Environmental sustainability is a key message at TNCS, 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! Last school year, then TNCS Parent Council member and now TNCS PC Director Tilly Gurman heard about the school recycling challenge and thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join.
Trex School Recycling Challenge
You can get the scoop on what qualifies as recyclable here (as well as in an explanatory video below) and where to drop off your materials here. We’ll explain more about the need-to-know info of the school challenge itself in details outlined throughout this post, and you can get just about everything you need to know in this handy presentation from the TNCS Parent Council Special Events Committee.
But first let’s explore that “extra pinch of fun”!
What Was That About a Competition?
And now on to the really good stuff! 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!
This year, the Special Events committee of the TNCS Parent Council is running a Name the Blue Crabs Challenge! In a “crab shell,” here’s how it goes:
“You’ve seen the crabs in action. What would you name them? Share your ideas [in Google Classroom]! The class with the highest total of recycling in December gets to name the crabs and keep them in their classroom for the month of January!”
Friday, January 8th, is the last day to log your weights and and drop off your Trex Recycling items at the various sites for for the naming contest. (Note, that the overall challenge runs through April 15th.)
To keep TNCS students invested in the process, videos of the crab duo’s journey to TNCS were posted in Google Classroom.
As if all this isn’t great enough, for the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win special prizes from Trex such as our very own park bench made from Trex 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.
So What Is the Challenge?
TNCS will compete in the Trex 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 take them to specific drop-off locations 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. Trex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).
💚♻️ Trex Recycling Challenge How-To Guide
Collect your plastics (bread/newspapers wrappers, bubble wrap, etc.); see below.
Note: Even after Earth Day and the Trex 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 our partner locations.
At The New Century School, parent involvement is one of the key’s to the school’s success. As part of and in support of the larger TNCS community, parents contribute their time and energy in meaningful ways each year. As a way to galvanize all of this good effort toward meeting specific goals, the TNCS Parent Council was established during the 2016–2016 school year.
Five years on, the organization is going strong and continuing to hone its mission. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, TNCS has remained open, and the Parent Council did not miss a beat. That’s due in no small part to the leadership of new Parent Council President, Tilly Gurman.
Ms. Gurman has organized members and operations on a variety of virtual platforms, and meeting attendance has grown now that participants can join from anywhere. TNCS Class Parents are required attendees and report meeting proceedings back to the other families in their child’s homeroom, but any member of the TNCS community may attend, and this even counts toward their requisite volunteer hours. (Have you attended a PC meeting and forgotten to log your hours? Log them here or sign into Blackbaud.)
Mission and Goals
The stated mission of the TNCS Parent Council is to: “Cultivate and sustain community at The New Century School across students, parents, teachers, staff, and the larger community” by:
fostering communication between all TNCS constituencies
providing support to the teachers and administration
assisting with fundraising initiatives that will further foster community
coordinating school events that connect people across TNCS
engaging with the larger Baltimore community
To accomplish these worthy objectives, the PC assembled a group of committees, including Community Engagement, Special Events, Antiracism/Social Justice, and Fundraising—more on those in a bit.
Parent Council 2020–2021
First, let’s dive a little deeper into Ms. Gurman’s vision for the 2020–2021 Parent Council:
I’ve been involved in the Parent Council since we started at TNCS 5 years ago, and until the class parents were involved, there were only three or four of us. So I wanted to find ways to grow participation and engagement as well as make it more inclusive. At the same time, it’s important to temper expectations because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we shouldn’t make too many demands of parents who are potentially already overwhelmed.
She explains that she came to be president as rather a natural consequence of having always been a part of it as well as having experienced the preprimary, primary, and elementary divisions at TNCS as her children have progressed through. When TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan approached her about taking over the PC helm, she weighed the decision carefully against all of her other life obligations but ultimately found it to be the right choice. “I’ve had the experience on the parent side through much of the life cycle of the school so far, and we plan to stay for the foreseeable future so we feel a commitment to the community. It’s such a supportive community, and somehow I’d like to contribute to building on that and strengthening it for even once we’re no longer in the school,” she said.
