Devin Martin: Giving TNCS the Whole Picture!

Part of The New Century School‘s mission is to nurture the whole child. This means faculty and staff focus not just on academics but also on, among other things, social and emotional learning, physical education, and The Arts.

Background

For the 2021–2021 school year, art class has a brand-new teacher: Meet Devin Martin. She even has “art”in her name!

But that’s not the whole picture. Ms. Devin is a natural fit at TNCS in several ways, as you’ll quickly see. She originally came to Baltimore from Ithaca, New York, where she grew up, to attend Maryland Institute College of Art—which we all know as MICA, of course! She graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and also did some course work in Art Education.

She found that Baltimore felt like home to her and has been here ever since. “I’ve made great friends here, and I’m never bored in this city. The art community here is so collaborative, and every time I spend time with my friends we come up with something artistic to do together. People are always performing at each other shows and collaborating, and it’s just a really great place to make interesting art,” she explained.

As for what her medium as an artist is, she says that the general Fine Arts degree allowed her to pursue multiple ways to create. “Fine Arts is a little bit of everything, which works well for me because I used to get bored with just one medium. I bounced around from photography to miniature painting to book arts . . . but what all of that ended up coalescing into was shadow puppetry, which became my main thing. It’s cut paper, it’s more theatrical, and I really got into theater arts after graduating.”

Ms. Devin uses transparencies, water, and ink to illustrate scenes in a stage adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Art Meets Montessori

Alongside this passion for art, Ms. Devin also has known that she wanted to teach since she was 16 years old and has worked with children in various capacities since then. After college, she began leading after-school community art programs. Shortly thereafter, she got a job at the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School, and as you’ve probably guessed, became intrigued with Montessori education. “I was doing after-school things with them and realized that I wanted to be around there all the time! That was also one of the first times I worked with early childhood in the primary classroom. It was a good fit for my personality. Young kids and I have a lot in common in terms of enjoying tactile experiences in nature and art and animals . . . so I feel like I can engage them really easily.” She went on to tie that fascination with small objects to the Montessori tenet of the characteristics of the primary-age child.

So, she started working as a primary assistant (eventually going on to lead a classroom) and decided to pursue Montessori training. She did her assistant Montessori training at Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Montessori Education and her Lead training at the Barrie Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies, where she also worked for a while.

Here at TNCS

And then the pandemic hit, so Ms. Devin had to shift gears. She answered a job listing put up by a group of TNCS families who were interested in finding a Montessori-trained teacher to teach their young children in a home/pod setting. Says Ms. Devin:

It was a wonderful group of seven kids age 2 1/2 through 6 years, and met every day in the guest room one of the families had turned into a primary classroom. We also spent most of the afternoon in Patterson Park learning about nature. We learned all about what kinds of trees grow there, and we extensively studied the cicadas. We learned all about their life cycle, their body parts, and what they do and why they sing. It was a fun way to be able to bring my passion for early childhood science into this wonderful, wonderful park. It was a really great experience, and I think I learned a lot about myself as a teacher during that time.

As will now seem predestined, this is how she ultimately found out about TNCS. She first began long-term substituting in the primary classroom while Señora Salas is out on maternity leave but then saw the art education opening. “A lot of my background is in art education, and it’s definitely a major passion of mine, so I asked if I can do both. In the morning I’m teaching in the primary classroom, and then in the afternoon I’m teaching K through 8 art,” she said.

Although this schedule might sound daunting, it’s easy to see how she blends her various talents and makes it all work. (Puppets in the primary classroom? Match made in heaven! She also makes great use of her skill with miniatures.)

So how is she faring so far this year? Short answer: beautifully in both spheres. In the primary world, she says, “All the primary teachers are kind of new this year, so we were able to figure out how we wanted to run things ourselves. Although I have a lot of experience in primary classrooms, this year is totally different because of COVID. There are all sorts of different considerations for how to stay COVID-safe, from the way we do lunch to the way we do play time. So, there’s a lot of trying new things, but the kids are really adaptable, and I think we’ve fallen into a nice little rhythm and routine.”

As for art . . .

