Hungry Harvest Comes to TNCS!

Last month, The New Century School joined the Hungry Harvest family, a move that aligns with two very important TNCS values. The first is offering students clean, healthy food for lunch, the second, serving our larger community.

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In case you haven’t heard, Hungry Harvest is the phenomenal local company whose tagline, “Produce with a Purpose,” provides just an inkling of all that this force of social and environmental good really does. Not only do they “recover” produce deemed not aesthetically pleasing enough to be sold in stores, which cuts down on food waste considerably, but they also donate 2 pounds of produce to help feed someone in need for every delivery they make. Moreover, they partner with local farms to obtain the “harvests” in another important synergy: The farms’ sustainable practices protect the environment, while being able to sell all of their viable produce (not just the visually perfect stuff) allows the farms to stay in business—and in an environmentally and socially conscious way.

Some Sad Facts

To put this in perspective, in many areas in the United States, but certainly here in Baltimore, which has the astronomic “food insecurity” rate of 23% of the population, we are faced with the tragic irony of wasting literally tons of food each year while people who could have eaten that food instead go hungry. Brace yourself. In July 2016, The Atlantic journalist Adam Chandler wrote:

Americans waste an unfathomable amount of food. In fact . . . roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting ‘one third of all foodstuffs.’ Wasted food is also the single biggest occupant in American landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency has found. . . the great American squandering of produce appears to be a cultural dynamic as well, enabled in large part by a national obsession with the aesthetic quality of food. Fruits and vegetables, in addition to generally being healthful, have a tendency to bruise, brown, wilt, oxidize, ding, or discolor and that is apparently something American shoppers will not abide. ‘Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the U.S. are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards.’

(See more heartbreakingly unfortunate statistics on food waste here: https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm.)

unspecified-1TNCS Goes Hungry! (Harvesting, That Is.)

Fortunately, a very smart person recognized that these two problems could quite neatly solve each other. Quoting from the Hungry Harvest website, “Evan Lutz founded Hungry Harvest in the basement of his University of Maryland dorm room in 2014. He began by packing bags of produce himself and delivering to 30 customers. A few months later, Evan’s idea was validated on [the television show] ‘Shark Tank’ when he struck a deal with Robert Herjavec. Now the Hungry Harvest team is up to 11 and delivering across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.”

Thanks to Head of School Alicia Danyali and Executive Chef Emma Novashinski, TNCS is now part of that delivery route. Said Chef Emma: “Hungry Harvest reclaims food rejected during quality assurance, sells it to subscribers, and uses some of the profit to feed other hungry families. We wanted to be part of this wonderful initiative that uses one problem to solve another.”

Although combination boxes of fruits and veggies are available, TNCS sticks with just fruit through Hungry Harvest. As Chef Emma explained it, seasonal fruit is harder to obtain throughout the year from local suppliers, whereas, in this climate, vegetables of some variety are always growing. So, even if local fruit isn’t always available, such as during winter months, TNCS can get it from Hungry Harvest. And, by ordering only organic through Hungry Harvest, there’s still a nod to sustainable practices. This also allows TNCS to avoid resorting to so-called “conventional fruit,” meaning fruit that might be shipped from a remote region or grown in heavily chemical environments.

“Every Monday, we get four boxes of fruit variety delivered to us, which has allowed us to start serving fruit salads, which the kids are not only really enjoying, but they are also tasting fruits they might have been unfamiliar with, such as pomegranates or persimmons. And, if there’s a fruit in the salad they don’t care for, they can eat the other fruits around it and still get the vitamins and nutrients. Today we had mango, strawberry, and melon, for example.” Last year, Chef Emma more or less had to rotate apples and oranges through the winter months. This year, “we get a crossfade. They get to experience some new things—satsumas, mandarins, pineapples—and they get some old favorites like clementines,” she said. “They are getting more fruit this way, too, which can’t be bad. There’s no peel or pith—it’s already in bite-sized pieces for them.” (By the way, the persimmons were sweetened and cooked down then mixed with Greek yogurt in case you were wondering how on earth Chef Emma got the kids to eat them! Which they did!)

Choose-your-own-adventure options are available, but TNCS lets Hungry Harvest select what fruit will be delivered and provides guidelines for what works, such as no highly perishable items, so single items, etc.

Surely the question on everybody’s minds by now is, “So what about the quality?” In Chef Emma’s experience so far, the produce has been completely edible and delicious, rejected only for visual imperfections such as shape or markings. It’s not soft or mushy, as might be the misconception.