One thing that is remarkable about this year is the emphasis on human connection. Perhaps we’ve all had less of that since the shutdown, and the PC is one place to enjoy a bit of camaraderie—Ms. Gurman sees to that, starting each meeting with a “temperature check”, which has nothing to do with a thermometer (for once) but is more of a gauge of participants’ state of mind, as well as an ice-breaker activity or two. At the November 11th meeting, she also reminded attendees to be self-compassionate:
We’ll be reporting out about what’s going on in the different committees, but I want to get across the idea that we are at a time when things are likely to change and evolve, especially if another shutdown happens. Let’s be kind and gentle to ourselves, so when this happens, we’re here together as a community. When we’re thinking about the different activities that we’re going to be planning, let’s always link it back to how can the activities that we’re doing bring us closer together as a community, and help us be there for our kids, too.
Another current that runs through this year’s PC is the sheer enthusiasm about the PC. An average of more than two dozen people are attending each meeting and that’s among a pool of fewer than 200 families. Moreover, participants are willing and eager to get to work on planning and implementing the various PC initiatives. Ms. Gurman attributes this to multiple factors: explicit outreach about joining the PC; the already-mentioned convenience of virtual meetings; the increased access to the school’s innerworkings; and, of course, the altruism inherent in the TNCS community driving members to want to make a difference. “It does feel like this year people are more actively volunteering to lead the various activities,” she said.
In the near future, she’d like to have committee-specific objectives and operating procedures drafted that tie in to the overall PC mission so that there’s an infrastructure to support and sustain what she hopes will continue to be robust attendance for years to come.
And with that, let’s see what those committees we keep mentioning are all about!
Parent Council Committees
Would you like to join one of the amazing, purpose-led, and very fruitful TNCS Parent Council Committees? No matter what your strength, there’s a place for you! See the nifty planning calendar at this link for tentative dates and check you Blackbaud official school calendar for confirmed happenings. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or add your name to the list here to join!
Antiracism/Social Justice Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS parents, Jay Golon (who describes the trio as a “happy triumvirate”) Daris Johnson, and Allison Binder, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Curate a list of children’s books and television shows promoting diversity for the TNCS community
At their first meeting, Mr. Golon explains that they talked about antiracism in general and what it might look like to be antiracist families concerned about social justice at TNCS. “Early in the life of the committee,” he said, “we’d like to conduct a family climate survey about how welcome and included folks feel at at TNCS and then use that to plan some other things. We also talked about creating a resource for all families from preprimary up through middle school of books, movies, and media of any kind focused on anti antiracism and social justice.”
That’s just to start, and Mr. Golon says, “If you weren’t able to join us the first time around, it will be very easy for you to slide right in the second time, so please please join us!”
Community Engagement Committee
Chaired by TNCS mom Amy Hastings, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Coordinate low-risk activities supporting local non-profits (e.g., preparing bagged breakfasts/lunches for local day shelters, coat and clothing drives for sister school Wolfe St. Academy)
Coordinate Adopt-a-Family for the holidays (through Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance)
Coordinate a clean-up of Patterson Park for Earth Day
“Our goal is to identify ways for TNCS families to engage the community that surrounds the school,” explained Ms. Hastings. “This committee will strive to support local organizations and uphold TNCS values.”
The Coat Drive for TNCS’s sister school Wolfe St. Academy is happening now—please share the warmth with our neighbors in need by donating new and gently used coats, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, socks, etc. for children and adults of all ages! See our ongoing Facebook event (through December 11th) here.
And stay tuned for an announcement about the upcoming Adopt-a-Family! Note that this is a chance to do double community engagement—make your purchases from local businesses, like aMuse Toys in Fell’s Point, to support them while helping out a family in need!
Special Events Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Debbie Casanova and Isabel Kuoh, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Generate participation for this year’s TREX challenge (recycling competition with schools across the country) and facilitate culminating Earth Day celebration activity
Orchestrate teacher appreciation efforts
Coordinate other possible events (e.g., Pancakes & Pajamas, bilingual kids’ concert with 123 Andrés)
Ms. Casanova’s teacher appreciation efforts went into effect right away, as she set up a round robin–style Sign-Up Genius for parents to choose a week to shower teachers with gratitude—they have kept our children happy, healthy, and learning all of these long pandemic months, and that has not been easy. Especially when many have to teach both live and virtually!
