‘Tis the Season for Service at TNCS!

Untitled-2Service is a Core Value at The New Century School, and Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali always has multiple initiatives going including by class/division, schoolwide, and community targeted. (To read more about TNCS Core Values, click here.) What better time of year to take a look back at how TNCS students have given back in the first half of the 2019–2020 school year?

It has been a busy semester with lots going on, so, in no particular order, let’s just jump right in!

Flashcards for Hope

Live with a Purpose reached out to Ms. Danyali in October because the Esperanza Center expressed a need for English/Spanish flashcards for their afterschool program for children new to the United States who are learning English. So, students in Ms. Lee‘s classroom made 60 packs of flashcards to assist them in learning some of the basics, like numbers and colors.

“Creating these materials also reinforced for TNCS 2nd- through 4th-graders the importance and the benefits of helping others, especially immigrants that need support when they move to a new country,” said Ms. Danyali. “The fact that our students could be supporting other kids who are learning other languages was very important to me. If the shoe fits, we’re going to wear it.”

Bake Sale for Shelter Animals

“For the older students, I prefer that their service initiatives be student led,” explained Ms. Danyali. So, the 7th- and 8th-graders held a bake sale alongside their October 23rd coffee and lemonade morning. They broke up into four groups, each researching a different organization (three were for animals and one was for support for the homeless). As part of their assignment, they were required to submit a needs assessment and what the organization does. After narrowing the organizations down to two, they then had to make a presentation about their preferred organization to be chosen, ultimately deciding to donate their proceeds to the Baltimore Humane Society. They baked their sale items with Ms. Danyali. Altogether, they made $40, which isn’t bad when you consider that their baked goods were priced at only $1 each. Based on wha the photo below shows, that’s a steal!

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Reading Buddies

The always-popular Reading Buddies program provides mutual benefits to younger TNCS students paired up with older TNCS students and vice versa. Ms. Klusewitz’s and Sra. Salas’s classes comprise one pair, and Ms. Sandkuhler and Ms. Hope’s classes another (among others). “They’ve really been sticking to it,” said Ms. Danyali. “It’s so great to see.”

Biscuits (and More) for BARCS 

Ms. Klusewitz’s and Sra. Salas‘s classes also partnered on an initiative for BARCS (Baltimore Rescue and Care Center). Ms. Klusewitz’s class baked homemade dog treats with Ms. Danyali, and Sra. Salas’s class decorated holiday gift bags. The two classes came together to stuff the bags with biscuits during a recent reading buddy morning.

Although it turned out that BARCS cannot accept comestibles that are not factory sealed (for the safety of their animal charges), the exercise in partnering up with older/younger friends to do some good in the world was not for nought. A 4th-grader and her family who regularly support the organization volunteered to “be ambassadors on behalf of TNCS to deliver the holiday cards and cheer to BARCS,” as Ms. Danyali put it.

Said Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas: “The cards were a hit and they definitely felt the love from the students! All the students should be proud—they were extremely generous in picking this organization, that helps so many animals each year!”

Ronald McDonald House

IMG_3394 copyBack to the Core Values for a moment, Ms. Danyali has been focusing on those with with lower elementary students and asked teachers to create an area in their classrooms where the Core Values can be prominent and interactive. Students might attach a slip of paper to the wall, for example, that starts with “I show courage by . . . ” to both remind and encourage them to exemplify TNCS’s Core Values.

Compassion goes hand in hand with Service, and Ms. Danyali wrapped up a unit focusing on those two words together in Ms. Sandkuler‘s and Ge Laoshi‘s kindergarten and 1st-grade homerooms. “We have started a service project to partner with the Ronald McDonald House to do an on-site visit and activity to help the families they serve after the winter break,” said Ms. Danyali. “To make this meaningful for that age group, we are making cards with compassionate messages. The messages were very mature, and they really internalized what compassion is.”

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Not surprisingly, a “kindness wall” has evolved over the last few months in Ms. Sandkuhler’s classroom.

Giving Tree

The class partnerships are fluid and often mix ages. For example, Ge Laoshi and Ms. Lee’s homerooms spearheaded a “Giving Tree” drive to collect scarves, mittens, and hats for fellow Baltimore students at a nearby school. Other collections were also ongoing.

