TNCS Has NexTrex Recycling Challenge in the Bag!

Logo_with_tagline3Environmental sustainability is a key message at The New Century School, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo!

That’s why, when TNCS Parent Council member Tilly Gurman heard about the NexTrex school challenge, she immediately thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join and brought her idea to the committee and to TNCS administration in November. “I thought, what a great opportunity to combine our Earth Day activities with this challenge,” said Ms. Gurman. “Whether or not we win, it’s just also getting people involved and doing more recycling and thinking about all of the waste we generate. It bugs me that in my own household we generate all this waste that I know can’t be recycled, and it kills me to just put it in the trashcan every time. I do everything I can to avoid those ziplock kind of bags, but at least now they can be recycled with this challenge. I can now actually do something about all that stuff.”

Although TNCS initially had a “soft start” (November 15th, America Recycles Day) to get through the end of the year, now it’s time to swing into full gear!

NexTrex School Recycling Challenge

We’ll explain more about the company and how it works, but first, let’s explore the details of the school challenge itself and get the need-to-know info up front.

What Is the Challenge?

Screen Shot 2020-02-01 at 12.08.42 PMTNCS will compete in the NexTrex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and bring them to TNCS to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. NexTrex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).

This is probably a good spot to clarify what qualifies as recyclable for this program. Basically, it’s down to #2s and #4s. Also, download a handout here.

 

So, bring plastic packaging materials to add to the pile at TNCS—got it. Then what? TNCS students are all in and will take it from there. Each classroom has a collection bin and has implemented an individual system for next steps. But, basically, once that initial bin is full, they weigh it and combine it with other classrooms’ loads in one of three NexTrex bins set up around the school. TNCS Facilities Manager Mike Horvath, who is overseeing the operation to ensure compliance with the NexTrex rules, then takes the combined load to Harris Teeter on a monthly basis for an official weigh-in and tallying.

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To back up for a second, the enthusiasm with which TNCS students embraced this challenge is critical to its success. Children are especially sensitive to environmental issues, perhaps in part due to their still very intimate relationship with the outdoors. When they get wind of a way to protect it, every adult in their sphere is suddenly on notice! This is exactly why the NexTrex school challenge works, explains Ms. Gurman:

In my research on behavior change, we know that when children ask for acute action from their parents at home, they encourage that specific behavior change. We can put up all the posters we want around the school, but your kids at home saying, ‘Are you really going to throw that away, mom?’, will probably more effectively get your attention. When they get excited about a thing, they really push it. When I told my 2nd-grader that we were starting this at TNCS, he started looking at every piece of trash to identify whether it might be a 2 or a 4!

So, get the kids excited and check every single item that goes in the trash (kidding)—got it. Then what? Well, it is a competition, as mentioned. In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom! (Preprimary classes will combine as one class.)

benchFor the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win very special prizes from NexTrex such as our very own park bench made from NexTrex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.

For the TNCS class-to-class contest, prizes are to be announced. Go teams!

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In the meantime, every TNCS student gets a NexTrex magnet that’s not only fun (because it’s a magnet!) but also acts as a visual cue to remind us to recycle. Winners of both contest tiers will be announced on or around Earth Day!

And Now, About NexTrex

According to its website, the Virginia-based Trex Company, ” . . . [makes] Trex® eco-friendly composite decks from an innovative blend of 95% reclaimed wood and plastic film—that’s almost the whole thing. On top of that, [they use] some of the most earth-friendly manufacturing processes in the country, reclaiming factory waste and eliminating the use of harmful chemicals. Trex offers consumers a truly environmentally responsible choice.”

How Does Plastic Film Packaging Become Decking or Furniture?

Plastic film is near-ubiquitous in manufacturing for the convenience it offers in packaging and transporting of products that make their way to us consumers, but it’s certainly no good for the environment. Converting it to usable NexTrex materials (which are 95% recycled)  significantly lessens the environmental impact.

To Earth Day, and Beyond!

“My hope is that this kind of becomes a yearly thing,” said Ms. Gurman. Indeed! Even if we don’t win this year, a huge buzz has been generated, and we can hit the ground running on November 15, 2020. We can even start collecting before the next challenge officially kicks off! Either way, many pounds of would-be non-recyclable material has been diverted from landfills to do some good in and for the world. That’s a big win for Planet Earth and its resident Earthlings!