In the afternoon, I’m running around doing art in all the classrooms, and I’ve just been loving it. I think art teaching is really what I’m best at in the world. I’m always smiling so big when I’m walking around the classroom, looking at everyone’s art. They’re all elementary and middle school age and at that point where they haven’t quite decided whether they’re an artist or not. They might say they can’t draw, but they they can and with a bit of encouragement, they’re able to do things that really impress them. For example, we did a geometric tile project looking at Islamic, Moroccan, and Mexican tile-work, and we made simple designs using a straight edge and a circle. At the end of one of the classes, one of the students said, ‘how did you do that?’ and, I replied, ‘you did that.’ They responded, ‘how did you get me to do that?!’ It was funny, and she was so surprised at her own skills.

During the first quarter, students have been focused on building drawing skills through observational drawing as well as imaginative drawing. Recent projects have included drawings based on the colors, compositions, and motifs of Panamanian textiles and a street art–inspired project using bent wire to bring line drawings to life. “I like to take a skill and apply it in a bunch of different ways, but soon we’ll be moving on from drawing into 3D stuff like sewing and clay work. It’s been very fun to figure out what I want to teach and what areas of art I want to delve into.”


Ms. Martin will display student works of art around the two TNCS buildings—get a peek when you can!

TNCS Summer Art Camp 2020: Get the Full Picture!

On the eve of the summer solstice, Immersed is thrilled about this post—all about virtual summer camp, it’s another big first for The New Century School! With Weeks 1 through 4 run by TNCS art teacher Jia Liu, who is also a professional kids’ book illustrator, TNCS virtual art camps are divided into classes for K through 3rd-graders and 4th- through 8th-graders. Art camp runs throughout the summer, and if you haven’t signed your kids up yet, you’re going to want to after you see what campers created in just the first week—and how much fun they had doing it!
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(After Week 4, TNCS virtual summer art camps are run by another TNCS Summer Camp favorite, Hilary Christian.)

Master Illustrators Virtual Summer Art Camp

Each day, campers logged into Google classroom, where they were given the theme of the day, a list of supplies to gather, and a Zoom link to join Liu Laoshi and their fellow campers in real time.

As you’ll see, Liu Laoshi makes art not only fun but also relevant in her step-by-step online demos. Campers create art that has meaning for them.

Session 1: Pattern Making

For their first day, campers were asked to bring copy paper, markers, and scissors. They created patterns, which Liu Laoshi turned into virtual pillows!

Session 2: Packaging Illustration

For Day 2, campers were asked to design and illustrate the packaging for a product of their choice, such as a favorite snack. This project combines creativity with a real-world application of art, using drawing paper, markers and scissors.

Session 3: Story Illustration, Day 1

Campers were asked to illustrate part of one of their favorite stories or even a story they wrote themselves (such as shown below), using drawing paper, markers and scissors.

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Session 4: Story Illustration, Day 2

The next day, campers put the finishing touches on their illustrations with drawing paper, pencils, markers, and water color and/or tempera paints and painting supplies. “Don’t forget to bring your creative ideas, too!” instructed Liu Laoshi. This image shows an illustration from Hatchet, which was a novel assigned to 5th-graders during the school year.

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Session 1: Moving Image

For the last day of Master Illustrators camp, campers learned basic knowledge about animation and GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) and animated their own flip books. They could use drawing paper, pencils, markers, and water color and/or tempera paints and painting supplies.

“The past week has been great!” said Liu Laoshi. “Students and I had a lot of fun, and we didn’t want to end the class every day. They were excited for a new project each day, and they had some great work done! I am looking forward to the coming weeks.”

. . . And there you have it, folks! Don’t miss out on all the fun—go register for TNCS Virtual Camp!

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!

Artist Harold Caudio Sweetens Up TNCS’s Black History Month Celebration!

Rounding out the month of February, students at The New Century School put on a first-of-its-kind show at the school. Although celebrating Black History Month has always been a theme in classrooms, this year, at the suggestion of TNCS Parent Council Director Sakina Ligon, it expanded to the stage. (Read about TNCS’s Inaugural Black History Month Celebration and see photos of projects as well as videos of choral and other performances here.) Also note that Head of School Shara Khon Duncan and Curriculum Coordinator Adriana Duprau ensure that African Americans—as well as people from a variety of backgrounds—are represented across the school curriculum throughout the year.

In last week’s post, Immersed hinted at what made the Black History Month celebration extra special even beyond all the wonderful student efforts led by Javan Bowden (aka, “Mr. B”)—the visit by Florida artist Harold Caudio—but this visit warrants a post all of its own. So, it’s time now to meet Mr. Caudio, take a closer look at his one-of-a-kind art, and hear his inspiring message.