But wait—there are even more great benefits deriving from this partnership! In an online chat, Hungry Harvest Customer Experience Hero & Academic Coordinator Katie Landry explained:

Our school pickup sites operate a really unique program called Produce in a SNAP that allows families in need to use their SNAP/EBT (Food Stamps). We currently partner with Baltimore City Public and Charter schools to subsidize our produce and they can use SNAP/EBT at these sites! Learn more about these sites by following the link below.

Hungry for More?

If you are interested in signing up for a harvest for your family, visit https://shop.hungryharvest.net/summary.php?go=products to see the goods. It couldn’t be easier to do, and you’ll not only be making a social impact and contributing to environmental sustainability, you’ll also have your family’s fruits and veggies conveniently delivered to your door! The online signup experience is a breeze, and super-friendly company representatives like Katie are available to answer any questions in an instant. (And they address you as a hero, so that’s added fun :).)

Pro Tip: Typing “Emma Novashinski” in the referral box earns you a discount as well as one for TNCS! Go reap your harvest!

Immersed’s Bicentennial!

tncs-imersed-bicentennialDear readers and members of The New Century School community, Immersed is happy to herewith arrive at Post #200! (Cue the fireworks!)

To commemorate this achievement, we give you all 199 prior posts, starting with the most recent and ending with Immersed’s very first post on October 12, 2012. Please enjoy this look at how Immersed (and TNCS) have evolved together over the years!

199. Taking Time Out for Peace at TNCS

198. TNCS Hosts a Special 10th-Anniversary Back-to-School Night!

197. TNCS Exemplifies Four Core values

196. Belaboring Labor Day: Two Schools of Thought

195. TNCS Summer Theatre Camp 2016: A Week of Wonder

194. TNCS Camp Invention 2016 is Epic!

193. TNCS Chinese Summer Camp: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Happy Campers!

192. Kids Brush Up on Creativity at TNCS

191. Summer Camp with the Painting Workshop!

190. Kids Get It Together at TNCS Lego Camp!

189. TNCS Spanish Immersion Camp Gets Kids Hablar*!

188. Hit the Ground Learning in Summer 2016 with TNCS-Approved Resources

187. Goodbye 2015–2016 School Year! It’s Been Great!

186. TNCS Upper Elementary Bond in the Great Outdoors!

185. TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor 2015 Report Card Release!

184. TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories, Part 2

183. TNCS Upper Elementary Treads the Boards!

182. TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories

181. TNCS Hosts Education Conference for Teachers from China!

180. Multilingual Media for Kids: Explore Beyond Dora; Bid Kai-Lan Farewell!

179. Go Native for Earth Day 2016!

178. TNCS Elementary Engages in Conservation by the Barrel

177. Why You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family!

176. TNCS Science Fair 2016: It All Starts with a Good Question!

175. TNCS Teachers Get Mindful!

174. Guest Blog: Stop and Smell the Roses!

173. Meet the Art Teacher: A Portrait of Elisabeth Willis

172. TNCS Primary Workshop: Connecting Montessori to Home

171. “Keeping The Conversation Going” – In Multiple Languages!

