In keeping with its emphasis on celebrating culture and diversity, The New Century School observes Black History Month annually by inviting special guests to showcase art, perform music, and present special topics.
This year, on February 22nd, TNCS welcomed the Keur Khaleyi African Dance Company for a special presentation for our students and staff. “Keur Khaleyi is a multigenerational, tradition-driven African dance company,” said TNCS Director of Student Support Alexis Boyd. “Their mission is to promote, provide, and produce African culture to the community at large and share the riches of the African Diaspora.”
By all accounts, the performance was absolutely inspiring, as these photos show. The opportunities for audience participation made it even sweeter!
Fortunately, TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson captured some video, so we can also hear all the fun!
Earlier in the month, members of the dance company visited TNCS preschool classrooms to do story time and introduce the drum and the other instruments to TNCS preschool students. “That was amazing,” said Ms. Boyd, “and I got a lot of good feedback from the families about it.” Kids came home eager to practice the new words they learned in Swahili!
[The New Century school students] have been doing a really good job of advocating for the type of special events they want to do. They have to be partly accountable for their experience here. I tell them ‘I’ll do my part of executing if you do your part and bring me ideas of what you want to do.’ I’m a firm believer in planning things with students as opposed to forthem. If I already have their buy-in from the jump, it makes the process so much easier.
–Alexis Boyd, TNCS Director of Student Support
This quote exemplifies a few things about The New Century School. To name just a few: education is inquiry-driven, so it follows that TNCS students would have a voice in their extraclassroom activities; TNCS nurtures the whole child, so cultural and social events are just as important as academics; and education is a partnership, with student advocacy helping drive learning. And that’s how TNCS’s first-ever Middle School Social evolved!
In talks with students, Alexis Boyd heard loud and clear that socializing with students from other schools is important to them as well as participating in events that give them the chance to lean into their seniority at the school and their budding maturity. The Middle School Social was Mrs. Boyd’s answer.
Held on Valentine’s Day, the social was, by all accounts, a runaway hit. With 100% attendance (with the exception of one illness), TNCS 6th- through 8th-graders embraced it wholeheartedly. Although students from another school were supposed to join, plans fell through at the last minute. Mrs. Boyd says they quickly pivoted, and the event morphed away from a dance and more into a chance to hang out, dance, listen to music, play games, and get to interact in a new way—just have that special time together, as Mrs. Boyd put it, and have it be just for them.
They were so excited, that some students bought special outfits, or had their hair and/or nails done. Even the gents got into the dressing up aspect and wore suits and special jewelry. Mrs. Boyd did not impose a dress code, however. She told them to channel the Met Gala, which is more about creative self-expression through formal dress than adhering to prescribed norms. “I want people to feel comfortable, and I think this is a good opportunity for them to present themselves to everyone the way that they want to,” she said. Mrs. Boyd herself wore a gown to honor the occasion (with sneakers to honor her feet!).
To start off the event, they went out to dinner at nearby Chilango’s restaurant. Mrs. Boyd says, “It’s important that all students have that social component on how to represent themselves and the school in public. They got to use their Spanish language to order, so also using the tools they are learning in the real world.”
Back at the ranch, parents pitched in to help Mrs. Boyd arrange food, games, and decorations for the main event. Even before they arrived, it was clear that TNCS students were going to have a wonderful time!
On returning and getting the social into full swing, TNCS students upped the merriment factor exponentially.
After it was all said and done, Mrs. Boyd says she got nothing but positive feedback from students and parents alike. “One of the students let me know that they felt proud to be ‘giving high school vibes by being out to eat and dressy,’ and I was like, mission accomplished! You are getting ready for high school, and I want you to make sure that you have those functional elements intact.”
We ❤️ these awesome, talented, funny, vibrant kids! Watch out world!
One of the most anticipated annual events at The New Century School is celebrating the Lunar New Year. This year rang in Year of the Rabbit, TNCS’s second rabbit year, with the last happening in 2011, when TNCS was very much still in its infancy.