Adopt-a-Baer-Student

Ms. Hope‘s 7th- and 8th-grade homeroom adopted a student for the holidays from the William S. Baer School in Baltimore City that serves severely physically or developmentally challenged students from ages 3 to 21. TNCS middle schoolers brought holiday gifts for their “adopted” student, Rachel, then went with Ms. Danyali on a field trip to tour the school and understand how students are supported there. They also got to meet many of the staff members and students.

IMG_1798“Our students were deeply moved by the experience and would like to return to the school in the spring when they host the school Baer-athlon,” said Ms. Danyali. (More on that in 2020!)

Looking Ahead

Additional service learning initiatives are planned for quarter 3 in early 2020. Ms. Klusewitz’s students, for example have broken out into groups to research an organization of interest and present their ideas to Ms. Danyali.

Linus Blankets will be ongoing as well—in fact, you can register your child for the upcoming quarter 3 ECA! The postcard below is a thank-you for blankets TNCS made this fall.

“As long as it’s meaningful and helpful, and it supports our local community, then I’m board for it,” said Ms. Danyali.


Did you know? The amazing TNCS Parent Council has a Service Committee that you can join to partake in some service of your own! Sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0b4faea823a0fd0-parent

Or, you can get involved with planning a Community Event or a Fundraiser to enhance the TNCS community experience. Either way, we appreciate you!

TNCS Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali Joins Multilanguage-Learning Professional Development Cohort!

Integral to the curriculum as well as the identity of The New Century School is language learning. We are by now well aware of the many kinds of social and cognitive benefit that multilingualism confers (but check out our Resources page if you’d like a refresher!). However, as Head of TNCS Lower School Alicia Danyali understands, staying abreast of the best practices in teaching language is critical.

tncs-head-of-lower-school-alicia-danyaliThat’s why she attended a cumulative 5-day training called “The Can Do Philosophy and the Guiding Principles of Language Development” that took place at the Johns Hopkins School of Education in Columbia, MD from November 4th–6th and December 4th and 5th in order to learn more about how practitioners observe, document, and analyze observations to promote dual (or, in the case of TNCS, triple) language development. The training was provided by WIDA, whose mission is, “Helping multilingual learners—and their educators—reach their potential.” The WIDA acronym stands for World-class Instructional Design and Assessment, but everyone knows this group as “WIDA.” They are headquartered at the University of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research in Madison, but they have satellites all over the United States. tncs-wida

Ms. Danyali says she found out about the opportunity from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) weekly newsletter. “I’m so nerdy that I actually read it,” she joked. It’s a good thing she did. The WIDA Consortium is a member-based organization “dedicated to the research, design and implementation of a high-quality, standards-based system for K–12 language learners”—and they offer tons of amazing resources for educators. Says Ms. Danyali, “I noticed that this organization is very interested in dual language learning in the early childhood environment. I thought, ‘I have to look into more about that!’ They’re partnering with MSDE on how to better support family–school partnerships with dual language environments.”

She explains that, even though she isn’t coming from the public school sector, she nevertheless wanted to know what supports are out there and what new advancements in language education have been made. They were separated into three groups to role-play as a Parent, Educator, or Administrator. “This is the first time—and it is exciting to me—that it has been looked at at the early childhood level, which has always been something I feel very strongly about, capturing that age of language acquisition. So, I applied to be part of a cohort and submitted a blurb about TNCS and how we start at age 2 with a full immersion setting,” she explained.

“A big portion of the conversations with the cohort I was in—and it was people from all walks of education, from professors to para-professionals, was about receptive and expressive language. That’s really what we do here at TNCS—develop the ability to understand words and speech, which is the receptive part.” For example, Song Laoshi will say, “Line up” in Mandarin a thousand times to her 2-year-olds the first 2 weeks of school and she’ll model that instruction. One student will figure out what she’s doing and what she wants the class to do, and then slowly everyone else starts to get it. It’s the most beautiful thing.” But how are the teachers able to measure how well that’s happening in the preschool environment? Participants were given worksheets to guide them on how to effectively gather that feedback.

