hopkins University, Loyola University, The Key School, the Baltimore School for the Arts and—of course—TNCS. Immersed looks forward to covering this visit and conference, so please stay tuned!

In the meantime, there are other possible programs in the works that are more student oriented. Groups of both Chinese and Spanish elementary-age children have been invited to join TNCS this summer—opportunities so rich in possibility for both host and visitor that this topic bears exploring even before program details are finalized.*

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Hosting Expert Dominique Sanchies!

Depending on the group and its country of origin, the programs will likely vary in certain details, but they will all include the chance for the TNCS community to act as host family to one or more visiting children (and, possibly, chaperones). Admissions Director and Assistant Head of School Dominique Sanchies, in fact, is a huge fan of hosting and says, “I can’t say enough about hosting. I’m very passionate about it.” You may recall from a post back in the fall that Mrs. Sanchies put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland.

What was not reported in that bio, however, was that her family also hosted while she was in high school. Mrs. Sanchies says that the French girl, Gabine, they hosted remains her best friend to this day. The idea was that would improve her English during her stay with the U.S. family of French Canadian origins, but Mrs. Sanchies says that her own French also improved immeasurably at the same time. “She came into our home and was like an adopted child—my sister—for the entire summer. I was driving, so we went everywhere together. It was this great opportunity for me to learn all about Parisian culture, to live with somebody from that culture . . .to have her cook for us one night, to see how she dressed . . .it was just lovely. It was the best experience.”

Drawing on the memory of this wonderful time, it was a natural choice for her to join the EF Foundation. She worked with groups of Spanish 30 students ranging in age from 14 to 18 years to make hosting and being hosted an experience available to others. Her primary task was to place students with host families from the community, which came easily to Mrs. Sanchies because her first-hand experience and obvious passion quickly won over prospective hosts. Another part of Mrs. Sanchies’ position included hosting the Spanish teacher who accompanied the students. This friendship has also held fast through the years.

“Growing up in Portland, Maine, I was starved for culture,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “But the world opened up when my family hosted an exchange student, and the same will be true of TNCS families who host. Your kids are studying Chinese and Spanish languages, but imagine what could happen if a Chinese or Spanish student stayed in your home and accompanied your child throughout the day. The language fluency, the relationships, the cultural understanding . . . it just makes the world more accessible.”

Mrs. Sanchies and her husband have also hosted Chinese and Japanese students themselves in the past and may do so again, circumstances permitting. “I would love to host a child from another country—any country,” she said. “It’s just so enriching.” As for what is required of the host family, besides providing appropriate accommodations and meals, “it’s basically just keeping [the visiting child] safe and sound. Just like you’d do for your own children,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “It’s not much work. But the benefits could potentially explode.

Hosting Benefits

Never hosted or even considered hosting? Here are some of the tangible and intangible reasons why hosting is a transformative experience for both host and guest, most courtesy of ExchangeStudentWORLD.com and of Pitzer College. (You’ll surely add your own benefits to this list once you join the ranks of host families!)

  • Personal and familial development. Be it travel, school or work, foreign interaction with diverse cultures is a part of life. When individuals and families open their homes to students, personal development is inevitable. Familiarization with another culture and ethnicity expands the mind. It offers the entire family a study on how to be adaptive to intercultural interactions and demonstrates how different yet similar we all are.
  • The chance to help a student experience life in another country and culture. This is an amazing journey. They will have many questions about why you do things. They will want to try new activities and learn about your traditions. You will get to see your culture and your town through another’s eyes, which will likely be rejuvenating. This is also an excellent chance to learn about their country and culture as well.
  • The chance to gain a son/daughter. This experience will give you the chance to bond with a child in a way you never expected. Many will have so much gratitude for the opportunity you have given them. You will share many laughs along the way and make memories to last a lifetime. Often you will remain in contact long after they return home, and if you are really lucky you will get to see the child again!
  • You help your children to learn and grow. If you already have children this is a great way to help them learn about another country and culture—they will have a Host Sibling right there! Kids are great at asking questions and often you will learn through their questions. The bond children make no matter the age is wonderful to watch.
  • New language possibilities. Learning another language as a host family can be a lot of fun. Children in host families—even adult children—develop and expand analytical skills and even improve their English when they compare languages. As globalization redefines the world we live in, learning a new language is a rapidly growing asset in the business world. It can be beneficial for both a host and their family. When children are exposed to exchange students, they can learn the fun and simplicity of learning a new language.
  • Lifelong attachment. Although it might be hard to let go at the end, it is such a great feeling to know you have made this special bond with this student. You will make plans to email and call each other. Maybe he or she will want to come back for college, or to come back in a couple years to see you again. Maybe you will plan a trip to their country to see him or her. You have spent time getting to know this person, and the bond can be deep.
  • Have fun. Host families and students laugh. A lot. Whether giggling over the mispronunciation of words or sharing students’ excitement about newfound joys, host families have a tremendous amount of fun.
  • Change the world. Most important is the rewarding sense of fulfillment you will experience as a host family, knowing that you have played a key part in helping a young person achieve his or her dream.