170. TNCS Elementary Gets Positively Presidential!

169. TNCS Goes to the Grammys!

168. TNCS Celebrate the Chinese New Year!

167. TNCS Parent Workshop: Making the Transition from Pre-Primary to Primary

166. TNCS Elementary Walk Back Through History with Frederick Douglass!

165. Meet the Teachers: Wei Li and Yangyang Li!

164. Meet the Teacher: Kiley Stasch Joins TNCS Elementary!

163. Vote for Your Favorite Post of 2015

162. TNCS Middle School: Opening the Window of Awakening

161. TNCS Elementary Saves the Holidays!

160. Right from the Start: Talking with Elementary-Age Children about Sexuality

159. Meet the Teacher: Manuel Caceres

158. Lessons in Gratitude at TNCS

157. TNCS Visits Schools in China!

156. You are NOT human!

155. Go Outside and Get Dirty, Kids!

154. TNCS Honors Dia de los Muertos!

153. TNCS K/1st Classes Get to the Core of Apple-Harvesting!

152. Cutting Edge Skills at TNCS

151. The Most Important Partner: You!

150. TNCS Performs at Continental Bridge Celebration!

149. TNCS School Lunch Goes Global!

148. ColorCycling Comes to TNCS!

147. Councilman Kraft’s Fall Initiatives at TNCS

146. Guest Blog: Back-to-School Transitions

145. Back-to-School Traditions from Around the World!

144. Meet the Newest Addition to TNCS’s Administration!

143. STARTALK 2015 Campers Get a Taste of Taiwan!

142. TNCS-Approved Resources: Avoid the Summer Slide!

141. Help TNCS Support Pratt’s Summer Reading Program!

140. TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor Report Card Release!

139. TNCS Elementary Field Trip: A Natural Choice

138. TNCS Elementary Skypes with Students from other Countries!

137. TNCS Primary Students Have Something to Crow About!

136. Mindful Parenting: A TNCS Workshop that Could Change the World

135. Planet Uptune Debuts CD at Dunfest 2015!

134. Gilman School Seniors Visit TNCS for Some Spanish Fun!

133. TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

132. TNCS’s Go-Green-for-Earth-Day Raffle!

131. Read-a-Thon Opens New Chapter for TNCS Outdoor Activities

130. How to Be an “Askable” Parent

129. TNCS Elementary Students Inform through Writing

128. TNCS STEM Fair 2015 Makes a Huge Splash!

127. TNCS’s Second Annual Town Hall

126. News for STARTALK at TNCS!

125. TNCS Primary Classes Jazz It Up!

124. TNCS Rings in the Year of the Sheep!

123. TNCS Students Discover Math-e-Magic!

122. Transitioning from Preprimary to Primary at TNCS

121. TNCS Welcomes DBFA and the “Big Kids”!

120. So What’s Bugging You?

119. Phys Ed Is Going Strong at TNCS!

118. Meet the Teacher: Montessori-Trained Maria Mosby Joins TNCS

117. Standardized Testing Debate Continues

116. Winter Break—It’s Not Just for Homework Anymore!

115. TNCS Elementary Information Night Rounds Out a Great 2014!

114. TNCS’s Winter Performance Amazes and Delights!

113. TNCS Launches New Website!

112. Lessons in Thanksgiving at TNCS

111. TNCS Elementary Needs Your Vote!

110. Meet the Teacher: Elementary STEM Instructor Dan McGonigal Joins TNCS

109. State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing Instruction at TNCS

108. TNCS Elementary Students to Enter BGE Video Contest!

107. Theatre Workshop Promotes Team-Building among TNCS Elementary Students

106. TNCS and Councilman Kraft: Outreach for Our Shared Community

105. Meet TNCS’s Newest Chinese Teachers!

104. TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose!

103. TNCS Performs at Confucius Institute Day!

102. TNCS Students Get the Wiggles Out and the Learning In!

101. Back-to-School Night: Meet New TNCS Teachers and More!

100. Immersed’s Centennial!

99. It’s Good to Be Back at TNCS!

98. TNCS Gets Ready for School!

97. Camp Invention Takes Creativity to New Heights (and New Depths) at TNCS!

96. TNCS Knows Safe Urban Gardening!

95. Cooking and Gardening Camp at TNCS Is a Recipe for Fun!

94. STARTALK Is a Huge Success at TNCS!

93. TNCS Summer Camp Heats Up Under New Directorship

92. The Painting Workshop at TNCS: Kids Paint the Town!

91. TNCS Drama Camp Brings Out Kids’ Inner Artists

90. TNCS Summer “Move It!” Camp Gets Kids Moving and Learning!

89. Excitement and Creativity Build at TNCS Lego Camp!

88. TNCS “Pops” the Trash!

87. TNCS Elementary Sing in Mandarin in Command Performance!

86. STARTALK Shines at TNCS!

85. Best of Immersed: Reader Poll

84. Music Is in the Air at TNCS!

83. Community Conversation: Protecting Our Children

82. Baseball Fundraiser Scores Big for TNCS

81. Admissions Fridays: Your Ticket to Getting to Know TNCS!

80. Holidays at TNCS: How Do We Celebrate?

79. Meet the Big Kids with TNCS!

78. Cultivating a Growth Mindset at TNCS

77. Kids and Safety: When (If) to Let Go

76. TNCS Elementary Science Fair 2014!

75. TNCS Lower Elementary Goes Around the World in 80 Days