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In expressive language, the student communicates their wants and needs, speaking, not just gathering from their environment. So, back to the example of Song Laoshi’s 2-year-olds, eventually, they will start to talk about what is happening, building on  receiving instruction and being able to act on them.

“Another thing we discussed in our cohort,” says Ms. Danyali, was how to “appeal to young students’ learning styles, which is a lot more difficult in a prescriptive public environment, and how to go off the cuff and meet the students’ needs.” In Maryland, Spanish is the fastest growing language in Maryland and Urdu is the second, which is almost as prevalent. “So we’re not looking necessarily at how we can support Spanish speakers in an ESL environment, which has always been the standard, but more of just how do we support language development?”

What Does This Look Like at TNCS?

Even though the WIDA consortium is primarily about how to support students who speak English as a second language, flipping that the other way around and applying their evidence-based practices to any multilanguage-learning environment makes perfect sense. Accordingly, Ms. Danyali has implemented a program in the primary classes for assistant teachers to provide monthly status reports on each student’s progress with language:

It has been quite a game-changer and very helpful, but I also understand as a former educator that introducing new things sometimes feels like having more added to an already-full workplate. But this is actually so supportive and in line with how we think about how our students obtain language. I tell them, too, ‘I want you to grow in your career. This is the one thing that threads our whole school together. We have language from age 2 through grade 8. The common message that sets us apart is our language program, and you’re driving that, so I want your feedback.’

Another important aspect of language at TNCS is the concept of proficiency versus fluency. At the younger ages, it’s really very important that students are hearing language being spoken, no matter what the language. Definitive milestones are not important here. This process is more organic.

Fifty years ago, when immigrants came to the United States, they were instructed not to speak in their native languages so as (as the thinking went) to assimilate into U.S. culture more quickly. “This created major deficits in their lives,” explains Ms. Danyali. “The mindset is now changing, fortunately, and we want our teachers and assistants to speak their native languages.” The WIDA Consortium wants to move away from “English” and talk more about language development to be more inclusive. In fact, the state of Maryland supports over 100 languages in terms of having translators available for free to translate documents, meetings, conversations, etc.

In the near future, Ms. Danyali will incorporate the Can Do Descriptors and Promising Practices she was trained on into the TNCS curriculum. To be proficient in a language, a speaker must be able to Express Self, Recount, and Inquire.tncs-wida

“The preschool component is really our heart and soul for engaging in language for the long-term student. We attract families who know that language is important. So, all of this will factor in to how I roll out what I’ve learned at TNCS,” said Ms. Danyali.

I walked away feeling very fortunate for the environment we’re in. We don’t have stand-alone teachers in a class of 37 kids who need a lot of support. But I found a lot of compassion among the cohort. Some families do not reach out to avail themselves of services because of the current political climate, but the MSDE was there to confirm that they do not turn over that information to anyone. Everyone was on the same page in this cohort to find ways to help and that education can bridge perception gaps.


Here are some WIDA publications you might find interesting:

TNCS Winter Concert 2019: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, and Hot Chocolate!

Elementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019_1At The New Century School, two yearly events are the most anticipated happenings of the year—the Winter and Spring performances. This year’s Elementary and Middle School Winter Concert featured new TNCS Musical Director Javan Bowden. He put together a truly great show and introduced a few new approaches to the format, including having students introduce the songs they were about to sing with an interesting tidbit about its background written by Mr. Bowden.

As always, the show started with TNCS students wowing the audience with their Mandarin Chinese and Spanish prowess.

Songs in World Languages

First up, TNCS Kindergarten and 1st-graders sang “The Face of Happiness” (幸福的脸) by composer Dàjūn Huáng.

Next, students in grades 2 through 8 took the stage to sing “Our Time” (Wǒmen de shídài,我们的时光), by TFBOYS and composed by Mr. Fantastic and Yun Yun Wang.

For the third and final selection of the world languages portion, all elementary and middle school students joined together for “La Bikina,” by Rubén Fuentes.