For the second year running, TNCS held a Chinese bazaar to honor the occasion. (See Li Laoshi’s Chinese Night Market from last year here.) So, on January 24th and 25th, the auditorium in building north was transformed into an indoor market of craft and clothing stalls, food vendors, and performances. This, says Yujie Peng (“Peng Laoshi”), allows students to collaborate with their peers and to communicate about real-life subjects in Mandarin Chinese.
The bazaar, she explained, presents an opportunity to explore different Chinese cultures. Students were so excited leading up to the event, she said, and it turned out even better than she had hoped. So much better, in fact, that she thinks she will need to double the goods offered next year (Year of the Dragon)! The bazaar was not only a sell-out, but it also came close to tripling the funds raised last year, with more proceeds still to come. Parents, said Peng Laoshi, had lots of positive feedback to share. Not surprising, as you’ll see!
As the photos (courtesy of Peng Laoshi) show, 4th- through 8th-grade students set up stations focusing on a topic that interested them, such as Kung Fu, Chinese food, pandas, traditional traditional crafts, and traditional clothing. Qipao, for example, is the traditional Chinese dress and is commonly worn to celebrate the New Year. Students created trifold poster presentations and presented their topics in a mix of English (so attending parents could understand) and Mandarin Chinese, as part of the lesson in learning new vocabulary related to culture. New this year, Peng Laoshi asked her students to use the three parts of their posterboards trilingually, each in a different color to represent the three languages TNCS students learn: Chinese characters and pinyin in green, English in blue, and Spanish in orange. Younger students (K through 3rd-grade) made posters to decorate the walls of the auditorium.
Another special bonus is that each class did a classroom presentation in Mandarin that was recorded and shown on a loop during that class’s time at the bazaar. Courtesy of TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese teachers, these are sprinkled throughout the remainder of the post.
At the bazaar, students needed to demonstrate their proficiency in buying and selling in Mandarin as well as advertising their stations. Goods were bought and sold with tickets that attendees could buy prior to entering. “This not only allowed them to practice their language skills, but also practice life-ready skills,” said Peng Laoshi. “They need to know how to cooperate with their peers, because each station had two, three, or four students. They also need to know how to organize their station with the different items.” Prior to the event, more learning took place as students developed online research skills and then how to coherently present their research on Chinese culture according to parameters set by Peng Laoshi.
But it wasn’t all work for these industrious bazaar managers! Each student got a package that included a red Year of the Rabbit tee-shirt in one of two styles depending on division to wear on bazaar days. At the bazaar, they each got a red cup containing two dumplings and a spring roll—they could buy more if still hungry! (This proved to be very much the case, and next year Peng Laoshi plans to have extra air fryers on hand!)
The tee-shirts were a runaway hit and have made several subsequent appearances at school, including during this past spirit week’s Twin Day.
Peng Laoshi said she didn’t have a favorite presentation—they were all great—but she did express how impressed she was with some of the beginners, who learned very quickly and brought their A game to the bazaar. “Overall,” she said, “I see that students can really learn a lot from this kind of activity.”
And now, we look forward to the Lantern (Shangyuan) Festival, which happens on the 15th day of the lunar calendar and coincides with the full moon. That is Sunday, February 5th this year. Peng Laoshi says, “I hope more people around the world can know about the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival. It’s like a new beginning—everything’s new, and we have new hope and a whole new start.”
When asked what the celebration means to her personally, Peng Lasohi said:
The Chinese new year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. It means reunion of family and celebration of the beginning of a new year. I am so happy to celebrate it with TNCS families, which is like a big family reunion and celebration. The rabbit symbolizes peace, longevity, and prosperity in Chinese culture. The year of the rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope. May the year of the rabbit bring every TNCS family good health, happiness, and abundance.
Wishing you lots of luck this rabbit year! Tù nián dà jí! 兔年大吉