TNCS Visual Arts Show 2020: A Virtual Exhibition!

An annual event for several years running, the Elementary and Middle School Art Show at The New Century School is always greatly anticipated—TNCS students proudly display their lovingly crafted works of art, and parents marvel at their kids’ imagination and craftsmanship.

Although we can’t see the show in person this year, TNCS’s amazing art teacher Jia Liu has photographed her students’ art to provide a virtual exhibition that demonstrates the diversity of the projects they worked on, the skills they have developed, and the wondrous ideas they chose to bring to life. Their creativity is positively astounding!

As hard as it may be to imagine, Liu Laoshi even conducted art classes virtually since TNCS Virtual School began in March! She shared her experience of teaching in this new way:

I like it; I think it works, especially because I feel the students are very interested in the projects we’re doing now. The only downside of teaching virtual art class is not having access to all the diverse materials we use at school, so the students have to adapt and use whatever we they have. We’re not using paint at all, though, because I feel it’s asking too much of parents to have to prepare everything and then clean it all up. That’s a limitation.

Virtual Visual Arts Show!

Although the TNCS 2020 Art Show does not have a theme per se, Liu Laoshi says this is because she wanted students to work on a variety of projects and in several media. “It’s basically one project after another!” she said.

“Sometimes all divisions do the same project, but do it differently,” explained Liu Laoshi. Take this marbling pattern project ultimately used to make into gorgeous paper lanterns.

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“But recently, they’ve been doing different projects.” The K/1 division, for example, generally works on projects that won’t take very long to complete so their attention spans can hold out, whereas the older students engage in longer-term projects. Let’s tour the show!

Gallery 1: Kindergarten and 1st Grade

Flower Drawing Installation

In this collection, students drew bouquets or single stems, and they sure are pretty!

Monster Collage Installation

Who doesn’t love monsters? In this collection, these budding Dr. Frankensteins used colored paper, shapes, coloring, and other materials to bring their creations to life.

Drawing with Objects Installation

Let’s mix some media! For this collection, students used everyday objects and sketched them into scenery or incorporated them as body parts. These are just too fun!

Shape Faces Installation

For the Shape Faces installation, students were given a variety of blob outlines that they could transform into something recognizably human or animal . . . or not!

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Wearable Art Installation

This collection will have Project Runway considering a junior version. Students sewed, glued, twisted, colored, and scissored their way into beautiful works of art to sport around town. Love the masks, kids!

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Gallery 2: 2nd through 6th Grades

Miniature Box Installation

With this collection, you’ll be wishing you’d kept that diorama you made in grade school. Students first assembled a box shape out of paper, then poured their imaginations inside!

Don’t you just want to live in one of these visionary worlds?

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“The older students in 2nd through 6th grade are also working for the whole second semester on creating ‘restaurants’,” explained Liu Laoshi. They design their logo and branding, create their menus, and then build the restaurant with cardboard,” she said. This inventive project engages the students on so many levels, and you’ll see that they had a lot of fun with it!

Recipe Illustration Installation

With the shutdown, lots of turned to baking and cooking. Liu Laoshi used this to her advantage, asking students to illustrate the recipe and the outcome of one of their kitchen endeavors.

Logos Installation

From their, the idea grew to the full-fledged restaurant challenge described above. This collection features the restaurants’ logos.

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Menus and Branding Installation

Branding is everything! In this collection, students not only refined their restaurant’s identities, but also homed in on what they would serve.

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Restaurants Installation

Last step! Restaurant construction is ongoing, but these kids have some big ideas! We hope to show you the finished sites soon!

Gallery 3: 5th through 8th Grades

“The upper elementary and middle school students, meanwhile, have been working on drawing skills—life drawing and portrait drawing,” said Liu Laoshi.

Painting Installation

Interiors, exteriors—it doesn’t matter! Paint what your mind’s eye sees!

Drawing Installation

“The older students really like to learn drawing techniques, so I’ve been doing demos during class,” said Liu Laoshi. “I can show them a lot using photoshop and drawing on screen so they can see what I’m doing directly. Last week I set up another device to be able to record what I’m doing.”

Gallery 4: Personal Work

“Some students have also sent me personal work they have done at home. They really enjoy doing art and want to share it with me,” said Liu Laoshi. “Including their independent work here will make them feel special. Other students do such good work, but they don’t upload it. I think they should!”

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Enjoy the show? That’s not all.

More About Jia Liu

Last fall, when TNCS was still physically open, Liu Laoshi gave this interview about why making art is so essential for school children.

She believes in the power of art for students, but Liu Laoshi is also herself a card-carrying artist. Did you know that she is a published children’s book illustrator?

She also has hosted storytime sessions at The Walters Art Museum!


If you want more of what Liu Laoshi can do for your kids, sign them up for one of her Illustrator Specialty Camps in TNCS Virtual Summer Camp, including bookmaking and illustration!

TNCS Admissions 2020: The Name of the Game is Flexibility, Authenticity, and Patience!