Describing their first meeting as a committee, Ms. Casanova says:
We spent a lot of our time talking about concrete events that are coming up but also giving some thought to how do we stay connected, how do we create community, and how do we do it in such a way that virtual families feel just as involved as on campus families. We also talked a little bit about how we have to have a few events ready to go in case the school does shut down and we all go virtual, just so we can all maintain some sort of connection and community that’s going to become even more important.
(Or, if you want the Cliff Notes, just start collecting the items shown below and email email@example.com with your tallied weight, then drop the plastics off at Harris Teeter, Safeway, Home Depot, or other locations! Check that location is still participating during COVID-19 restrictions.)
We’ll have lots more info on this year’s TNCS Trex Recycling Challenge and how it will roll out, but in the meantime, start collecting that bubble wrap!
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Lauren Davino and Sarah Andrews, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Facilitate dining out at designated local restaurants with a percentage going to TNCS
Coordinate silent auction of select items from local businesses
This can-do committee has already pulled off one successful fundraising dinner with TNCS parent–owned The Land of Kush, who so generously allocated some of each TNCS-generated sale on November 11th back to TNCS. See the results for yourself!
Thank you, Naijha Wright-Brown and Gregory Brown!
Another super easy way to earn funds for TNCS is to sign up for educational rewards with Harris Teeter. With their Together in Education program, TNCS earns a percentage of each purchase when TNCS families link their VIC cards and shop Harris Teeter brands using TNCS Code 3528. (Caveat: You must re-link your card each year; it does not automatically update.)
More fundraising dinners are in the works throughout the school year as well as a first ever TNCS silent auction! (Let them know if you’d like to make a donation to the Silent Auction, which will be curated in Arts and Culture, Sports, Spa, and other packages.)
In closing, the 2020–2021 TNCS Parent Council “gives parents agency to feel like they have a role in what their kids’ school experience is going to be like this year,” said Ms. Gurman. With so many uncertainties, it feels good to be hands-on in and possibly even what goes on in their day-to-day lives.
Parent Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas also offers encouragement: “Even if you can’t join monthly meetings but want to share your gifts and get involved, please contact us. Many hands make for light work.”
This year has been a year of firsts at The New Century School, and the trend continues. These firsts are TNCS’s ways of rising to the occasion, of meeting the challenge and addressing it with customary courage and compassion, respect and service. Thursday, June 4, 2020 was another of these firsts. With the nation in an uproar over the senseless killing of George Floyd and all who went before him, communities needed to voice their emotions about the racially motivated wrongs permeating our society, to hear and be heard. Making this difficult time even harder, we can’t be physically together for mutual support.
In true leader fashion, however, TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan and Head of Parent Council Sakina Ligon provided a first-of-its-kind forum with a Virtual TNCS Social Justice Community Conversation. “The heartbreaking events surrounding the death of Mr. George Floyd last week, so close on the heels of other similar tragic events throughout the United States, have pointed to the unjust discrimination and systematic racism that has continued to permeate our country,” said Sra. Duncan in an email announcing the event. “As an academic institution, TNCS has a responsibility to educate our community in order to combat ignorance and intolerance in order to dismantle a system that is broken in our society.”
TNCS, as a “model of inclusivity,” is well poised to do some good here. Head of the Lower School and Dean of Students Alicia Danyali agreed, saying, “The fact that we are starting to talk openly is the first step in partnership with all stakeholders to cultivate change we hope to see.” And that became the thrust of the evening—what positive action can we make to effect change and to heal our societal wounds?
But before we get to that, here’s an abridged recap of the three-part evening for those who were unable to attend this event. All of our voices are important, and our participation in this conversation is vital. “It’s an ongoing process,” as Sra. Duncan emphasized.
Part 1: Foundation Building
Sra. Duncan, a former diversity coordinator and well-versed in these kinds of dialogues, introduced the evening by urging participants to speak freely but respectfully. “Active listening”—focusing on what is being said, not on what you anticipate will be said—is also key in such exchanges of ideas. She also laid some ground rules for “conversational norms” including definitions:
Use “I” statements, not “you” or “we,” to speak just for yourself and avoid making generalizations.
Focus on the topic at hand, what’s going on with racial injustice in our country.
“Have comfort with discomfort”; these conversations are not easy.
Use “both/and” instead of “either/or” to open up possibilities rather than limiting to only two.
Expect and accept non-closure.