74. Making School Transitions: Pre-Primary to Primary at TNCS

73. See What’s Jumping at The Lingo Leap!

72. Cultural Diversity at TNCS: Insiders’ Perspectives

71. Year of the Horse Festivities Giddy-Up at TNCS

70. TNCS’s Foreign Language Program Embraces the 5 Cs

69. Spaceship Club Elevates Aftercare at TNCS!

68. TNCS’s Garden Tuck Shop Program Relaunches!

67. TNCS’s Inaugural Town Hall

66. TNCS Elementary Information Night: A School Grows and Flourishes

65. New Year’s Resolutions TNCS Style

64. TNCS Holiday Outreach Programs

63. TNCS Wins Southeast Baltimore City Schools Recycling Competition!

62. What Does Kindergarten Look Like at TNCS?

61. Volunteerism at TNCS

60. TNCS: A School to Be Thankful For

59. The ABCs of ZZZs at TNCS

58. Anxiety-Free Kids at TNCS

57. TNCS Gives Thanks by Giving Back

56. TNCS Makes Strides Against Breast Cancer

55. Pipa Concert at TNCS

54. Elementary Strength Training

53. Open House at TNCS

52. Happy Birthday, Immersed!

51. History of Our Beloved Buildings

50. STEM Teacher Arrives at TNCS!

49. TNCS Back-to-School Night

48. School Daze: Where to Educate City Kids?

47. A TNCS Original

46. Immersed Is Here!

45. Hack the Trash: Community Art Project

44. International Camp at TNCS

43. Making the Case for Cursive

42. Elementary Math and Reading Skills: Important Predictors of Successful Adulthood

41. Bagging Bagged Lettuce

40. Summertime Theatrics: Drama Camp at TNCS

39. And the Winner Is . . .

38. You Say Tomayto, I Say Tomahto

37. Adventures with One Straw Farm CSA

36. The New Century School: A Retrospective and Prospective Look

35. The Rename Game

34. Resources and Links Page for TNCS Families

33. Sanctuary Bodyworks: An Exercise Haven

32. Honoring Parenthood at The New Century School

31. Camp Invention Returns to TNCS in June

30. Strengthening Friendships, Creating Art: TNCS Welcomes Back Baltimore Love Project

29. Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS

28. Touch Screens and Your Child: To App or Not To App

27. Breaking Down the GMO Issue: Some Earth Day Musings

26. Spring Break—a Noteworthy Topic

25. Community-supported Agriculture and TNCS

24. Elementary Science Fair!

23. Standardized Testing: It’s Time to Talk About It

22. Imagination Playground Comes to TNCS

21. Language, Math, and Science—Montessori Style!

20. Charmed by TNCS’s Year of the Snake Performance

19. Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge: TNCS Update

18. Preschool Conundrum Solved: Research Demonstrates Benefits of Montessori Education

17. Language Curriculum Specialist Joins TNCS

16. The Importance of Being Artistic

15. Multilingualism at TNCS: Optimizing Your Child’s Executive Function

14. TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge

13. Achieving Balance in Education at TNCS

12. Giving Back: TNCS Kids and Heifer International

11. Elementary Program Merges Montessori and Progressive Education at The New Century School

10. Top 10 Reasons to Attend Montessori Kindergarten

Inside the Montessori Classroom

9. Exercising That Mind–Body Connection

8. Blown Away with Wind Energy

7. Getting the Education Nitty Gritty

6. Sustainable School Lunch: Garden Tuck Shop Program Part 2

5. Sustainable School Lunch: Garden Tuck Shop Program Part I

4. Baltimore Love Project

3. Kindness Counts!

2. International Walk-to-School Day

1. Hello World!

 

 

TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor 2015 Report Card Release!

tncs-elementary-healthy-harborLast month, The New Century School‘s lower elementary class took a walking trip to Columbus Park to visit the pumping station for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the annual “Healthy Harbor Report Card” was being released. This is the second year that STEM teacher Dan McGonigal has incorporated this special event into his curriculum. Taking care of our local waterways—how to keep them clean, why they are so critically important, and what responsibility Baltimore citizens individually should assume regarding these bodies of water—is something that is near and dear to his heart:

I really embrace problems in the environment and how we can find new solutions to old problems. I think this comes from a high-school teacher who I really connected with. He was really passionate about the some of the issues going on concerning the environment, and I liked being outside, so I sort of went along with it. But then when much of what he said was going to happen has come true, I realized we really are headed in the wrong direction with the choices we make and what’s going on in the world. As a teacher, I have the opportunity to instill the value in being stewards of our environment. We should appreciate the natural world and study how to take care of it by making better choices to lessen our impact as much as possible.