The New Century School welcomed Suzannah Hopkins to take over as Admissions Director for the 2019–2020 school year . . .  and then the pandemic hit. Despite having only a few months under her belt as TNCS Admissions Director before schools were ordered to close down, Ms. Hopkins has managed to continue her work from her dining room table—including, believe it or not, introducing TNCS to new prospective families!

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But it’s certainly not easy. “It has been a challenge to sell the school, especially since we are wearing even more hats. The common saying among Admissions Directors is,” said Ms. Hopkins, “if we can get them on campus, they’re sold. But I can’t do that! That’s the rub for independent schools right now.”

Making Connections

So how does one showcase a school that can’t operate as a brick-and-mortar enterprise? That’s where TNCS Virtual School comes in to help tell the story. “That’s how people see who we are and what we’re all about,” explained Ms. Hopkins. “I also think that pivoting in our social media is allowing me to direct prospective families to our Facebook page and Immersed to show them virtually since we can’t do it in person. I only have a small window to provide a sense of what the school culture is about, so the social media becomes even more important. I am grateful to our team including Karin Cintron, who did not miss a beat pivoting with me to change our social media focus and creating resource pages on our website such as the new Support for Prospective Parents page.” In addition, the entire brochure package is also now on the website as a pdf.

Other aspects of admissions also needed to be adjusted, such as with the process for prospective students themselves:

We can’t do a shadow visit, so with rising 2nd through 8th graders, I’ll do student and parent interviews, separately or together, but definitely making sure I get to talk to the student. For the younger ones, we’re doing parent interviews, but I’ve been encouraging parents to make sure I have a sighting of the child or even just hear him or her in the background to get a sense of the family dynamic. That part is tricky, though, because kids are so different at home than they are at school, so you’re sort of getting their most comfortable self, and sometimes that can be pretty funny.

Ms. Hopkins says she relies a lot on Zoom these days, as do many of us, and values the ability to be able to connect with people, even if it can’t be in person. “I get so excited to get on a Zoom call and see some new faces,” she said. “Families seem to be feeling the same in terms of enjoying talking to somebody new or outside their own households. I start every call with, ‘How are you doing? How’s it going over at your house?’ Everyone wants to know that someone is thinking about them and feeling a sense of connection. Periodically, I’ll see a child enter the scene, and it’s the same on my end. Anything goes, and it’s all good! The mantra for virtual admissions is flexibility, authenticity, and a whole lot of patience.”

Her efforts to make connections are paying off, and prospective families with students of all ages have been reaching out for information. “Amazingly enough, we’ve gotten signed contracts even though the families don’t get to walk through the halls and hear our students and teachers interacting,” she said. In some ways, this is perhaps not so surprising as parents come to terms with realizing that we have to be ready for whatever the fall is going to look like. Schools in Maryland will not reopen this school year, and options may not be as abundant as they once were.

TNCS on the other hand, moved quickly to get up and running virtually, and has now hit a rhythm with it that seems to work for everyone. I give our faculty and administration a lot of credit for that. With so much uncertainty regarding how schools will reopen, I’m so in awe that we are trying to think of every possible scenario. It’s a whole lot of work to do that and figure out these contingencies. How can we split up this room to maintain smaller groups, for example? Do we have preschool on campus and elementary and middle stay virtual for now? Do we implement A and B days? For now, we’re all in the dark and watching the news together.

Virtual Discover TNCS Events

In addition to operating classrooms virtually, TNCS is offering Virtual Admissions Events. The first took place in April, and a second will take place Wednesday, May 20th from 10:00 am–11:00 am.

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“The fact that we’re doing virtual open houses is awesome,” said Ms. Hopkins. “We basically took the in-person event that I did in January and turned it into a Zoom event with updated slides and additions for virtual school. Josh Birenbaum gave the parent perspective, and we had nine prospective families in attendance.” One advantage to doing the event virtually is that people were able to ask questions via chat. One family is now enrolled, and a few others are “in the funnel,” as they say in admissions speak.

This month’s event will take a slightly different format: The first half will be admissions in general, and the second will be about summer camp.

Summer Camp?

Yes, TNCS Virtual Summer Camp will be a thing! TNCS Aftercare and Summer Camp Director Hannah Brown will handle that portion, with support from Paula Kupersanin and Adriana DuPrau, who are helping to create summer curricula. “It’s been a challenge running our aftercare program from home and preparing for summer camp, under uncertain circumstances,” said Ms. Brown. “But, it has been an opportunity for creative problem-solving, and I’m really proud of what the team has come up with so far.” They are currently working on virtual offerings for K through 8th-grade students. “I think that’s where the demand will be this summer. We’re looking at academic enrichment mornings in math and ELA, and then the afternoons will be geared toward social–emotional learning with specialty camps, like art and physical activity.”

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The actual offerings and the final schedule will be available on the TNCS website soon, thanks to the invaluable work by Karin Cintron to get that and registration up and running. “I’m really excited to get the word out to parents,” said Ms. Brown. “We don’t yet have a sense of how many people will register,” she continued.