Note: Even after Earth Day and the NexTrex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to a partner location. In Maryland, these include Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Giants, Harris Teeter, Kohl’s, Martins, Redner’s Markets, Safeway, Target, and Weis.

TNCS Celebrates the Lunar New Year 2020!

The Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival in China, is always a much-anticipated event at The New Century School, but this year is even more special. For the very first time, TNCS hosted a Lunar New Year Night—an evening of songs, dances, performances, and delicious Chinese cuisine for the TNCS community! Put together by TNCS’s amazing Chinese teachers, including Li Laoshi, Ge Laoshi, Hao Laoshi, Joan Laoshi, and Cui Laoshi as well as our beloved interns Manman and Victoria. Extra support in the form of, for example, cooking, decorating, and musical accompaniment, was provided by Monica, Mrs. Hope, Ms. Klusewitz, Ms. Anebo, and Sr. Cueva, and Señora Duncan. It was truly a group effort!

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè (新年快乐 )!

Before we get to the performances, let’s take a moment to reflect on a couple of things: First, what Year of the Rat means.

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Ms. Sharma’s 5th- /6th-grade homeroom is basically a “mischief” of rats, with many of those students having been born in 2008. Here is what we can expect from them in the future: “Because of their independence and imagination, they are suitable for creative jobs. These include authors, editors, and artists. . . Rats also pay attention to fine detail. They are fit for technical work, such as engineering and architecture.”

Second, we cannot celebrate the new year without sending some warm thoughts and well wishes to our friends in China facing a lethal outbreak of the 2019-nCov virus. This virus has infected thousands of people in China, and its ill effects have been felt right here at TNCS. Due to travel restrictions, our annual visit by Chinese university students had to be canceled in everyone’s best interest. TNCS hopes to welcome the six female and one male Chinese university students from Shanghai, who were scheduled to be here from February 4th through 18th at a future date to share their talents, gain meaningful American experiences, and participate in a cross-cultural immersion.

We hope for a speedy resolution to the Coronavirus crisis for all.

Lunar New Year Night!

This event was extremely well arranged, which paid off with enthusiastic attendance. Even better, students wore beautiful ethnic costumes ordered from China!

And now to the performances!

First up, grades 2 through 8 performed “Descendants of the Dragon” (合唱: 龙的传人) with piano accompaniment by TNCS 3rd- /4th-grade teacher Taryn Klusewitz.

Next, K/1st-grade students presented a Chinese Ethnic Costume Show (中国少数民族服装秀) with an introduction by TNCS 8th-graders.

Next, 2nd- /3rd-graders presented a play “The Story of Nian” (“年的故事”), preceded by an introduction by a 5th-grader and followed by a quiz from said 5th-grader.

A dance came next, performed by 5th- through 8th-grade girls. “Dance of the Jasmine Flower” (“茉莉花”), introduced by TNCS 4th-graders, was a real treat!

Next was a choral performance of “12 Zodiacs” (“十二生肖”) by 3rd- /4th-grade students. This song was introduced by 8th-graders and followed by another quiz.

Kung fu (中国功夫) performed by 5th- through 8th-grade boys was up next.

In the penultimate performance, K/1st-grade students returned to the stage to sing “Congratulations” (“恭喜恭喜”).

For the Grand Finale, all TNCS elementary and middle school students took the stage to sing a joyous “Happy Chinese New Year” (“新年好”)!

Said Li Laoshi after the event:

新年快乐!(Happy Chinese New Year—the year of the rat!)
Our school’s first Chinese night was a huge success!. The performance was very diverse, including songs, dance, a costume show, a play, and kung fu. All of these programs strongly present Chinese culture. It also was fun and educational, especially the question part, offering a wonderful chance to get all parents involved. We feel so proud of our TNCS community, having amazing students and very supportive parents and colleagues. We looking forward to next year’s Chinese Night!

Feedback from parents has been extremely enthusiastic about TNCS’s inaugural Lunar New Year celebration! Here are some comments:

“Thanks again for everything you do to help the kids learn Mandarin while exploring Chinese culture in an engaging way.”

“Thank you so much for all of your work on this event, it was creative and engaging and a wonderful mix of song, dance, humor, dramatics, and interactive education of the parents.”