Cutting right to the chase, our waterways received another overall failing grade for 2015; however, the purpose of the Healthy Harbor Report Card Release event is really about highlighting signs of improvement, explained Mr. McGonigal. Gwynns Falls, which got the first-ever passing grade in 2014 with a D– has improved to a D, for example.

You can learn more about the Healthy Harbor initiative by reading last year’s Immersed post on the subject, including all about the truly innovative Mr. Trash Wheel. Invented by Baltimore resident John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, this revolutionary water wheel intercepts hundreds of tons of trash before it reaches the Inner Harbor. (Good news on that score, too, by the way—as hoped, Canton is getting its own Trash Wheel!)

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The water wheel in all its glory—Fun fact: trash picked up by Mr. Trash Wheel generates power for Maryland homes!

Basically, though, the Report Card is a tool that helps track progress toward the goal of making the Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020, a goal established by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore together with Blue Water Baltimore. You can read the 2015 Report Card here. Said Mr. McGonigal:

There were generally very poor scores along the way. As you get further away from our waters and closer to the Chesapeake Bay, scores improve. It’s really our local waterways that show major problems. The amount of fecal matter and other contaminates show us that it’s not yet a swimmable area. Yet, there is good news, and the Report Card is better than last year’s. There are a lot of people here from all over the city and state and different parts of the government that are really trying and really have some buy-in into the future of the Patapsco River, the Inner Harbor, and the Chesapeake Bay. There are people working to make things better. There is a lot of passion there.

What did the 2nd/3rd-grade class take-away from this experience? “They were able to reiterate that even though things are bad, people are working to make it better. That was my main goal. I didn’t expect them to understand every word of the speeches being delivered. The overall message is that there are a lot of people watching this, and it does matter. It’s not just me telling them—this is coming from some very important people,” said Mr. McGonigal. Such stakeholders include Blue Water Baltimore Executive Director Halle Van der Gaag, Waterfront Partnership Board Chair Michael Hankin, Director of Baltimore City Public Works Rudy Chow, Maryland State Delegate Brooke Lierman, Congressman John Sarbanes, and Baltimore Councilman James Kraft, all of whom were also in attendance for the Report Card Release.

The best part for the class was touring the inside of the works, during which they began to realize how much is involved in keeping our water clean, regarding how to maintain the structures that are in place now and keep things going in the right direction. Said Mr. McGonigal, “They were enthralled by that and even got to turn on the pumping machine.”

As with last year, the field trip was a tie-in with other class themes. “Earlier in the year we studied the ecosystem and some of the major problems in the area, which led to our rain-barrel painting project—our primary ‘action project’,” said Mr. McGonigal. Other mini action projects grew out of their task of picking an environmental problem and determining how they would solve it. These ranged from measuring water usage in the home and encouraging their families to use less to examining leftover food at grocery stores and its ultimate fate to organizing pollution pick-ups at church and educating parishioners. They were also asked to incorporate math to calculate, for example, how much water was saved in a day, then a week, then a year, and on. “They learned that small changes really can add up and began to think about what we could accomplish if we all did these things,” said Mr. McGonigal. Some students even took an engineering approach to solving their problem. The culmination of these projects was in the form of Glogster digital presentations of their problems and individual solutions.

BALTIMORE_FLOATILLA-MAPAs for ongoing Healthy Harbor initiatives, don’t miss the inaugural Baltimore Floatilla, which is a 5-mile kayak paddle from Canton Waterfront Park to the harbor to rally for clean water, followed by an afterparty with food and live music back at the park in Canton. It’s happening Saturday, June 11th!

Go Native for Earth Day 2016!

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The Official TNCS Weeping Willow!

Earth Day is always an important occasion at The New Century School, and this year is no different. In honor of Earth Day 2016, the theme of which is Trees for the Earth, all TNCS classes gathered on the playground to witness the planting of a native Weeping Willow. Poetry and singing rounded out the tree dedication ceremony. Trees are basically the lungs of our planet, filtering out harmful gases and leaving the good stuff for us to breathe. Click here for more on Why trees?

But now let’s zoom in and focus some good Earth Day vibes a little closer to home. Trees aren’t the only environmentally beneficial plantings we can make. Indigenous plants—plants that occur naturally in the region in which they evolved—also make huge contributions to keeping the local environment healthy and thriving. The Patterson Park Audubon Center urges Baltimore City and surrounding residents to “Take Climate Action” and to preserve biodiversity by using native plants in your garden, be it potted or full-scale.