Right now it’s really a balancing act for families. We want our students to have a high level of readiness for the fall, but what’s especially important to me is for them to have a sense of connectedness this summer and get some social interaction, even if it is remotely. And we really want the experience to be fun, too, whether it’s an academic enrichment or a specialty camp. Every kid’s threshold for how much virtual interaction they can profit from is different. In that spirit, we’re parsing out the day so families can do as much or as little as they need.

What We’re Grateful For

“It’s such a scary time for admissions. The job of an admissions officer is to get students into a school so there are students to teach. Hearing about schools teetering or even having to close is so sad,” said Ms. Hopkins, but she’s not one to end on anything but a positive note. “I’m so grateful that Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner are doing everything they can to make sure we’re thriving. Admissions is challenging, but the fact that we’re still getting interest from families and getting them through the pipeline makes me really happy. People are talking about us, and our name is getting out there.”

Then there’s the fact that the fundamental part of her job is still intact—more or less. “My favorite part of my job is getting to meet families and students, and I don’t get to do that in the same way now. I like to be with people—I like to talk and connect. That’s why I like admissions so much.”

Finally, there’s you, TNCS community. “We have such loyal families who have been really supportive during this time; I think it makes all the difference,” said Ms. Hopkins. “I want to thank our current families, and I also want to thank new families for entrusting their children’s futures to us. I really am so grateful for that.”


Visit Virtual Discover TNCS to register and tell your friends!

TNCS Dean of Students/Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali Presents at AIMS Learning to Lead Conference 2020!

On March 3, 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Alicia Danyali, the Dean of Students and Head of the Lower School at The New Century School, presented at an important and now exponentially more relevant conference: The Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) annual Learning to Lead event, this one on the theme of “Handle the Pressure: Building Social Media Leadership in Our Students.” The impetus behind the conference was this:

Social media continues to transform the educational landscape in our schools, as well as the emotional development of our students. These young people are being asked to grow up faster, and the implications of their decisions now have grand consequences that can affect their social lives, mental health, academic performance and, in some cases, college matriculation and career path. Never before have our young people been faced with such pressure to be perfect … in every way.

Now, with shelter-at-home orders in place across the state, many students are spending even more time online to varying degrees, whether it’s for entertainment or educational purposes. TNCS students, for example, are attending virtual classrooms, which is a wonderful thing (read all about it here). But this often dramatic increase in screen time has some parents wondering, “Are my children practicing safe online habits? What is their level of social media literacy?”

The Social Institute

The 2020 conference was hosted by the Severn School in Severna Park, with Laura Tierney as the keynote speaker. Ms. Tierney founded  The Social Institute, whose mission is to “. . . empower 1 million students nationwide to navigate social media and technology in positive, healthy, and high character ways. As a team of digital natives, we bridge the digital divide between students and adults by offering schools a comprehensive, student-led curriculum and presentations that students respect and embrace.” The Social Institute is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of social media, Ms. Tierney “has created a dynamic curriculum that inspires leadership and reinforces smart-decision making through a positive, growth mindset.

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“The audience was about 80% middle and high schoolers, and our focus was to give them tools to be school leaders,” said Ms. Danyali.

Self-Care, Self-Discipline, and Self-Reflection: Three Principles to Guide Your Online Presence

“Ms. Tierney and her group basically talk to students about healthy relationships and what character means as well as how that translates into their everyday lives,” explained Ms. Danyali. Three concepts she focuses on are self-care, self-discipline, and self-reflection. “She emphasizes that how they present themselves on social media can affect them long term, such as when it’s time to apply for college or get a job. Regarding attitude in general, how do you send positive messaging? How do you still remain friends with people that you don’t agree with on social media? All of those things that they’re going to face challenges with.”

After the keynote presentation, the audience broke out into four groups to workshop some of these concepts related to social media. They were given a quiz about their habits and privacy, which Ms. Danyali hopes to replicate for TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders to help them investigate, for example, what their habits are and what habits they might be looking to change, what has benefited them or improved their lifestyle.

WE Schools

One of the benefits of attending a conference like this is networking. During one of the breakout sessions, Ms. Danyali describes connecting with a representative of WESchools, “an innovative series of experiential service-learning programs that engage educators and youth globally to empower them with the skills, knowledge, and motivation to bring positive change in themselves and the world.” Sound like something Ms. Danyali would be interested in? In fact, she plans to partner with them in the near future, possibly for extracurricular activities.

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“Generation Z and How to Forge Accountability”

Ms. Danyali, who has been teaching TNCS elementary and middle school students about social media literacy for years, was an ideal presenter—one of only two, in fact. Her talk was titled “Generation Z and How to Forge Accountability.” Although she has spoken on this topic before, this time, she says, she approached it a bit differently. “I started out asking whether anybody was able to cultivate accountability from somebody else, whether it was a personal or professional relationship. How did that play out?” She got a lot of response, and students shared their school social and emotional learning experiences. She explains, “Where I was going with this is, most of these independent schools, including TNCS, use four or five words to describe what they hold as their Core Values—but how do you actually cultivate those and how do you hold the community accountable for upholding them? How are they represented in your school in a way that contributes to people taking responsibility for their actions?”

