MD Secretary of State Visits TNCS!

On Wednesday, October 17th, The New Century School welcomed some very illustrious guests. Maryland’s Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, Director of International Affairs Mary E. Nitsch, and intern Rosanna Mantova (Intern, International Division, Maryland Office of the Secretary of State) visited the TNCS campus to see the Mandarin Chinese program firsthand. Secretary Wobensmith met TNCS Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux earlier this year, who told him about TNCS. Based on her description of how Mandarin Chinese is taught at TNCS, he was eager to see it for himself. As part of the Maryland Sister States Program, Secretary Wobensmith and his team find ways to promote the connection between Maryland and Anhui Province of China, and education is a key area.

Ms. Nitsch explains:

Anhui Province, China, is one of 20 Sister States that Maryland has around the world. It is also the state’s oldest Sister State partnership, having been established in 1980. The program was established to provide a forum for the promotion of international cooperation and understanding. Through broad-based citizen participation in a wide variety of exchanges in areas of mutual interest, like education, arts, and culture, and economic development, the Sister States Program offers countless opportunities to develop partnerships around the world.

Mandarin Chinese Program at TNCS

It was easy to showcase TNCS’s program, owing to the amazing teachers and students who participate. The members of the Office were met at reception by Ms. Faux, TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan, TNCS Dean of Students Alicia Danyali, and staff member Monica Li. After a brief welcome, the group began a tour of the school, starting from the ground up with Donghui Song’s preprimary classroom of 2- and 3-year-old students. Song Laoshi’s class is immersive; students are spoken to in Mandarin Chinese throughout the day. They are expected to understand and respond with the appropriate action to instructions given in Mandarin—and they do so beautifully. Not long after entering the classroom for the first time, they begin speaking a few words and singing songs.

The group next visited Lisa Reynolds’ primary classroom on the second floor. At ages 3 through 5 years, primary students are no longer in an immersion environment but are taught both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish (in addition to the Montessori curriculum representative of the primary program) and have native-speaking assistant teachers rotating through the classrooms and conversing with and instructing students in their native languages. At these ages, students are not just responding to instructions but are rapidly increasing their verbal skills. They demonstrate perfect intonation and pronunciation. They begin to recognize Chinese characters.

They charmed the visitors, saying “hello” and “welcome” in Mandarin.

Hope to see you again!

The group continued their climb through building south, headed next to Pei Ge’s kindergarten/1st-grade classroom on the third floor. The members of the Office of Secretary of State were very impressed by what they witnessed here. The entire classroom was bubbling with eagerness, a testament to Ge Laoshi’s teaching skills, and their Mandarin is nothing short of amazing.

Throughout the tour, Ms. Faux explained details about the school and its approach. “It’s less about being a linguist,” she said, “and really more about becoming a global citizen.” Thus, culture is an important emphasis and taught alongside the target language. So the visitors could get the full picture, the group also visited Barbara Sanchez’s 2nd-/3rd-grade Spanish classroom. These students also learn Mandarin, but, at the mid-to-upper elementary level, core subjects are partially taught in the target language, so, in addition to Spanish Language Arts, Sra. Sanchez integrates Spanish into her Math and Global Studies lessons.

Ms. Faux gave a quick powerpoint overview of the school, including the background, history, and overall ethos, and then the group finished up their classroom tour in Wei Li’s middle school lesson. Li Laoshi led the 6th- through 8th-graders in a conversation in Mandarin, then had them write sentences using Chinese characters and finish by making a presentation.

The group wrapped up the tour in TNCS’s beautiful Union Box space inside building North, which provided a chance to talk about the history of St. Stanislaus Cathedral and the Mother Seton Academy, and how they became part of TNCS’s campus.

Said Ms. Nitsch in a follow-up email: “One of the nicest parts of my job is having the opportunity to personally experience so many of the wonderful international programs and projects that are taking place around the state. As a former ESL teacher, I truly appreciate how important multilingualism and multiculturalism are to our state and country’s future success. And, as a Baltimore resident, it’s inspiring to know we have such wonderful resources like TNCS here in the city.”

For his part, Secretary Wobensmith declared himself “totally smitten” with TNCS. “Your enterprise. . .  is a remarkable effort, and it struck me that you have done it exactly right in all aspects. Congratulations!” he said. When he asked Ms. Faux about the possibility of expanding to other locations, she thought for a moment and then replied, “We have built a very strong community here, and that might be hard to replicate somewhere else.” It’s true—that foundation of families, teachers, students, staff, and everyone else who is part of the TNCS community is integral to the school’s continued success.

The visit by the members of the Office of the Secretary of State will not soon be forgotten. TNCS will cherish the memory of this great honor!

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TNCS Annual Spanish Heritage Night Was Muy Divertido!

