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!

IMG_1929
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”