For example, one of TNCS’s core values is Service. Ms. Danyali recounts how Ms. Lee’s 2nd- /3rd-grade class assembled hygiene kits to donate to the Baltimore Rescue Mission, an authentic and worthwhile service initiative. But they took it a step further and shared their experience of why they undertook the project and why it was important with the much-younger students in Ms. Mosby’s primary classroom to help establish this concept with them, so they can build on it meaningfully as they grow. That’s how TNCS brings it full circle. “But some educators confessed that they never talk about the actual words,” said Ms. Danyali, “and I think they now see why they should perhaps start doing so, such as by relating the values back to books the students are reading. It can be that simple.”

In some schools, such as the Park School, social and emotional learning even becomes part of the student’s assessment. Although it’s certainly subjective to evaluate someone’s degree of, for example, empathy, Ms. Danyali says that’s how you not only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.”

“I wanted my talk to open the door for more conversation, which is how I presented it,” said Ms. Danyali. “This is just planting a seed that maybe resonates with you as relevant or so that you can pick the conversation back up in your school house with your colleagues or with your family at home. I want the conversation to be ongoing.”

Speaking of ongoing, Ms. Danyali will bring many of the valuable insights she gained by attending and presenting at the conference home to inform new initiatives for TNCS students. One example is the One Love foundation, which also focuses on healthy relationships. She wrote 20 words on a chalkboard and asked members of the TNCS 3rd and 4th grades to circle which ones signified a healthy relationship. “We talked about the words,” she said, “but what was striking is that they were able to do it without picking any of the wrong ones.” After this “test drive” of One Love, she will undertake some of these initiatives with the older students as well.

To bring all the various threads in this post back together, in this time of increased socializing via screens, let’s make sure we—and our kids—are being who we want to be, both in real life and on social media.

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TNCS 7th- and 8th-Grade Capstone Trip: Costa Rica!

For the first time in several weeks, Immersed is pleased to bring you a post about something that starts with C-O that is not COVID-19! This week, we return to the halcyon pre-pandemic days when things we used to take for granted, like travel, happened all the time. For 7th- and 8th-grade students at The New Century School, this meant their capstone middle school trip to Costa Rica.

In the nick of time, TNCS students accompanied by homeroom teacher Daphnée Hope and Curriculum Coordinator Adriana DuPrau (who chaperoned the first such trip in 2019), departed Baltimore on March 3rd, destination, San José. The trip was a success from the moment it started—even the flight over was fun! “For example, the flight attendants asked one of the students to come up and share what our school name is and what we were doing,” said Mrs. DuPrau. They returned home on March 8th.

Getting Acclimated

On arrival in San José, they met their wonderful driver, Ronald (whom the students affectionately renamed “Ronnie” and then “Uncle Ronnie”). Uncle Ronnie drove them to their first house just outside of San José in the mountainous Cloud Forest region. “We went in first to see how we wanted to set up the kids—two to a room in bunks, boys with boys and girls with girls,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. “Our first house was really nice,” said Mrs. Hope. “It had a big, beautiful yard and dogs, so the kids loved playing outside. They would play tag, play with the dogs, go on a little hike. There wasn’t a TV in the first house, which meant that we were really together. We also took away their phones; they were only allowed to have them to call their parents. This was so the kids actually hung out with each other without that technology barrier. [Mrs. DuPrau] had learned that from prior experience,” she continued.

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“Our landlord was so helpful and really wanted to find ways to make it a learning experience for the students, even arranging for us to have a Costa Rican cooking lesson!” said Mrs. DuPrau. “Cooking is one of our funniest memories, and the students still talk about it,” added Mrs Hope.

Legend of the Psycho Sauce

—As recounted by Mrs. Hope with asides from Mrs. DuPrau.

The experience of our first grocery store was pretty awful. I’m a really good cook when I have the right ingredients, but our driver misunderstood when we said we needed groceries but didn’t want to spend a lot of money and took us to a budget store that didn’t have what we expected. We had been traveling since 2:00 a.m., the kids were hungry, and it’s already evening. So, we decide we’ll just make something simple—how about pasta? Well, they didn’t have normal pasta sauce—just little tiny packets of tomato sauce and salsa. Everything’s in Spanish, we were confused, we couldn’t find fresh produce, we’ve never fed 13 people before . . . (that was the hardest part). I find a carrot and what I think is spinach (it wasn’t—I still don’t know what it was) to throw in the sauce because I’m thinking the kids probably need some vegetables. Then, we realized at home we don’t have enough tomato sauce. So, we add in some salsa. It was just disgusting and way too spicy. The kids thought it was so funny—they call it the ‘psycho sauce’.