Welcome to TNCS, Harold Caudio!

Asked to present at the evening by family friend Ms. Ligon, Mr. Caudio made the 13-hour drive from West Palm Beach to Baltimore in a single day. This huge effort was not lost on the TNCS community, and the audience continuously demonstrated their immense appreciation. Something else elevated his visit to legendary status. . . the date, February 26th. On the same day back in 2012, high school junior Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida, by a neighborhood watch captain, launching nationwide protests. Trayvon was unarmed, carrying a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea. He was 17 years old.

The Colored Collection

That injustice haunts the country, but for Mr. Caudio it was the impetus to create “The Colored Collection,” a series of portraits of iconic black individuals, the first of which was Trayvon Martin titled “Justus.” The medium he uses? Mr. Caudio’s portraits are done in Skittles, in honor of Trayvon. The name of his collection is thus a play on words on many levels: In an artist bio, the author writes, “Harold named the artwork ‘The Colored Collection’ because we, as ‘colored’ people have had a huge impact on society and culture; we color the world. It’s a way of flipping an insult and making it impactful pop art. The idea of the collection is to bring people together, no matter what color or background while spreading unity and peace.” It’s also a nod to the Skittles themselves, which are known for their bright colors that invite us to “taste the rainbow.”

The story of Trayvon resonated with Mr. Caudio personally. As a black (Haitian American) man, it struck him—again, quoting from the bio—“how easily it could’ve been him, or his son, brother, cousin, or friend.” That sense impelled him to do something, to make art, in fact.

Mr. Caudio was not new to the creation of art. “From as far as I can remember,” he says, “I have been making art since I first learned to pick up a crayon and color, doing kiddy stuff like drawing on the walls and getting trouble,” he joked. Although he didn’t necessarily take art seriously at the age of 3, he has since worked with several media, including clay, bronze sculpting, acrylic, pastels, and so on. In addition to his portraiture, he currently has a clothing line called Cultured Revolution that he talks about briefly in this clip.

Back to the “The Colored Collection,” other individuals he has immortalized include Michael Jackson; Tupac; Xxxtentacion; Beyoncé, Rihanna (pictured below, though many mistake this one for Lauryn Hill); Toussaint Louverture (also pictured below; hint, he’s the only one wearing epaulets) Bob Marley; Will Smith; ; Michelle Obama; and, his most recent work, Kobe Bryant, which he débuted at TNCS. That was one powerful moment, with Kobe and his daughter Gianna having tragically died in a helicopter crash only a few weeks prior.

So how does Mr. Caudio choose the people he portrays?

I choose people that I relate to Skittles candy. Those who make people feel good, who move the culture forward. If they have a sweet, positive impact on society, I aim to immortalize that message with my art. When I think of Skittles, I think of the mantra ‘taste the rainbow.’ The different colors represent us as a people. If we come together, we can be beautiful just like the figures I choose to do are doing.

The process he uses to capture these faces so beautifully, he says, is all about lighting. “I maximize seven colors and play with the lights from darks until it makes sense.” He had to borrow white Skittles from the UK, where they were made to celebrate LGBTQ Pride, but otherwise, he buys Skittles by the gallon from Walmart. White Skittles don’t have a special flavor—they taste like another color, but the taster won’t know which one until it’s on the tongue! Even in the white Skittles, though, there is inherent symbolism. Although white is itself achromatic, it reflects all the visible wavelengths of light. According to the “additive color theory,” all the colors of light together create white. Apply that to Mr. Caudio’s art, and you again get his idea that society comprises people of all colors, and their individual contributions are beautiful, as is what those collective contributions create.

Most of Mr. Caudio’s 17 total pieces are on exhibit in South Florida, but he accepts commissions for custom portraits (“dog, cat, bird,” he joked) and is also willing to auction pieces for charity. JUSTUS, for example, was purchased by Queen B’s mom for her WACO (Where Art Can Occur) Theater Center. His works are designed to last, he explains. “They’re coated with resin and mixed materials to last forever, from what I can see. They don’t attract bugs,” he later joked. They take, on average, about 2 weeks to create. JUSTUS, though, his first, took 6 months while he got the hang of his process and absorbed the import of what he was creating.

If you’re detecting an influence from another Haitian American artist whose pop art–esque portraits were also saturated with color, you wouldn’t be off base. Mr. Caudio cites Jean-Michel Basquiat as a primary influence as well as Bob Ross and Roy Lichtenstein in the modern world. He also appreciates many of the Renaissance painters.