“I wanted to take a moment to share the delight of my family and largely everyone with whom I spoke regarding yesterday’s program! Wei Li, the staff and students did a tremendous job showcasing the cultural significance of the occasion. TNCS is so fortunate to have Wei Li on staff – her consistent dedication and gifts are evident in her teaching, student and parent interactions and she truly does the school community proud.”


Wishing you great happiness and prosperity, TNCS community! Gong xi fa cai (恭喜發財)!

Meet Funke Sholola—TNCS’s New Receptionist!

At The New Century School, positive attitudes matter. When you walk into the school building, Funke Sholola makes sure to greet you with a warm smile before efficiently handling the business you arrived to take care of, whether that’s picking up a student, making a special campus visit, turning in a form, or meeting with a staff of faculty member.

Funke-ShololaTaking over from Hannah Brown, who is now at the helm of After Care and Summer Camp programs, Ms. Sholola is TNCS’s new Front Desk maven. She comes from Gaithersburg, MD, although her family is originally from Nigeria, her parents having emigrated here in their young adulthood. Ms. Sholola’s full name is Olufunke, which is Nigerian for “given by god to be taken care of.” Her name suits her—she radiates calm and contentment (though by means complacency, as we’re soon to learn).

Road to TNCS

Ms. Sholola is a very recent graduate (May 2019) of the University of Maryland, where she majored in criminology and criminal justice. She focused on the social rather than the law enforcement aspect of criminal justice, finding that economic disparity plays a large role in why people might commit crime. So, how did she wind up in Baltimore at TNCS,  you ask? The route is actually pretty straightforward.

She currently lives with an older sister in Timonium because Montgomery County was not practical in terms of cost of living and commuting to first school and now work. She has another older sister who is a researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

“What brought me here is that I do have a background of working with kids; I am certified as a teacher,” she explains. She obtained this certification in 2012 after taking a 3-year child development program for ages 0 to 14 years in high school. “It gave me an opportunity to figure out what I want to do and whether I really wanted to go into education. I got insight into what it takes to become certified, especially getting CPR and first aid certified, which some child care providers don’t have.” She enjoys working with younger age groups because not only are they still open and friendly, but she also gets to observe their milestone achievements.

When she saw that TNCS was hiring, Ms. Sholola researched the school and was immediately drawn to two aspects in particular: the language component and the diversity of the school community. “I noticed that we have people from multiple countries and they speak in different languages, and I like we are giving children this head start. I took Spanish for 3 years in high school, but it wasn’t habitual, and I wish I had taken it more seriously. Being able to speak another language is such an important skill to have,” said Ms. Sholola. Another TNCS characteristic she appreciates is the small classroom size. “I learned early on that I’m easily distracted,” she said. As with many if not most students, movement and sounds made by other classmates, in particular, could disrupt her work. When other students in class are not focused on their work, this effect is amplified. She says she was able to make better progress in college classes that had smaller class sizes.

Student of Life

So far, Ms. Sholola feels quite at home. “I like it here,” she said enthusiastically. “Because I’m a student of life, I like to learn new things and challenge myself. I’m happy to be starting to put faces with names. And, what I learned when I was a restaurant hostess in college is that if I pick up the phone and smile, it actually makes my voice sound warmer. That’s coming in handy. Also, everyone is so kind and welcoming as well as willing to assist and answer questions,” she said.

Ms. Sholola has lots of future goals, both personally and professionally. On the personal side, she says she wants to learn her parents Nigerian languages. She also hopes to travel to Nigeria this December, not having been since she was a small child in 2004. Another personal goal she has is to pursue a Master’s Degree perhaps in  business. She is looking into a part-time program at the University of Baltimore.

As for work goals, she says, “My one goal for the job is to be familiar with everything to help things run smoothly.and also just being of service to the people who are here—being a welcoming face and interacting with them.” She is still shaping her long-term, professional goals:

Yes I majored in criminology and criminal justice, but I don’t really see myself doing that long term. I noticed during my internships and that family life didn’t work out well for women in the field. Either they were still single, or they waited too long to have children. I want a happy balance between my personal life and work. I don’t want to be the person who puts work first all the time and then find myself with nothing to show for it at the end other than a career. I want to come home to children.

In the meantime, she gets her fill of cuteness from TNCS preschoolers and on up. For final thoughts, she says, “I’m here, say hello when you see me. Please bear with me when I ask questions because I’m still learning.”

And that’s a very good thing, Ms. Sholola! Welcome to TNCS!