One of the primary reasons this is particularly important for our area is because Baltimore (a.k.a. Birdtown), as part of the Atlantic Flyway, is a vital stopover point for many species of migrating birds. Yet, over time, the number of green spots in the city where these birds can refuel during their long journeys has dwindled. PPAC is working to change that: “Audubon has observed over 200 species of birds in Patterson Park, with over 40 of those species using the park to breed and raise their young. Our habitat gardens in the park are filled with a diversity of native plants from Maryland which serve as hosts for insects—birds’ favorite food—as well as provide essential seeds, berries, nectar, shelter, water, and places to raise their young.”

PPAC can also help you create your own wildlife sanctuary (or, garden, patch, or windowbox) through workshops, resources, and more. But first, let’s explore why native plants are so vital.

Benefits of Native Plants

According to the Audubon.org website, native plants are great for:

  • Wildlife: In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well. The colorful array of butterflies and moths, including the iconic monarch, the swallowtails, tortoiseshells, and beautiful blues, are all dependent on very specific native plant species. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. They provide protective shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.
  • Low maintenance: Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance.
  • Beauty: Many native plants offer beautiful showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and brilliant seasonal changes in colors from the pale, thin greens of early spring, to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn.
  • Healthy places for people: Lawns and the ubiquitous bark-mulched landscapes are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10x more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. By choosing native plants for your landscaping, you are not only helping wildlife, but you are creating a healthier place for yourself, your family, and your community.
  • Helping the climate: Landscaping with native plants can combat climate change. In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
  • Conserving water: Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water.

Gardening with Native Plants

Unfortunately, most of the plants available in the larger, nationally known nurseries are not native to the region where they are being sold. These alien species can degrade the local habitat, the ecological basis for insects, birds, and, by extension, humans. By using native plants in our urban gardens (such as they are), however, we preserve the natural symbiosis of our area.

Using any number of native plants is going to help the environment, but if you really want to go the extra mile (as the crow flies) toward making your green space a sanctuary for wildlife, follow the scheme from PPAC shown below.

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And now, you ask, where do I avail myself of these native plants? Partnering with PPAC, Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery has all the native wonder you could ask for—over 250 varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers that support butterflies, pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Can’t make it out to Herring Run? No problem–PPAC  will once again be hosting a Native Plant Sale in Patterson Park during the Butchers Hill Flea Market on Saturday, May 14th.

So, in honor of Earth Day, let your garden grow for the environment this year!

TNCS Elementary Engages in Conservation By the Barrel

With Earth Day 2016 only a week away, you must be wondering, what awesome environment-friendly project will The New Century School students be involved in this year? You are certainly recalling that, since his tenure at TNCS began, elementary STEM teacher Dan McGonigal has made the most out of Earth Day annually to explore conservation and ways to help the environment both locally and globally. Read about last year’s efforts here: TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

And this year will not disappoint! In fact, this year’s project is one of those learning experiences where individual components come together in a beautiful whole worth far more than the sum of its parts. Mr. McGonigal managed to harness science, art, team-building, environmental advocacy, and fundraising for TNCS to do some actual, measurable good for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area.

What is the product of this amazing, synergy? Handpainted rain barrels! Even better, these rain barrels will be raffled to four lucky winners on Friday, April 29th!

The project was a partnership with Barrels by the Bay, which Mr. McGonigal learned about through Blue Water Baltimore, who he worked with on last year’s storm drain stenciling. According to their website, “Barrels by the Bay is a non-profit organization focused on contributing to sustainable development of the communities within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and surrounding regions. [They] work to help combat flooding and stormwater runoff concerns throughout communities within these regions, educate community members about our world’s water issues and the importance of water conservation efforts, and inspire students to preserve our world’s water resources.”

The organization came into being on the 22nd Annual United Nations World Water Day, on March 22, 2015, in Annapolis, Maryland, kicking off with a project for area schools to repurpose 50-gallon Coca-Cola syrup drums as rain barrels. In 2016, they expanded their reach to other schools within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region, including TNCS. Their efforts are having quite an impact: An average of 700 gallons is collected in one rainfall (1 inch of rain in 24 hours) in the 50-gallon rain barrel drum. If Maryland has an average of 41 inches of rain per year, then in just 1 year, one barrel can collect 28,700 gallons of water. That’s no mere drop in the bucket!

