Earth Day has always been an important occasion at The New Century School—you can read about past observances at the end of this post. This year, Earth Day deserves our attention more than ever. For one, it’s the 50th anniversary of our planet’s largest civic event and the birth of the modern environmental movement. April 22, 1970 saw the U.S. population come together to protect our land, air, and water, and the movement has exploded worldwide since then.
But with the ongoing rollback of some of the most important environmental protection laws passed in the ensuing half century in the United States, the theme of Earth Day 2020 is, fittingly, Climate Action: Fight Today for a Better Tomorrow—because we need to halt this backslide.
Environmental sustainability is a cherished value at TNCS, and students regularly engage in supporting initiatives to keep our surroundings clean, healthy, and safe. With COVID-19 keeping all of us at home or at least socially distant, how can we show Planet Earth the love and respect it deserves?
Well, the TNCS Parent Council has you covered with their fresh take on Earth Day! Parent Council Director Sakina Ligon and Member Tilly Gurman felt that TNCS students needed to continue the tradition of recognizing Earth Day for the important occasion it is and put their heads together on how. Says Ms. Gurman:
Earth Day is celebrated all over the world on April 22nd to highlight the importance of protecting the environment. This year, the coronavirus forces us to be physically distant. As a result, the TNCS Parent Council is not able to host an in-person Earth Day event, as we have done in years past. At the same time, we can still come together as a virtual TNCS community and share the spirit of respecting and caring for the Earth.
Since we have been spending much of our days inside, the TNCS Parent Council would like to encourage families to think about ways to celebrate the Earth outside the home. Let’s celebrate our TNCS community and engage with the Earth, all while respecting physical distancing and staying healthy.
Top 10 Ways to Observe Earth Day 2020!
This list was specially curated by Ms. Gurman to get us outside safely and includes age-appropriate activities, ranging from appreciating nature to community service, for everyone. Choose an activity as-is from the list or modify one to fit your family’s needs. Either way, enjoy your Earth!
Engage in a shape walk or collect the rainbow: Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Take note of what shapes/colors you find. For the shape walk, look to see how many different shapes you are able to identify in nature. Visit Scholastic.com and GreatSchools.org for great tips. For collecting the rainbow, see if you can find something in nature for each color of the rainbow. Use this handy checklist.
Do a nature scavenger hunt:Have fun exploring the environment around you, similar to the shape walk or collecting the rainbow. The difference with this activity is that you start with a specific list of things to: See (e.g., spider web, wildflowers, birds, squirrels) Collect (e.g., pinecones, feathers, rocks) Do (e.g., climb a tree, create a leaf rubbing, record a bird singing) Photograph (e.g., sunrise/sunset, animal tracks, bird nest).
See how many of the items on your list you are able to identify. Use this example checklist; additional guidance can be found at HomeScienceTools.com and ProjectLearningTree.org.
Have a picnic: Enjoy spring by having a picnic outside with your family. It can be outside your house or somewhere else nearby.
Clean up your community:Don some gloves and walk around your neighborhood with a trash bag and pick up trash you see lying around. Separate recyclables from non-recyclables.
Perform outside:For those who like to sing or play an instrument that is portable, you can find a place outside to perform a song or two for family, neighbors, and friends (from a safe distance, of course).
Write a poem:Write a poem for Earth Day and display on your window for anyone who is passing to enjoy.
Create art using found materials:Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Using materials found during your walk (either natural or manmade materials), create some form of art. It could be a sculpture combining the various pieces or you could use what you found as a brush or sponge to apply paint to canvas/paper. Be creative or visit KinderArt.com, BuggyandBuddy.com, or HappyHooligans for inspiration.
Paint or draw en plein air:Not feeling like going for a hike? Take some coloring or drawing supplies and spend some time in your backyard or a nearby park to draw in fresh air. Let the outdoors inspire what you draw. You can then choose to display your artwork at home on a window for people passing by to enjoy.
Create chalk art: Use chalk to draw or write a message on the sidewalk outside your house to share a message for Earth Day 2020. Be creative! The message can focus on specific messages (e.g., reduce, reuse, and recycle) or can be more general.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways we can overcome circumstances and celebrate Earth Day 2020 with plenty of fresh air and vigor. But that’s not all—we really need the “come together” part of this to boost our community. Ms. Gurman says, “Let’s also share our voices and experiences with one another. We’d love to have families share what they do by posting via social media with the hashtags #TNCSEarthDay2020, #TNCS, and #TNCSVirtualSchool.
So, from Sunday, April 19th through Sunday, April 26th, we ask you to post your Earth Day activity on the TNCS Facebook page using the hashtags above and also tagging @thenewcenturyschool (don’t forget the “the”!). Another option is to post in comments under the Earth Day event post on Facebook. Or, if you prefer, you can also send us your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org with Earth Day in the subject line, and we’ll post them for you.