 

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Head of TNCS Lower School Alicia Danyali Attends Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education Presentation!

The New Century School cares about nothing so much as quality education, so when the “Kirwan Commission” was established in 2016, TNCS took note. In fact, just last week, Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali, who is involved in advocacy for this initiative, attended a presentation and was motivated to share her thoughts about what she witnessed.

“Dr. Kirwan worked with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). to identify building blocks of high performing schools around the world for 1 year,” said Ms. Danyali. “During his year with NCEE, he researched gaps in Maryland, which led to the Kirwan recommendations.”

What’s the Kirwan Commission? 

Kirwan 2The Maryland Legislature established the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education in 2016 to improve Maryland’s school system to world-class status. This commission has become known as the “Kirwan Commission” after its Chairman, Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Maryland and nationally recognized authority on problems in education. With a long and illustrious career in education, starting in the classroom and working his way up to multiple university presidencies and chancellorships, Dr. Kirwan nevertheless calls this Commission, “the most difficult and important work of [his] life.”

Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) puts it like this: “The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is a multi-year initiative to research and develop major funding and policy reforms to improve the quality of Maryland’s public education system to benefit all of the more than 790,000 students, which will in turn benefit the State’s economy and quality of life for all Marylanders.”

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Key Policy Areas

The Kirwan Commission has a two-pronged goal: 1) Make policy recommendations that will improve Maryland schools performance overall, and 2) propose changes to current funding formulas for schools.

KirwanThe Commission has targeted five key policy areas to achieve their goal: Early Childhood Education, High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders, College and Career Readiness Pathways, More Resources to Ensure Success of All Students, and Governance and Accountability.

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Interim Report

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 10.53.36 AMAlthough the Commission was supposed to submit its final report to the legislature by December 2018, it ultimately took another year to work out how to achieve the necessary funding (known as the “Thornton formulas”)—a whopping $4 billion (a small fraction of which will come from casino revenues). The Commission issued a comprehensive Interim Report in January 2019.

Benefits for All Marylanders

That price tag—sounds like a lot to ask? Not when you consider the potential return on investment (ROI) study done by Strong Schools Maryland and the Sage Policy Group. along with David Hornbeck, another Marylander with a stellar career in education. “Mr. Hornbeck is gathering facts and statistics to support getting this bill passed,” said Ms. Danyali. For example, 12% more moms would return to the workforce if preK were more widely available. With a well-educated population, prison expenses as well as Medicaid expenses drop, because individuals are employed. The bottom line is, by 2046 the ROI is projected to be $6.3 billion—that’s a lot more than the initial outlay.

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Educating youth, starting at very young ages, and valuing educators has multiple advantages: individual empowerment; healthy, more sustainable communities; and a robust statewide economy. (Read the full Executive Summary.)

Kirwan’s Presentation

IMG_0949Said Ms. Danyali: “Through his social justice advocacy group, Dr. Kirwan is committed to high-quality schools and especially early childhood education (ECE), with mandatory pre-K4 statewide and expanded offerings for ages 0–3, which is why I got involved. He spoke a lot about Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” that provide resources and support for ECE in every county in Maryland.”

Some of Dr. Kirwan’s speech really resonated with Ms. Danyali:

This is the right vision and focus to match needs and prepare students for the current work world and for the future. We have to be as good as the best. There are many good schools and superb teachers, but not enough—47% of MD teachers leave the profession after 2 years due to lack of compensation and support. Students need to perform at a grade 10 ELA and have completed algebra 1 to graduate, but only 40% of MD students meet this criteria. We can’t allow this to stand. It’s unacceptable. We need to make education a high-status profession. If we do not shift this point, there is no point.

Want to Take Action?

The 2020 legislative began Wednesday, January 8th, and there will be multiple opportunities to make your voice heard. Here are a few:

Join StrongSchoolsMaryland in Annapolis: http://bit.ly/AnnapolisSignUp
Join the StrongSchoolsMaryland email list: http://bit.ly/ssmsignup
Get your voice counted for fixing the funding gap: https://www.strongschoolsmaryland.org/email-your-leaders

The legislation goes to vote on April 6th, and this is it. Another such commission will not be possible within this decade and maybe even the next. The time is now to stand for great education for all Marylanders. “It doesn’t matter if you’re public or private,” said Ms. Danyali. “This is going to affect every school in some way.”