After tasting it, some students decided they weren’t actually hungry. Others got really silly and blamed it on the psycho sauce. We were all deliriously laughing.

One night we did make really good tacos. We explained to Uncle Ronnie that we needed a different store.

Saint Gregory School Visit

88129714_10157336338973983_479570348849758208_nOnce they were all settled in to their new digs and (somewhat?) well fed, the group trundled off to their first big adventure—a visit to Saint Gregory, former TNCS teacher Raquel Álvarez’s current school. Sra. Álvarez and her husband Robert are well known to the TNCS community, and Sra. Álvarez and Mrs. DuPrau taught together in the very beginning of TNCS, Sra. Álvarez teaching a preprimary Spanish immersion homeroom as well as Spanish to the kindergarteners, and Mrs. DuPrau teaching kindergarten homeroom. As a side note, some of the graduating middle schoolers on this trip were taught by those two as little ‘uns, so, it was really like one big happy family reunion! The Álvarezes also helped plan the trip and activities, being locals! They also know Uncle Ronnie very well—he is a cousin of Sr. Álvarez!

Via Facebook chat, Sra. Álvarez described the experience from her perspective:

When I returned home after leaving TNCS, I always had the dream of having students from Baltimore come to visit my country. In March, my 3rd-grade class was extremely excited to welcome Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope and their students to our school. Some of the students were even mine, when I taught at TNCS. It was a wonderful experience for our students from different grades to interact socially with TNCS students and playing soccer and basketball together. However, for me, the best part was watching the kids carry out conversations. We highly enjoyed having a piece of TNCS here in Costa Rica, and we look forward to having more opportunities like that in the future. Pura Vida!

The group’s visit to Saint Gregory’s was designed as both a service-learning activity and to get an idea of what education in Costa Rica is like. The school itself is a private English immersion school with a student body starting with preschool and going all the way through high school. “They were really thankful for us to be there and to speak English with them,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. “We separated the TNCS kids into groups of three or four, and some sat in with elementary classes and some in upper elementary. We also worked on organizing the library, which the principal was so excited about as well as about our visit in general.” Mrs. Hope agreed: “They loved it—the kids there loved it, and our kids loved it. They got to just sit and chat together.” They also had lunch altogether and played sports games at recess. “Our 8th-graders were completely schooled by their 4th-grade boys in soccer,” laughed Mrs. DuPrau.

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“Now that they know us, they want us to come back. Next time we could help more with their library, for example, by everybody bring two favorite books to add to it,” said Mrs. DuPrau. “We came in with good intentions,” agreed Mrs. Hope, “but next time we’d like to do more.”

Nature, Here We Come!

After the school visit, Uncle Ronnie drove to them to their second house by Esterillos beach. “This was a really big house with a beautiful backyard and a pool,” said Mrs. Hope. “The kids swam every morning and every night. Being so near the beach was really fun, and the kids especially loved the pool,” she said. Mrs. DuPrau agreed:

We let them swim each morning because they would always be ready to go when we asked, no matter how early. They were very cooperative and had very good attitudes. We set some rules in the beginning, for instance, they had to stay in their rooms until at least 6:30 am (a few of our friends had shared that they are early risers). When they did come out, they were so respectful and quiet. Mrs. Hope and I would wake up and find a few of them just hanging out. We also asked the kids to clean up after themselves as well as help clean the kitchen in small group rotations.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

The next day they visited La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where they were inches away from some adorable sloths. “We got to see all of the beautiful plants and the flowers—Costa Rica is so lush and green. We also saw lots of other animals, like jaguars,” said Mrs. DuPrau.

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The next day was their “day off.” “We went tourist shopping, had a typical Costa Rican lunch (rice, beans, meat, plantains), and then headed to the beach for about an hour, but the kids wanted to get back to the pool,” explained Mrs. Hope.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Next up: an amazing tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. “The beach was absolutely incredible. It was like kind of like an inlet, so there were no big waves or undercurrent, and the water was so warm and clear. We spent our whole last day just relaxing there,” said Mrs. Hope.

Reflections on the Trip

With this trip becoming an annual event for TNCS middle schoolers, Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope are finding ways to refine it and make it better each time.

Mrs. DuPrau’s Takeaways

Something I’ve learned is that I tend to overbook. I did this with Puerto Rico and maybe here again in Costa Rica. Middle schoolers do need time to chill, as they kept telling me. We did a lot with nature, which the kids would maybe prefer less of because they really just wanted to hang out at the pool! They did use their Spanish a lot, which is important. I really want to go back to Costa Rica on future capstone trips.

Our saving grace for the trip was having our own personal chauffeur. He took us to great restaurants we never would have been able to find on our own. He always connected me to wi-fi in his car, so that anytime parents sent me a message or a question, I was always able to respond quickly.

Both of our houses ended up working really well space-wise. And the kids could not have been better behaved. Mrs. Hope and I still talk about that. Nobody got in trouble; we never had to call parents. It was really nice. We really get to know a lot of the kids in a different way.