. . . by the way, if getting outside is not going to happen for you for whatever the reason (not judging!), tune into Earth Day Live 2020 and enjoy virtually!
Environmental sustainability is a key message at The New Century School, 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!
That’s why, when TNCS Parent Council member Tilly Gurman heard about the NexTrex school challenge, she immediately thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join and brought her idea to the committee and to TNCS administration in November. “I thought, what a great opportunity to combine our Earth Day activities with this challenge,” said Ms. Gurman. “Whether or not we win, it’s just also getting people involved and doing more recycling and thinking about all of the waste we generate. It bugs me that in my own household we generate all this waste that I know can’t be recycled, and it kills me to just put it in the trashcan every time. I do everything I can to avoid those ziplock kind of bags, but at least now they can be recycled with this challenge. I can now actually do something about all that stuff.”
We’ll explain more about the company and how it works, but first, let’s explore the details of the school challenge itself and get the need-to-know info up front.
What Is the Challenge?
TNCS will compete in the NexTrex 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 bring them to TNCS 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. NexTrex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).
This is probably a good spot to clarify what qualifies as recyclable for this program. Basically, it’s down to #2s and #4s. Also, download a handout here.
So, bring plastic packaging materials to add to the pile at TNCS—got it.Then what? TNCS students are all in and will take it from there. Each classroom has a collection bin and has implemented an individual system for next steps. But, basically, once that initial bin is full, they weigh it and combine it with other classrooms’ loads in one of three NexTrex bins set up around the school. TNCS Facilities Manager Mike Horvath, who is overseeing the operation to ensure compliance with the NexTrex rules, then takes the combined load to Harris Teeter on a monthly basis for an official weigh-in and tallying.
To back up for a second, the enthusiasm with which TNCS students embraced this challenge is critical to its success. Children are especially sensitive to environmental issues, perhaps in part due to their still very intimate relationship with the outdoors. When they get wind of a way to protect it, every adult in their sphere is suddenly on notice! This is exactly why the NexTrex school challenge works, explains Ms. Gurman:
In my research on behavior change, we know that when children ask for acute action from their parents at home, they encourage that specific behavior change. We can put up all the posters we want around the school, but your kids at home saying, ‘Are you really going to throw that away, mom?’, will probably more effectively get your attention. When they get excited about a thing, they really push it. When I told my 2nd-grader that we were starting this at TNCS, he started looking at every piece of trash to identify whether it might be a 2 or a 4!
So, get the kids excited and check every single item that goes in the trash (kidding)—got it. Then what? Well, it is a competition, as mentioned. 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! (Preprimary classes will combine as one class.)
For the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win very special prizes from NexTrex such as our very own park bench made from NexTrex 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.
For the TNCS class-to-class contest, prizes are to be announced. Go teams!
In the meantime, every TNCS student gets a NexTrex magnet that’s not only fun (because it’s a magnet!) but also acts as a visual cue to remind us to recycle. Winners of both contest tiers will be announced on or around Earth Day!
And Now, About NexTrex
According to its website, the Virginia-based Trex Company, ” . . . [makes] Trex® eco-friendly composite decks from an innovative blend of 95% reclaimed wood and plastic film—that’s almost the whole thing. On top of that, [they use] some of the most earth-friendly manufacturing processes in the country, reclaiming factory waste and eliminating the use of harmful chemicals. Trex offers consumers a truly environmentally responsible choice.”
How Does Plastic Film Packaging Become Decking or Furniture?
Plastic film is near-ubiquitous in manufacturing for the convenience it offers in packaging and transporting of products that make their way to us consumers, but it’s certainly no good for the environment. Converting it to usable NexTrex materials (which are 95% recycled) significantly lessens the environmental impact.
To Earth Day, and Beyond!
“My hope is that this kind of becomes a yearly thing,” said Ms. Gurman. Indeed! Even if we don’t win this year, a huge buzz has been generated, and we can hit the ground running on November 15, 2020. We can even start collecting before the next challenge officially kicks off! Either way, many pounds of would-be non-recyclable material has been diverted from landfills to do some good in and for the world. That’s a big win for Planet Earth and its resident Earthlings!
Note: Even after Earth Day and the NexTrex 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 a partner location. In Maryland, these include Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Giants, Harris Teeter, Kohl’s, Martins, Redner’s Markets, Safeway, Target, and Weis.
The 2018–2019 school year has been an epic year for The New Century School in so many ways, but certainly not least for having the Middle School in full bloom—now all the way through 8th grade! TNCS has anticipated this moment for years, growing closer and closer to a fully fledged Middle School, and, in a few weeks, TNCS will graduate its first 8th-grade class.
But not before we take a peek at another first they pioneered—TNCS’s first-ever international service-learning project. In March, three girls and one boy (known here as Z, F, B, and J), ages 13 and 14 years, went to Puerto Rico for 6 days! This trip has been in the works all year, and fundraising efforts, such as twice monthly pop-up hot beverage shops, toward travel expenses really paid off.