These fundamentals were then put into practice with an exercise to demonstrate how our mindsets can be radically altered when we realize that our perspectives are not absolute. Sra. Duncan asked the audience to draw a circle clockwise in the air above their heads then slowly lower it in front of the face to the abdomen. What happens? Clockwise becomes counterclockwise by virtue of nothing more than a flipped visual orientation (i.e., looking up, then looking down). Just like that, we got a glimmer of how easy it is to see things differently.
Prior to the evening, questions were submitted to the committee, which became the framework of the presentation and discussion. Topmost on everyone’s minds? What do we say to our children?
Part II: How to Talk to Our Kids
Perhaps surprisingly, earnest self-reflection is the necessary first step before we can speak honestly with our children. Acknowledge our prejudices and preconceived notions so that we can open our minds to other possibilities. This is especially important for groups of people. We might assume we’re not racist (and strive hard against racism), but do that check in. Ask yourself questions like, “What are my biases?” “What are my gut reactions to people of different groups?” “How does my privilege smooth the way for me?” “How can I use my privilege to help those who are oppressed?”
Know where you stand before you talk to your children. They are observant; are we “walking the walk?” They’ll know if not.
Ms. Ligon spoke next and reminded us that there’s an historical context to these issues. “In terms of educating oneself,” she said, “research this repeating history.” We need to make sure we have the right words and the background to broach this with our kids.
Sra. Duncan and her team gathered these helpful resources for discussing these complex topics with your children. She stressed making sure the resources you turn to are age appropriate and that they “practice and prepare.” Also examine your child’s media—are books and toys reflecting different types of people? Help your child see the beauty in difference with exposure to multiple cultures. Ask them to imagine being in someone else’s shoes to cultivate empathy. Elementary-age children can go a bit deeper; ask them to examine what they say to their schoolmates and whether they are saying things that might not always make the other person feel good (“microaggressions”). In upper elementary and middle school, monitor those social media accounts, urges Sra. Duncan. “Debrief with them,” she advises. Remind them that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable about these things.
Part III: Next Steps
Describing U.S. citizens as “standing on a precipice,” Sra. Duncan quoted former President Obama’s stirring words about “. . . [working] together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions and our hearts.” Ms. Ligon made the excellent point that if we’re ever going to draw back from the rim of that abyss, we need a fundamental curricular change. Our history books need to tell the whole truth she said.
I think of how we learn history in specifically the United States and where history starts, and, as I look ahead anticipating how this historical moment will be depicted in the history books to follow, there will be a huge gap in reality. In terms of where the history books pick up and where people who look like myself started, there’s this gray area in between and then we go straight to, ‘oh, they were looting and rioting.’ I believe that how history should be taught reflects everyone in the room. I have to do a lot of troubleshooting with my own child to explain to her that here’s another perspective and here’s how we fit in to what you learned in school. It’s hard when you’re a person of color (POC) and you’re trying to learn about who you are . . . it would be a different day and a new world if we also get it in the place where we’re supposed to be getting educated. For me, it’s very important for this to be implemented in the curriculum.
Discussions for how to achieve a better, more accurate social studies curriculum at TNCS are up and running. (For adults, the podcast 1619 fills in a lot of these gaps and is well worth a listen.) Sra. Duncan also mentioned that this a cross-curricular endeavor, as appropriate. “It should permeate everything we do,” she said.
Indeed, the biggie in this part of the forum was action—take, for example, the difference between non-racist and anti-racist. Sra. Duncan asked the audience how these terms differ, and the upshot is that anti-racism means actively combatting racism rather than simply not partaking in racism.
Following are some of the incisive and insightful questions and suggestions that participants contributed during the forum.
Questions from Parents:
Are teachers having these conversations with students either before Covid-19 or on Zoom? What help can we as parents do to support the school in developing anti-racism resources, and coalition building, curriculum, etc.?
How is the school staff and leadership thinking about/addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) issues within the school? (I am doing this at my organization and would be curious if you have set any goals for changes, etc. I am also reaching out in my community to try and bring together potential allies on antiracism—is there any interest in some consciousness-raising among parents or students, leading an aftercare class or camp on anti-racism, etc. perhaps parent and kids learning together? I am willing to volunteer to help with some sort of antiracism discussion group for adults and/or camp for kids.
Are we looking to revamp the global studies curriculum?