But Mrs. Sanchies sums it up best: “You’ll fall in love, the kids will remain in touch, and who know what the future might bring.”

Additional Resources

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of hosting and ready to host a student or students yourself, here are some other helpful resources for making the experience the best it can be:

From the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs: Commonly Asked Questions

From Wandering Educators: 8 Tips for Hosting an Exchange Student

From One Life Log: Advice for the Host Family

*Although the enthusiasm for these programs is very much in place on all sides, the inevitable red tape surrounding foreign travel might take a little longer to work out in some cases. But it will happen!

TNCS Science Fair 2016: It All Starts with a Good Question!

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Fist bump for science!

The annual Science Fair is always a highly anticipated event at The New Century School, and 2016 was no different! Last week, parents and students came out in droves to see what science experiments TNCS 2nd- through 5th-graders undertook and what they learned from their experimentation.

Headed up for the second year by STEM teacher Dan McGonigal, this year’s Science Fair had a slightly different focus than last year’s (read about Science Fair 2015 here). Explains Mr. McGonigal:

This year we focused on the Scientific Method as opposed to the Engineering Design Process like last year. The students selected their own testable question related to Physical Science. We focused on creating tests that used manipulated variables versus creating a demonstration of a science concept. For example, instead of showing what happens when you combine baking soda and vinegar, a predictable reaction, I encouraged students to compare the amount of gas released by baking soda and vinegar to Alka-Seltzer and water. Or, instead of building a potato clock, students were asked to compare the volts of different produce to see which would produce the greatest amount of voltage. This helps improve instruction to more closely match how scientists actually work.
Mr. McGonigal also shared a “prezi” to give parents and other Science Fair attendees a closer look into how he framed this year’s endeavors. An important point is that students were encouraged to follow their own interests rather than replicate standard Science Fair experiments. The thrust was to start with a question then follow what various avenues that question presented, always maintaining a logical next-step approach.
“We worked hard on our projects,” said Mr. McGonigal, “and the projects were 100% representative of the students’ own work. I did not correct, edit, or change the student’s work in any way, but they were guided to stay focused on their scientific thinking and reminded of certain measures to help create accurate, neat work, that would be valid. The instructional focus was on the thinking, not necessarily the content related to their projects.”

As always, Mr. McGonigal’s enthusiasm for science adds a special touch. “The results and feedback were very positive about the student’s work. We had a lot parents show up to support their student’s science education!”he said. One such parent (and TNCS Co-Founder), Jennifer Lawner, said, “Mr. McGonigal give a wonderful presentation to parents about the goals of the science fair.  In particular he talked about how he did not do their work for them. For example, the write-ups are imperfect—he reminded them of the rules of punctuation and left them to write the work themselves. The students came up with testable questions, procedures for testing the questions, and reported on their data. There were flaws, but the date it was reported accurately. I was really impressed!”

TNCS lower elementary students also got a chance to see the projects and were given first-hand explanations by the older students. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the K/1st Science Fair!)

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And the exploration will not end with the folding up of the three-paneled cardboard displays. As a result of their self-led science journeys, students will continue asking themselves, “What did I learn? What do I still wonder about?” for months to come.