I wanted them to have a new experience—to enjoy being teenagers away from their parents and showing that they could be independent and responsible. I wanted them to get to be happy for a week straight and hang out with their friends. They have such a small cohort, and I just loved seeing them love each other so much and getting to have so much fun.

IMG_7503-M.jpgMrs. Hope’s Takeaways

In the second house, our bedroom was on the first floor, and so was the boys’ bedroom—they were all in one big room. We couldn’t believe how quiet they were being, even all together like that. Then, on the last day, we realized it was because our bedroom door was soundproof. We happened to open it at one point and discovered how loud it actually was out there!

Maybe we should rebrand this capstone trip as less of a service trip, because nobody wants middle schoolers as volunteers, just high school age and up. We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t. We’ll do some service, but I also want to make it fun.

This cohort was like one big family the whole time. Everybody got along from the moment we met at the school at 2:00 in the morning to getting dropped off to their parents at 2:00 in the morning a week later. Everybody was a big fan. They were so supportive of each other, especially with the zip lining. They were each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They all got along really, really well. I feel like this trip really unified them afterward; they have been even more vulnerable and open and honest with each other since then. It’s really neat to see that.

I feel like the best activity we had was the zip line because it got everybody out of their comfort zone. But for me what was most important was the kids just having fun, getting to experience a new culture, and introducing them to the idea that it’s a big world. It was really neat to watch them open their eyes to it.

“My favorite activity was zip lining on the Superman course!”

Student Takeaways

The students’ reflections are quite touching and will also help inform the planning of future trips. Note that many of their quotes have also been interspersed with photos as captions throughout this post.

The pool was where we got to hang out as as real, real good friends and not just as classmates.

What stuck with me was how similar Costa Rica’s landscape and architecture is to Indonesia, my mother’s birth country. There was a volcano near us.

I got a lot closer to the class. That was definitely one of the biggest things.

I wasn’t that close with everyone in my class, and I bonded more with them during the trip. It was nice. I want to stay in touch with them after we go to our separate high schools.

It was good practice speaking Spanish. We have been learning it for so long—it was fun to use it.

I enjoyed getting to see another country and especially being able to do it with my classmates.

I left feeling like a different person and realizing that I can just be myself. I grew a lot by being around so many other people who were kind and wanted to be good friends.

I’m a big beachgoer so I really liked Manuel Antonio beach, with the clear water and being able to see the rocks and coral underneath. I’ve been to a lot of beaches, but this one was pretty special. It was also memorable because one of the other guys was pretending there was a poisonous vulture in the water. It was rather amusing. Squawk!

I would say that I grew some because I got somewhat more confident, like from the zip lining and being 130 feet in the air. My friendships were also strengthened.

It was my first time going out of the states, so I was pretty jittery, but Costa Rica was nice because it was a new feel of things and a new place to see and explore. The climate was so different. In Baltimore, the weather is just all-around crazy. But, in Costa Rica, it’s always sunny and hot—it’s a good climate to hang out in. I also liked learning about a new currency, the colón (plural, colones).

I grew a lot socially, because I didn’t really use to like talking to people. I realized that once you get to know them, they’re usually pretty cool. I also liked practicing Spanish with Uncle Ronnie.


This post would not be complete without a huuuuuge thank-you to TNCS parent Damian Mosely, who so generously hosted two Blacksauce Kitchen (his restaurant) breakfast biscuit sales at TNCS and donated all of the proceeds to the middle schoolers. Their trip would not have happened without his incredible support.

TNCS Emergency Personnel Child Care: Heroes Helping Heroes!

Six weeks have passed since The New Century School closed its physical campus to students and ceased normal operations, along with the rest of Maryland and most of the country. As extraordinary as that then seemed, TNCS faculty and administration met the upheaval head on, rolling out TNCS Virtual School within just a few days. TNCS students have been able to actively continue their education, despite these formidable circumstances. In terms of innovation and swift implementation, what TNCS has accomplished is unparalleled—TNCS was among the first if not the first to get online school up and running in Maryland.

But that’s not the only remarkable feat TNCS pulled off. “In mid March, we quickly moved to get approval from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to be an official Essential Personnel Child Care (EPCC) site in less than 48 hours,” explained TNCS Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux. “We have an amazing staff who are practicing extensive preventive measures to care for children so their parents can continue to work the frontlines of this crisis.” Some TNCS families have come to Baltimore to work temporarily at Johns Hopkins hospital, for example, to complete a residency, but have no family or support system to rely on to take care of their kids in a medical crisis like this.

All of these “heroes helping heroes” deserve special recognition and gratitude.

EPCC at TNCS

imagejpeg_4Jatiya Richardson, a very familiar face at TNCS, having been an assistant teacher for the last 2 years, became the EPCC Director by stepping up to offer her services. “I felt it was needed, and I love taking care of kids. It was a no-brainer—when Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali mentioned that this might be happening, I knew that I wanted to be there to help. It’s in me.”