The New Century School hosted its third annual Spanish Heritage Night on Wednesday, October 17th, for the culmination of Spanish Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th through October 15th and celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Why does the 30-day span start in the middle of the month? That’s because September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16th and September 18th, respectively. Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) also falls within this period.

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This year was better than ever, with more songs, more performances, and more comida! The auditorium was beautifully decorated, and faculty and students worked super hard to put on a fabulous show, videos of which are below for your convenience! This year was special for a couple of other reasons as well. First, note that the students themselves emceed the show, first in Spanish and then translated into English. Secondly, scholarship recipients presented a heartfelt thank-you to school founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner, without whom none of this would have been possible. Speaking of folks who went above and beyond to make this all happen, Sra. Fabiola Sanzana, the TNCS community is so grateful for your commitment and effort—not to mention your beautiful singing and guitar playing! And thanks also need to go to Sra. Barbara Sanchez, who was Sra. Sanzana’s partner, as well as to all teachers, volunteers, families, and administrators, It was truly a wonderful occasion!

Performances started with a rousing entrance to the stage.

Next, a few elementary students introduced the evening.

Next, other students explained that the kindergarten and 1st-grade classes would be singing a medley of !Hola! (Hello!); Buenos Días (Good Morning); Buenos Días, Amigo (Good Morning, Friend); Hay Siete Días de la Semana (There Are Seven Days of the Week); Enero, Febrero (January, February); Había Una Vez un Barco Chiquito (Once Upon a Time There Was a Little Boat); Al Son de Crocodrilo (To the Rhythm of the Crocodile); Más Vale Dar que Recibir (It Is Better to Give than to Receive); and Habia un Sapo (There Was a Toad).

It was amazing—see for yourself!

A very moving speech followed by a middle schooler who described his experience at TNCS. It was beautifully written and expertly given.

Two students introduced the 2nd- and 3rd-graders who even sang a song from the movie Coco—-who didn’t love that movie?!

The first song was the lovely Verde Luz by Antonio Caban Vale from 1942 in Moca, Puerto Rico.

Poco Loco  from Coco came next.

Next, a reading of the poem Corazón Coraza was introduced first in Spanish . . .

. . . then in English.

And now, here’s the poem itself!

Next, the 4th- through 8th-graders were introduced very sweetly by one of the younger students.

They first sang the traditional Chilean folk song, Te Extraño Tanto.

The ever-popular Cielito Lindo followed.

A second poem was introduced, and a middle school student presented Hay Quién Precisa by Cuban songwriter and poet Silvio Rodriguez.

The audience was truly delighted when next a TNCS dad took the stage and absolutely nailed the popular Corazón Espinado by José Fernando Emilio Olvera Sierra.

Closing out this section, twin siblings presented “Interesting Facts about the Spanish Language.”

The entire elementary and middle school student body was introduced, and the grand finale was underway!

First they sang Que Canten los Niños by José Luis Perales from Spain. There are four great solos within!

Madre Tierra by Chayanne from Puerto Rico came next.

And finally, La Chica Ye Ye brought down the house.

Head of School Shara Khon Duncan closed the stage performances with a gracious thank-you to attendees for coming and for contributing to such a great evening.

!Gracias por leer!

TNCS Elementary and Middle School Students Do Hands-On Field Research!

At The New Century School, field trips serve multiple purposes: They are valuable  learning and social opportunities, and they are fun—important respites from the classroom. Field trips at TNCS are thoughtfully crafted to effectively support student learning by exposing them to new experiences, increasing their interest and engagement in a topic, and being memorable and useful even long after the visit. They give students both cognitive and affective benefits.

Indeed, research shows that field trips work best when they provide support for students to explore in a personally meaningful way. This is especially true for the sciences. As a shared social experience that provides the opportunity for students to encounter and explore novel things in an authentic setting, a field trip can deepen and enhance classroom study. The National Research Council holds that a quality science curriculum “is one that extends beyond the walls of the classroom.”

Bird is the Word!

During Q1 at TNCS, science focused on two units, Macrobiology and Genetics. Accordingly, elementary and middle school science teacher Nameeta Sharma chose two field trips to align with those units. “The students visited Irvine Nature Center to understand more about the ecosystem and the organisms that live in it through hands-on field research experience,” she explained. “There was an emphasis on adaptation that supports survival.”

IMG_2007“[Irvine believes it is every child’s right, as an integral part of the natural community, to develop a foundation of academic skills through encounters in the natural world,” according to their website. While there, in two groups, students cycled through activities including hiking; attending a presentation on what makes owls such effective birds of prey (the adaption that Ms. Sharma mentioned); and exploring the interactive exhibits;

They also got the chance to discuss owl adaptations with Ms. Roman in an engaging question and answer session. Some of their contributions are positively brilliant!