But, as mentioned, collecting tons of water is not all they are good for. Says Mr. McGonigal: “In the fall, we used the barrels to develop teamwork and cooperative learning skills in the 2nd–5th grades. They designed the artwork and then voted on the best designs (two per class). They then prepped the barrels for painting by sanding and priming them. They traced their designs on the barrels and, finally, painted them.”

You can watch the 6-month evolution of their creations in this slideshow.

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“This was also another opportunity for us to put our environmental learning into action. It was a great experience and I hope to make this a yearly event in my class,” said Mr. McGonigal. They then decided to turn the rain barrel project into a fundraiser for TNCS and Barrels by the Bay (each organization gets half of the proceeds). “We also have one more barrel that will be used on our school campus. This will be decorated by student handprints on Earth Day. We hope to use it to help water our school garden,” he said.

Don’t miss the chance to win one of these beautiful and functional rain barrels for your home—get your raffle tickets through the TNCS office through Friday 4/29/16 (by 8:30 am). And don’t worry, Barrels by the Bay even offers workshops to demonstrate how to  harvest rainwater from your roof, store it, and use it for your own home as well as to explain how rain barrels also improve water quality in our rivers and streams.

Thanks to TNCS 2nd–5th science classes, Barrels by the Bay, and the TNCS community, what a great Earth Day this one will be! And a big shout-out to Mr. McGonigal for his continued in-class focus on environmental conservation!

ColorCycling Comes to TNCS!

Does having to throw away something plastic but perhaps unrecyclable make you uneasy, especially single- or short-term-use items? Plastic drinking straws, for example, were once thought to be wonderful innovations because of their apparent cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacture. But when you consider that, globally, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced, half of which is for such disposable items, blithely discarding that straw starts to loom a little larger in significance (and, ultimately, cost). The plastic problem makes many among The New Century School community uncomfortable, too, so TNCS is doing something about it!

Bold Strokes

Head of School Alicia Danyali has enrolled TNCS as a participant in Crayola’s ColorCycling Program, which allows K–12 students to collect and repurpose used markers of any brand. This program also offers classroom opportunities for emphasizing each individual’s capacity for protecting the Earth. In fact, says TNCS Art Teacher Jenny Miller, “I steer away from markers or any other individually plastic encased art product for the very reason of unnecessary waste. I will investigate any other ways that we can practice sustainability in art class.”

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Don’t throw away used markers—colorcycle them!

It’s good to note, though, that the Crayola company is implementing ColorCycling and other green initiatives, such as “using 100% reforested wood for colored pencils  . . . and recycling ground water through [their] crayon cooling process.” How are the colorcycled markers repurposed? Into fuel!

Crayola conducted extensive research into various new and emerging technologies that would allow the company to repurpose its markers and found the most efficient and beneficial solution at this time is the plastic to energy process, which allows the company to repurpose the entire marker. If a classroom recycles 193 markers, that is enough to move a city bus for 3 miles.

For the marker program, all we have to do, TNCS community, is bring our “dead soldiers”—again, any brand—to TNCS, where they will be collected in a specially designated box and kept in the art room. TNCS students will count them and pack them up for shipping—and Crayola even pays the shipping costs!

And voilà—TNCS is an “eco-cool school”!

Fine Print

Most of us are well aware that plastic waste is a huge environmental concern and a growing problem for future generations, but it never hurts to read the plain, if pretty horrifying, facts.

• Plastics impair human health. Plastics contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have been demonstrated to interfere with human endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurodevelopment systems. The long-term effects of these EDCs are still being investigated, and researchers are uncovering other insidious effects all the while.

• Plastics damage the environment. All the plastic so far produced is still with us in some form because it takes 500 years for plastic to decompose. Recycling plastic is not always easy or possible to do, and what doesn’t get recycled winds up in landfills, a clearly unsustainable practice at close to 30 million tons per year (just in the United States!). However, incinerating plastic is an even worse proposition, as burning plastic causes it to release EDCs and other toxins into the air, polluting it and adding to the human bioaccumulated burden. It also gives off CO2, contributing to global warming. And then there’s plastic litter that ultimately finds its way into waterways, polluting the ocean and inducing a cascade of effects on the environment and on wildlife.

Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of life because of their sheer convenience, but we are now reckoning the hidden costs. Programs like ColorCycling not only help start to address the problem, but also increase awareness that there is a problem—a marker is such a seemingly innocent thing, after all . . . until the magic wears off.

TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor Report Card Release!

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TNCS upper elementary enjoyed their last field trip of the year that was fun and educational. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Record.)