Is there a part of the school curriculum that helps guide students to find their individual role in combatting racial injustice? Parent DEI forums can help with vocabulary and navigating diversity conversations at home.
What training will the TNCS staff have on this topic? How will they be trained to handle our kids questions?
At one time, the students were meeting on a regular basis with Mrs. Danyali. Could that be a time where the conversations can be had with students on diversity?
To circle back to the point about not letting this topic “drop” going forward—perhaps we could continue having these TNCS community discussions about DEI that could be virtual or eventually in person… maybe quarterly? As a way to keep the conversations and actions going?
Is there an opportunity for students to send anonymous questions, thoughts, reactions to recent events to generate a forum for the students to participate in a faculty/ parent facilitated forum?
How do we stay in touch and keep the conversation going?
Each of these items was addressed, and the takeaways are that TNCS stakeholders will collaborate and divvy up the action items: Teachers are increasing their morning discussions of such issues in age-appropriate ways*; parents will potentially host ECAs, book clubs, and other parent/child forums (all to be determined); and admin will facilitate these efforts as well as increase professional development opportunities in this arena. “But we can’t do this alone,” she said. “We need your help. The Parent Council is a great place to get parents involved.” Sra. Duncan also consults the Association of Independent Maryland & DC Schools (AIMS) DEI tenets as outlined here.
*The very next day, upper elementary and middle school homeroom teachers Nameeta Sharma and Daphnée Hope guided 5th- through 8th-grade students in whole-group discussions on social justice, focusing on how their generation would combat racial violence. Wrote Mrs. Hope in a follow-up email to parents:
We were blown away by the maturity, depth, respect, and insightfulness that your children displayed. Perhaps one of the most profound things that we heard was when one of our students stated, ‘No one is born a racist. It is what you have been taught over time.’ We were able to learn from each other and bear witness to the experiences of each other. It was simply incredible. I think we can learn so much from looking at the world through the lens of a child. They are passionate, hopeful, and more insightful than we sometimes give them credit for.
“We started with parents,” said Sra. Duncan, but it would be great to also have these conversations with parents and students. I think it’s really important that students see that we’re all working on this together, and it’s not just an at-school thing or an at-home thing that will gain us a better understanding of the issues.”
“We are fortunate to be a part of a caring and supportive community. Let us all take the time to pause and reflect on our role in how each of us can help move the conversation and the country forward. By examining our beliefs, our privilege, and our prejudices, which we all have, we can begin to repair this country for our children,” said Sra. Duncan. Real change for a problem of this scale requires a coordinated effort over a sustained period. “So, remember not to judge, and remember to listen,” she said.
And don’t forget to support your local businesses!
Just below is a poem that has resonated with many over the last few weeks and may help us all see a little more clearly in this pivotal year.
Lastly, we invite you to share your question, comment, or thought about discussing social justice and anti-racism with your community and your children in comments. Have a book or resource to suggest? Please, put it in the comments. We welcome your voice. And your 2020 vision.
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
Jatiya 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.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, The New Century School shuttered its campus at the end of the school day, closing down along with the rest of Maryland schools, then U.S. schools, then all nonessential businesses, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This necessity to try to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the virus disrupted normal life for just about everyone on Earth. With cooperation, collaboration, and community-spiritedness, we’ll get through this. In the meantime, people are adjusting to how to live full lives while staying at home.
For our children, this is especially imperative. Their education and development must continue, but how? Parents across the globe face this dilemma. What, if any, are the expectations and academic requirements for students while school is out? What is the threshold for how much school they can miss before they start to lose ground they might not be able to regain?
TNCS is a success story in this otherwise quagmire of uncertainty. TNCS admin and faculty had already begun working feverishly behind the scenes to prepare for what would become known as “distance learning.” By Sunday, March 15th, a team of student volunteers had been appointed to help transition all TNCS students to a virtual learning environment. In other words, classes would continue, just like every other day, but TNCS students would “attend” from home, meeting up online. On Monday, March 16th, the student volunteers sent messages and made phone calls to the parents of the younger students on their lists to get them set up in Google Classroom, an online platform to “organize assignments, boost collaboration, and foster better communication.” Meanwhile, staff were being trained on the new platform and designing and adapting curricula. By Tuesday, March 17th, nearly 100% of TNCS students were up and running (yes, even preschoolers!), and parents received a very welcome message: “TNCS Virtual School begins tomorrow!” (Read the message in its entirety here.)