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The culminating activity, though, was dissecting owl pellets. Owl pellets are the regurgitated remains of an owl’s meal, including all the bones of the animals it ate (usually small rodents, such as voles). Owls typically swallow their food whole, digest the edible parts, and then expel the indigestible parts through their mouth as a pellet. Owl pellet dissection is a great way to learn about owl eating habits. Naturally, some students were a bit leery of this “gross” activity at first, but curiosity gave way. (And, no worries, parents—the pellets are sterilized in an oven to kill bacteria, and students wore gloves during the dissection and washed their hands right after.) Irvine instructor Diana Roman facilitated.

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Headed Squidward!

“The visit to the National Aquarium helped students understand biomes,” said Ms. Sharma. “They had a first-hand experience of visiting reefs and tropical rainforests and saw animals and sea organisms in their habitats. They had the opportunity to observe and touch (in some cases) and learn about unique adaptations that help them survive. The trip was also chosen to make students appreciate the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Here again, the research was “hands on,” as students dissected a squid.

Getting Some Space!

At least two more field trips will take place during the second semester of the 2018–2019 school year. Says Ms. Sharma: “I am happy to inform you that I have scheduled another field trip on January 16, 2019. That trip will take us to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center!”

Meet the Art Teacher: Jia Liu Illustrates the Importance of Art at TNCS!

The New Century School got a new art teacher for the 2018–2019 school year. This is Jia Liu’s first year teaching at TNCS, but she has loads of experience both making and teaching art. She is from China, where she graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing with a BFA in Writing and Illustrating Picture Books in 2013. “There, I got really into picture books,” said Liu Laoshi. “While I was in school, I started teaching at the same time, around 2011, because, if I’m going to write stories for kids, I need to know them better. So, I started teaching at a children’s art center, and it turns out, I really like teaching kids!” At the same time, “teaching always inspires me to write and illustrate more picture books,” she said. A perfect synergy!

Art Student–Cum–Art Teacher

IMG_1737Liu Laoshi came to the United States in 2014 after graduating from CAFA in order to attend Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she majored in illustration with a personal focus on picture books. She also took art education classes to complement her teaching experience with the pedagogy that would allow her to teach here. “After I graduated from MICA in 2016 with an MFA, I started teaching at Baltimore public schools through the nonprofit organization Child First and at Walters Art Museum‘s drop-in weekend classes,” she explained. Although most of her friends moved to New York, she stayed in Baltimore, Hampden to be exact, because she fell in love with the quirky neighborhood. She attributes her excellent English to her time studying at MICA.

This is her first time teaching all grades including through middle school, and she is eager for the challenge. She wanted to teach at TNCS having heard about the school from a friend (TNCS’s former graphics designer Yiyun Chu) and being very interested in the concept of teaching core subjects in other languages. “I felt it’s perfect for me. I will be teaching mainly in English, but I’m looking forward to bringing in some Chinese,” she said.

Bilingual Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

Liu Laoshi has published two children’s books in China (with a group of classmates) in 2012, including “Water Monk”, and one here this past April. In 2019, she has two more coming out, including ““Bedtime for Beasties”, with others following in 2020 and 2021. “The Chinese picture book market is still very new, and most books are imported from other countries, ” she explained. However, if she can locate some copies of her Chinese books, she is excited to share them with her new TNCS students. In the meantime, they can read her English titles.

Check out her website at www.jia-liu.com to seeing more of her beautiful work, such as this lovely example below.A+tribe.jpg

It’s Going to Be a Great Year of Art!

Liu Laoshi has a strong conviction that at is good for children (and adults) and is committed to keeping the love of creativity alive in TNCS students both at school and throughout their lives.

I am really looking forward to getting to know the students at TNCS and inspiring them though my classes and work, and I hope to create a successful school year together. From my very first experience teaching, I noticed that kids gradually lose interest in art as they get older or lose confidence because they think they aren’t good at it. Although some people might have more talent than others, I think art is important for everyone. I always believe art is not only an aesthetic need, but also a very practical way of learning about ourselves and the world.

I have high expectations for each student. My goal is to create a safe learning environment, to keep all students interested in art, and improve their creativity though my class. We will be exploring different materials and art forms, as well as integrating art with STEM classes, to enhance their problem-solving skills, such as by exploring what materials they need to use to realize their vision, and provide them with more ways of understanding the world around us. Art has a lot of possibilities—in other words, I give them the assignment, but they figure out what approach will get them to the end result.

 

Currently, TNCS students are finishing up a paper mâché project that ties into the Global Studies Greek unit. Next, they will move on to projects about Rome that also integrate paper engineering (think mosaics!).

 

To parents and families, Liu Laoshi says: “Please remember that your thoughts, concerns, and questions are always important to me.”