Q&A with Harold Caudio

After the student performances on Black History Month night, Mr. Caudio gave a brief presentation about his work, then Ms. Ligon facilitated a question-and-answer session between audience members and the artist.

Ms. Ligon also made sure to give TNCS students a chance to grill Mr. Caudio. (Perhaps not surprisingly, many of their questions are about candy.)

Mr. Caudio’s works remained on display in the auditorium after the student performances so attendees could get a closer look at the portraits and meet the very generous, very warm, and very funny Harold Caudio. His visit will certainly go down in the annals of great moments at TNCS!

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Artist Harold Caudio and TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan are shown here flanking Mr. Caudio’s portrait of François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, celebrated general of the 18th-century Haitian Revolution.


More From the Artist Bio:
His most recent collection was featured at Art Basel Miami 2018 and Art Palm Beach 2019. Harold created the ‘The Colored Collection’, an emotion-evoking series of portraits made entirely out of Skittles. Word has traveled and continues to spread rapidly about this collection, it’s already been viewed by millions of people, gone viral on social media sites and featured in numerous big publications & networks such as Business Insider, Young Turks, NBC, ABC world news, Palm Beach post, LA Times, Fox News, Wearable Art Gala feat Beyoncé, 60 minutes, and more.

A Day in the Life: Peeking into TNCS Division by Division!

What happens at The New Century School does not stay at The New Century School. Instead, the magic that fills each and every day enriches the lives of the students who experience it far beyond the classroom. Imaginations are sparked, perspectives broadened, values instilled, skills honed, spirits of adventure awakened. All while students pursue rigorous academics in an environment that allows them to learn and progress at their own paces.

Although this last attribute is typically understood to mean that a student who is not ready to work at a standard age level is not forced to try to do so and therefore burn out, and that’s of course the case at TNCS where applicable, it often means the inverse here—students are not asked to wait for anyone to catch up to them but can soar as high as they so desire.

Among the TNCS community, we have watched this magic transform our children lives, but it can be difficult to articulate to someone unfamiliar with the school. Sometimes, it  just needs to be seen to be believed. So, this week’s Immersed is trying something a little different. Throughout the past years, we visited classrooms unannounced to get inside glimpses of what any given day looks like in each division. You can bet there’s almost always something special going on. Maybe that’s because with daily triple language learning, visual and performing arts, an emphasis on service learning, and a pervasive atmosphere of inquiry, there’s just no such thing as quotidian at this school. We invite you to look closely at the montages to follow. There are worlds to see.

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A Day in the Life: Preschool Division

TNCS’s littlest learners in the preprimary classrooms, ages 2–3, focus on social and emotional development. They learn to work in groups and cooperate with their peers. They are immersed in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, so, as they cultivate language skills, they do so bilingually. Take a recent visit from Spanish-speaking Clifford the Red Dog and Pete the Cat. In addition to being exposed to language in all forms, making music and art are their main in-class pursuits, and artists are invited to classrooms to present their age-appropriate art. As students are ready, they begin to explore the Montessori materials they’ll see regularly in the primary classroom.

In the TNCS primary Montessori classroom, students ages 3 to 5 develop the ability to concentrate—to start, work through and complete a given task. They use Montessori materials to hone fine and gross motor skills both individually and in small groups. They continue to develop socially and emotionally and begin to refine their language skills in, now three, languages. Art and music are daily pursuits as is an emphasis on peace and kindness.

A Day in the Life: Elementary Division

In elementary grades, K through 5th, academics become more rigorous, but the focus on visual and performing arts, music, and languages also amps up, with dedicated teachers in each subject, making for a truly well-rounded education. Fostering independence while celebrating community, the elementary program encourages students to ask questions then figure out how to find the answers. Field trips to local spots of interest as well as in nearby towns happen at least quarterly.

As elementary students age up, they move to building north, which they share with middle schoolers. Here, service learning expands to include the outside community as well as the campus.

A Day in the Life: Middle School Division

When TNCS students hit the big time, a lot changes for them at school. Academic preparation intensifies, as they ready for high school, but research shows that middle schoolers can flounder socially and emotionally, so TNCS students are given loads of opportunities to try out their burgeoning independence in new ways and develop self-confidence and self-agency.

This peek inside some typical days at TNCS (where a typical day is anything but typical) should make it clear—TNCS students have the world at their fingertips.

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