Strings Ensembles

Next up was the instrumental part of the show. Said TNCS strings instructor Yoshiaki Horiguchi:

Welcome to the strings portion of the Winter Concert at The New Century School. Thank you for all the music teachers and families parents and students who do everything that they do for this community. The wonderful thing about this presentation that we’re about to perform is that the strings program in its fourth year of existence, so I’ve had these kids for a few years now, and it’s such a wonderful pleasure to see them grow and learn and develop as people through instruments. The first couple of years is devoted to learning the actual instrument, but this year, we actually got to explore a lot more of the creative process and learning how to work together through music. This arrangement is something that they put together themselves. I hope you all enjoy “Appalachia Waltz,” by the TNCS Alsop String Ensemble and composed by Mark O’Connor.

The Alsop Ensemble was followed up by the Bernstein Ensemble, who played “Red Wing,” also by Mark O’Connor.

Choral Selections

The final and largest group of songs was put together by Mr. Bowden:

I’m Javan Bowden, and I have the honor of being this year’s music director at The New Century School. It has definitely been a pleasure preparing the students for our Winter Concert. We will be delivering seven selections, the first from our K/1 group, called “Winter Wiggles,” by Teresa Jennings. Here we go!

These songs had wonderful accompaniment by some friends of Mr. Bowden’s—Stephen Moore on bass guitar and Peter Roberts on piano.

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Following the K/1 group, most of the next songs were introduced by TNCS students, as mentioned above. Next up, a TNCS 6th-grader introduced “I Have a Voice”:

Over 70 child actors from Broadway’s School of Rock,  The Lion King, Kinky Boots, On Your Feet, Matilda: The Musical, and more have lent their voices to an emotional and uplifting new anti-bullying charity single. The song “I Have a Voice” is a powerful anthem for any kid who has felt alone among his or her peers. It’s written by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Robin Lerner and can be found in the newer musical Song of Bernadette. All of the profits from the song go to http://www.nobully.org, through Broadway Kids Against Bullying, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that trains schools how to activate student compassion to stop bullying and cyber bullying.

“Hot Chocolate,” from Polar Express, written by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard and arranged by Roger Emerson, needed no introduction!

A TNCS 7th-grader introduced “My Favorite Things”:

“My Favorite Things” is a show tune from the 1959 production musical The Sound of Music, one of the famous Broadway writings from Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Rogers wrote the music, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to this son. Although first appearing on stage in 1959, most people know the film version, which was released in 1965 and won five Oscars. The film featured actress Julie Andrews of Mary Poppins in her famed role as the musical’s leading protagonist, Maria, who was the governess of the rich Captain von Trappe’s children. This song famously appears in a scene in the film where the von Trappe children Maria look after are frightened and go into her room during a thunderstorm. She sings this tune to comfort them. This piece exemplifies “rounds in music,” where one group starts off a specific song and the next group starts to sing the same song a bit later.

“Dreams of Harmony” was introduced by another TNCS 7th-grader:

This piece derives from a large songbook entitled, Peace Songs for Children. Composer Joanne Hammil writes, “while tucking in my children one night when they were young, I was flooded with knowing that parents all over the world were doing the same. With the same big wishes for their kids’ happiness and safety and well-being and future, but simply saying their loving ‘goodnights’ in different languages. One world full of harmonies from all our glorious differences—that’s my dream. Part 1 sings “goodnight” in nine different languages: English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Swahili, Chinese, Russian, German and Hebrew. Part 2 harmonizes with Part 1, with a wish in English for us to all be ‘one family’ and to fill the world with dreams of harmony,” creating one counterpoint, which is a harmonic relationship between two voices that are independent in rhythm and contour.

A TNCS 5th-grader had the honor of introducing “When We’re Together,” with music and lyrics by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson:

In 2013, Frozen became a smash hit. Part of the reason was due to the movie’s soundtrack full of catchy and memorable songs, chief among them being Let It Go, the movie’s most show-stopping musical number. It remains to be seen whether the upcoming Frozen II will produce such a song on that same level. Nevertheless, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Disney’s new holiday featurette that continues the original Frozen story certainly tries, with “When We’re Together.”

Closing out the show was good, old “Jingle Bells,” this version with music and lyrics by James Pierpont and arranged by Betsey Lee Bailey.

tnncs-winter-concertElementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019