EPCC at TNCS currently comprises 12 children ages 2 to 5, whose parents are all health care workers, and 5 teachers. In addition to Ms. Richardson, Yurisan Gonzalez, Sara Espinoza, Yanely Poso, and Yanet Pina Gonzalez make up the group of care providers. The TNCS campus is closed to all with the exception of EPCC staff and students.

“In terms of compliance, we are doing everything we can to make sure that health is the top priority for everybody in this building,” said Ms. Richardson. Each person who enters the building goes through a rigorous process designed to adhere to the ever-changing guidelines issued by the MSDE that includes strict hygiene measures and donning the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Additional measures include daily temperature checks and frequent handwashing and sanitizing.

They have also created a special cleaning station for the facilities staff to clean their tools and any supplies they have to bring in from outside.

So that’s the operational part, but what about the children? How does TNCS EPCC keep them happily occupied under such stringent new regulations? The staff has adapted to provide physical activity, arts and crafts, and good old story time, despite their environmental limitations. “We’re not able to go into the other building, so we transformed the multipurpose room into the gym,” said Ms. Richardson. “We brought over the Imagination Playground and some of the mats and completely sanitized them. We do imaginary play and play hide and seek. We also do a lot of painting.” Ms. Richardson even taught herself Google classroom so that the children could participate in the Montessori activities ongoing in TNCS Virtual School.

As for how the children are handling their new circumstances, Ms. Richardson says, “It can be rough, because we can’t mix them. It can be draining, but we just have to stick with it for everyone’s health.”

The kids for the most part understand a very little bit—they know about social distancing, for example, from talking about it at home and from books I read to them here. And they know that they don’t want to catch the coronavirus! They never ask questions, like, ‘Oh, teacher, why are you wearing a mask?’. I’m surprised by that—I’ve been waiting for them to ask about it, but no one has. They seem to have adjusted very easily. They don’t really get why the other kids aren’t here, though. They do ask about when their other friends are going to come to school, and it’s hard for them to grasp that this is an emergency campus, not school. But, otherwise they’ve been great—having fun, enjoying themselves. I think that has a lot to do with their age; they are very quick to adapt.

“The EPCC staff have been truly amazing and are providing lovely care amid daily temperature checks and while wearing a mask,” said Ms. Faux.

When life returns to quasi normalcy, Ms. Richardson and her EPCC staff will reenter TNCS preprimary and primary classrooms as assistant teachers as well as before and after care teachers in some cases. Ms. Richardson is Song Laoshi’s dedicated assistant teacher and is eager to resume learning Mandarin Chinese right alongside her students. Currently, she can converse briefly in Mandarin as well as count pretty high. We’ve certainly been counting on her and the other heroes at TNCS EPCC.


On a message from April 23rd on their website, MSDE expressed their gratitude for EPCC sites like TNCS: “MSDE wishes to extend its sincere thanks to our state’s child care providers, who have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by delivering exceptional care to the children of health care providers, police, fire and rescue personnel, and so many other first responders and essential personnel.”

Read more about Enhanced Guidelines for Child Care Facilities to Prevent The Spread of COVID-19 and the critical steps involved here.

A Fresh Take: TNCS Observes Earth Day 2020 . . . from a Safe Distance!

download.pngEarth Day has always been an important occasion at The New Century School—you can read about past observances at the end of this post. This year, Earth Day deserves our attention more than ever. For one, it’s the 50th anniversary of our planet’s largest civic event and the birth of the modern environmental movement. April 22, 1970 saw the U.S. population come together to protect our land, air, and water, and the movement has exploded worldwide since then.

download.jpgBut with the ongoing rollback of some of the most important environmental protection laws passed in the ensuing half century in the United States, the theme of Earth Day 2020 is, fittingly, Climate Action: Fight Today for a Better Tomorrow—because we need to halt this backslide.

Environmental sustainability is a cherished value at TNCS, and students regularly engage in supporting initiatives to keep our surroundings clean, healthy, and safe. With COVID-19 keeping all of us at home or at least socially distant, how can we show Planet Earth the love and respect it deserves?

Well, the TNCS Parent Council has you covered with their fresh take on Earth Day! Parent Council Director Sakina Ligon and Member Tilly Gurman felt that TNCS students needed to continue the tradition of recognizing Earth Day for the important occasion it is and put their heads together on how. Says Ms. Gurman:

Earth Day is celebrated all over the world on April 22nd to highlight the importance of protecting the environment. This year, the coronavirus forces us to be physically distant. As a result, the TNCS Parent Council is not able to host an in-person Earth Day event, as we have done in years past. At the same time, we can still come together as a virtual TNCS community and share the spirit of respecting and caring for the Earth.

Since we have been spending much of our days inside, the TNCS Parent Council would like to encourage families to think about ways to celebrate the Earth outside the home. Let’s celebrate our TNCS community and engage with the Earth, all while respecting physical distancing and staying healthy.

Top 10 Ways to Observe Earth Day 2020!