TNCS Virtual School
And so began what has been an utterly remarkable experience for TNCS students. As periods of closure extend longer and longer, and social distancing grows wider and wider, these children have not skipped a beat in their education. Classes are synchronous, meaning that students can interact with each other and the teacher, not just with a screen. Using ingenious combinations of Google Hangouts and Zoom, teachers have kept students in their classes connected and engaged. Right from the start, students had a regular school day, signing on at 8:30 and progressing through their class schedule—including language classes and even art and music in addition to core academics—until “dismissal” at 3:30.
At the close of Day 1, March 18th, parents received another encouraging message from the TNCS Virtual School Team:
It was a great start for many, and not-so-perfect for some. There were many wonderful moments worth celebrating—students interacting with one another, connecting with teachers, and dedicating themselves to learning a new routine. Your support of the school in interactions with your children has created a strong foundation and we deeply appreciate it as we embark on this learning journey . . . Grit has a stronger effect on success than IQ and many other factors. Let’s cultivate our students’ grit. Let’s cultivate our own grit and use this experience to become stronger and more capable than ever.
In the days and weeks to come, TNCS Virtual School will emphasize:
Continuing academic growth/readiness for next school year
Supporting student social and emotional and well-being
Showing Virtual School in action
Remember that Immersed promised you adorable photos of TNCS students last week? Well, let’s get to it!
TNCS Virtual Preschool
Here are the littlest learners “showing some TNCS e-learning spirit,” as Señora Salas puts it. Among lots of other great activities below, find her “Arts and crafts of the day: Oruga (caterpillar).”
Another sample preschool activity is as follows:
“En La Casa” (At Home): Matching “Colores” (Colors)
Pom poms assorted colors
Shower mats/shower pads/soap suction pads
Kitchen utensils (spoons, measuring spoons, etc.)
Tongs/tweezers (optional, for a more challenging activity)
At school, each activity is arranged from left to right, as children work on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. These activities are also placed on a tray or a place mat to create a sense of order, making it inviting and interesting to our “amigos”!
Speaking of hand–eye coordination, what about physical activity? Covered!
TNCS Montessori teachers nurture order, coordination, concentration, and independence in their students . . . from the computer! Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture areas of the “classroom” are all intact!
9:00 Story or Yoga
10:30 Food Preparation, Making a cucumber sandwich
1:15 Chapter Book
2:00 Math, Bead Stair Lesson
2:30 Language, Rhyming Work
Virtual Service Learning
Yep, we got that, too. Here’s one example of how a TNCS student is giving back while social distancing. She made bookmarks to encourage children with reduced literacy to hang in there and keep reading.
She also wrote a letter to TNCS Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali:
Hi Ms. Danyali,
Hope you are doing OK. My family and I are keeping busy at home, and schoolwork is a large part of that. My parents are happy that I am still learning.
To answer your questions:
1) I love that books help me to learn.
2) Books help me build my curiosity by learning how to spell new words and by learning about new ideas.
3) Reading is important because it makes you smarter and helps you grow.
4) When I learned to read, it helped me to spell.
5) I hope the student feels joyful.
Thank you for this project!
Vivian (written with Mom’s help)
Other service initiatives in all divisions can be found here.
From here on, we’ll dispense with the descriptions and just let you feast your eyes.
Virtual Science Class
Virtual Global Studies
Virtual Language Classes
Virtual Math Class
Virtual Art Class
Miscellaneous Elementary & Middle School
As school systems around the country are facing the reality that they will have to devise online schooling, with many, including Maryland’s, hoping to start in April, TNCS students will enter Week 3 of their brave, new education next week. They will have gotten through the adjustment phase, untangled the technical snafus, settled into their routines. And let’s not minimize those challenges. This transition has been overwhelming to varying degrees for all of us. (Read Guest Blog to see how one stalwart TNCS 8th-grader is helping us through it.) But we can be reassured by at least one aspect of this unprecedented circumstance—our children are flourishing, just like usual, thanks to The New Century School.
Also a big thank you to parents who so graciously allowed us to see what TNCS Virtual School looks like at their house. With yesterday’s announcement that MD schools will be closed through April 24th and possibly longer, TNCS Virtual School is a blessing and a marvel—even the next generation is getting in on the act!