On June 4th, The New Century School‘s upper elementary class took a walking trip to Harbor East to attend Baltimore’s annual “Healthy Harbor Report Card 2014 Release”. This field trip was the culminating event of STEM teacher Dan McGonigal’s yearlong in-class exploration of our local waterways—how to keep them clean, why they are so critically important, and what responsibility Baltimore citizens individually should assume regarding these bodies of water. It was an ideal theme, inviting exploration from many STEM angles, and it also set the tone for Mr. McGonigal’s extremely successful first year at TNCS. From the STEM Fair, to Earth Day community outreach in the form of storm drain stenciling, to attending the Health of the Harbor announcement, TNCS elementary students have made a deep connection with Baltimore’s very special natural environments this year.

Mr. McGonigal said that in addition to closing out the water theme of the 2014–2015 school year, he also wanted “to make the end of the year productive, but also fun for the students.” Achieved in spades if these photos are any indication!
And it’s no wonder—Baltimore has achieved something unique with its concerted efforts to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. Swimmable?! Fishable?! You read correctly: Healthy Harbor is an initiative of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, and the Report Card, which is ultimately a tool that helps communicate the swimmable/fishable goal and track progress, is the result of the Waterfront’s partnership with Blue Water Baltimore (whom you may recall donated TNCS’s storm drain stenciling materials).
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The water wheel in all its glory—Fun fact: trash picked up by Mr. Trash Wheel generates power for Maryland homes!

To meet this lofty aim, which many once deemed utterly impossible, Baltimore installed the Inner Harbor Water Wheel at the end of the Jones Falls in May 2014 to intercept trash (which everyone who has ever laid eyes on the Inner Harbor recognizes as its biggest current plague). Invented by Baltimore resident John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, the water wheel has gained worldwide fame and provided the inspiration for similar water clean-up initiatives to be proposed globally, from Rio De Janeiro to Rotterdam. 

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The ingenious design of this water wheel is a “game-changer for trash in urban water bodies!”

“Mr. Trash Wheel,” as the water wheel is now known, has accomplished some pretty extraordinary feats, as his Facebook page and frequent tweets attest (#MrTrashWheel). As of this week, in fact, Mr. Trash Wheel has intercepted 205 tons of trash before it reaches the Inner Harbor in its first year, and a whopping 45 tons from this past Monday’s storm alone! This more than doubles Mr. Trash Wheel’s former single-day record of 19 tons! Read more about the water wheel.

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Mr. Trash Wheel’s first year of very hard work was commemorated with the world’s most disgusting-looking cake!

Healthy Harbor showed its appreciation for Mr. Trash Wheel’s hard work at the Report Card Release by celebrating his first birthday with a cake made of refuse—Mr. Wheel’s preferred intake, of course. And there was certainly cause to celebrate, because the Report Card—for the first time ever—showed a passing grade for Gwynns Falls! That the grade, a D–, is only barely passing is not the point. As one TNCS student remarked, “even though things seem bad, they are getting better.” That’s exactly right! Baltimore waterways are moving in the right direction. The plan is working, as presentations by representatives from the various stakeholders, including District 46 Delegate Brooke Lierman, clearly demonstrate.

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Featured on the Report Card’s cover, these John Eager Howard elementary students are part of their school’s Green Team and gave a lovely speech on cleaning up the harbor.

Delegate Lierman (and TNCS parent) said of TNCS’s attendance at the event: “Involvement by students, like those at TNCS and John Eager Howard, is instrumental in helping us to ensure that Baltimore residents of all ages are invested in and working together to create a cleaner harbor! I’m so glad that students from both of these schools were able to attend the Report Card Release to learn firsthand about the need for advocacy and involvement to bring about positive change in our City.”

Afterward, Mr. McGonigal voted the walking field trip, “an awesome experience” and was very proud of his homeroom students who were respectful and focused during the speeches and presentations. “We learned a lot about the efforts in place to improve the health of the Baltimore Harbor and other area waterways. We also learned that there is a great effort by many people who are trying to help improve the situation. I hope we as a school can get further involved in projects related to the health of the harbor,” said Mr. McGonigal. He invites your suggestion and ideas for continued work by TNCS students.

In the meantime, you can read the 2014 Report Card here. Need still more good news? It’s here—officially announced just yesterday, Canton may be getting its very own water wheel! Also visit cantonwaterwheel.com for more information and to donate in support of Baltimore’s second water-powered trash interceptor.