This list was specially curated by Ms. Gurman to get us outside safely and includes age-appropriate activities, ranging from appreciating nature to community service, for everyone. Choose an activity as-is from the list or modify one to fit your family’s needs. Either way, enjoy your Earth!

  1. Engage in a shape walk or collect the rainbow: Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Take note of what shapes/colors you find.
    For the shape walk, look to see how many different shapes you are able to identify in nature. Visit Scholastic.com and GreatSchools.org for great tips.
    For collecting the rainbow, see if you can find something in nature for each color of the rainbow. Use this handy checklist.
  2. Do a nature scavenger hunt: Have fun exploring the environment around you, similar to the shape walk or collecting the rainbow. The difference with this activity is that you start with a specific list of things to:
    See (e.g., spider web, wildflowers, birds, squirrels)
    Collect (e.g., pinecones, feathers, rocks)
    Do (e.g., climb a tree, create a leaf rubbing, record a bird singing)
    Photograph (e.g., sunrise/sunset, animal tracks, bird nest).
    See how many of the items on your list you are able to identify. Use this example checklist; additional guidance can be found at HomeScienceTools.com and ProjectLearningTree.org.
  3. Have a picnic: Enjoy spring by having a picnic outside with your family. It can be outside your house or somewhere else nearby.
  4. Clean up your community: Don some gloves and walk around your neighborhood with a trash bag and pick up trash you see lying around. Separate recyclables from non-recyclables.
  5. Plant natives: Plant a plant that is native to the area, which is good for both the local environment and the insects and birds who make it their habitat.
    For a container garden, see Wikilawn.com and Native Plants for Container Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic.
    For a ground garden, see the BaltimoreSun.com, and the UMD Home and Garden Information Center.
  6. Perform outside: For those who like to sing or play an instrument that is portable, you can find a place outside to perform a song or two for family, neighbors, and friends (from a safe distance, of course).
  7. Write a poem: Write a poem for Earth Day and display on your window for anyone who is passing to enjoy.
  8. Create art using found materials: Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Using materials found during your walk (either natural or manmade materials), create some form of art. It could be a sculpture combining the various pieces or you could use what you found as a brush or sponge to apply paint to canvas/paper. Be creative or visit KinderArt.com, BuggyandBuddy.com, or HappyHooligans for inspiration.
  9. Paint or draw en plein air: Not feeling like going for a hike? Take some coloring or drawing supplies and spend some time in your backyard or a nearby park to draw in fresh air. Let the outdoors inspire what you draw. You can then choose to display your artwork at home on a window for people passing by to enjoy.
  10. Create chalk art: Use chalk to draw or write a message on the sidewalk outside your house to share a message for Earth Day 2020. Be creative! The message can focus on specific messages (e.g., reduce, reuse, and recycle) or can be more general.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways we can overcome circumstances and celebrate Earth Day 2020 with plenty of fresh air and vigor. But that’s not all—we really need the “come together” part of this to boost our community. Ms. Gurman says, “Let’s also share our voices and experiences with one another. We’d love to have families share what they do by posting via social media with the hashtags #TNCSEarthDay2020, #TNCS, and #TNCSVirtualSchool.

So, from Sunday, April 19th through Sunday, April 26th, we ask you to post your Earth Day activity on the TNCS Facebook page using the hashtags above and also tagging @thenewcenturyschool (don’t forget the “the”!). Another option is to post in comments under the Earth Day event post on Facebook. Or, if you prefer, you can also send us your photos to files@thenewcenturyschool.com with Earth Day in the subject line, and we’ll post them for you.

. . . by the way, if getting outside is not going to happen for you for whatever the reason (not judging!), tune into Earth Day Live 2020 and enjoy virtually!


A Spring Break Message to Thank You, TNCS!

A very different Spring Break starts next week amid the shutdown, but students at The New Century School already have 3 full weeks of TNCS Virtual School under their belts and can sit back and enjoy their well-earned time off from academics.

Before they do so, though, students across several divisions—yes, even the preschoolers—took a moment to express their gratitude for all the hard work, forward thinking, and can-do attitudes that went into keeping them productively occupied and maintaining their educational momentum throughout this period of massive adjustment to our new way of life.

These thank-you messages (progressing roughly by division) go out to you, TNCS teachers, staff, faculty, administration, and founders.

And don’t forget these beautiful handmade thank-you paintings and drawings!


Not only has TNCS made all of this possible, but they continue to innovate ways to engage students. Even during Spring Break, TNCS is hosting virtual activities. Staff and assistants are running daily interactive sessions in each grade (pre-primary through 8th) that you can log on to Google classrooms each morning to explore.

There is also a K–8 reading challenge for students to log minutes spent reading (either reading or being read to). The homeroom class with the most time logged gets a prize (TBA), and the top three individual students no matter what homeroom will receive ice cream for their immediate families.

Finally, parents can use some of their volunteer hours, to lead “hangout activities” for their child’s class. Examples include making paper aircraft or painting on cardboard.

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Having technical problems with Google classrooms? View this helpful video for troubleshooting.