Why Service? Why Puerto Rico?
Service is a TNCS Core Value, and, throughout the year, students take on various initiatives toward their service-learning goals, from intra-campus projects to broader, community service–oriented endeavors. To really bring home what service learning means, though, TNCS students should experience how their efforts can have farther-reaching impacts.
Puerto Rico was the natural choice:
The island is readily accessible—no passports are required for TNCS students, and it’s relatively easy to get to.
Availability of resources and advice from TNCS community (staff, parents) with knowledge of Puerto Rico was an enormous help for planning.
It’s a Spanish-speaking country for students to use their developing Spanish skills.
There’s a clear need: The island is still restoring itself after hurricane damage.
Puerto Rico: Here We Come!
Adriana DuPrau escorted the group and said just prior to their departure: “They are very excited—this is the trip of a lifetime for some of them!” She facilitated getting them school IDs, helped create packing lists (hats, bug spray, closed shoes for hiking, beach gear, etc.), and generally did all of the planning with advice from Ms. Madrazo and a very helpful TNCS dad who hails from Puerto Rico. You might be wondering how Mrs. DuPrau got to be the sole chaperone, but you’d have to look no farther than back at the past school year, during which she has grown very close to the middle schoolers, such as while helping them prepare for their big transition to high school, and has discovered that she really enjoys that age group. Mrs DuPrau also spent 6 weeks in Puerto Rico in college, teaching English. “Traveling is a big part of who I was, but I haven’t been able to do that with three small children. I think this will be good for us.”
In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a one-two punch that ravaged the island, we saw an opportunity to help affected communities, and in doing so, to deliver an unforgettable experience for our 8th graders. I got to be the lead organizer of the trip, and got to team up with multiple members within the Puerto Rican community to maximize the relief effort and add an interdisciplinary scope to the students’ experience! It was such an awesome experience and I never, ever thought I could be away from my family for 7 days . . . but I did it, and I’m so happy I did. The four 8th-grade city students completely stepped out of their comfort zone and completely killed it! I’m so incredibly proud of them!
Now, let’s break down their itinerary day by day, interspersed with some additional debriefing from Mrs. DuPrau.
The group left on Sunday, March 17th at 5:00 pm, departing from BWI airport and arriving in Puerto Rico at 9:00 pm. After they picked up their rental minivan, they drove to their digs in Luquillo, a small beach town close to the rain forest that was recommended by TNCS English Language Arts teacher Ilia Madrazo, who is from Puerto Rico.
B was like the mom of the group; she wanted to make sure everybody was okay. She always made sure that everything was tidy. I had them wash their own dishes and clean up, so our living space was always very organized. J was also so helpful, carrying the groceries in, for example. I got to see a really nice side of him, very kind and respectful.
The group kicked off their first full day with a sail on a catamaran and snorkeling, both firsts for most of them.
As urban children, not accustomed to being around the ocean, this thought made them nervous, but we went to a very secluded spot to give them the space to get comfortable in the water. And they did it! It was really beautiful; the water was crystal blue and warm.
After their big days, they all ended up usually falling asleep watching a movie on the couch. We would have breakfast at home and usually packed lunch. They didn’t really love going out to dinner; they were more into coming home and chilling.
The group’s main plan on Tuesday was to explore El Yunque rain forest on the “Off the Beaten Path” tour. They also walked to waterfalls and got a chance to swim and goof off.
It was a really good trip. The kids got to see something really different, and they experienced this trip on many different levels—yes, it was service learning, and that was definitely the focus—but they got to experience so many other things, and now they all want to keep traveling. So that’s also important. We always had a full day planned, and when you’re traveling it’s important to take advantage of the fact that you’re somewhere new. This group was just so relaxed. I loved that they got to do more than just service learning because they had so much fun. I never had to calm them down. They never had any anxiety about all the new things they were doing.
On Wednesday, the group had planned a trip to Camuy River Cave Park, the third largest underground cave system in the world and formerly among the top 10 attractions in Puerto Rico. However, the caves have not been open to the public since the twin ravagers Irma and Maria paid them visit. So, they did some sightseeing San Juan and Ponce instead. “We had a good time visiting the forts and shopping around and seeing all the architecture of old San Juan,” said Mrs. DuPrau.
I loved seeing them speaking Spanish. I think it’s important to visit places that are Spanish speaking. All the kids practiced their Spanish—they ordered food in Spanish and tried to speak Spanish to any of our tour guides. They’d also help each other, and that was really nice.
This being Math Kangaroo day back at TNCS, the travelers took the Math Kangaroo exam in a conference room where they stayed and then mailed in their scantron sheets. Afterward, it was time to hit the beach!
They opened up a lot as well, sharing the emotions they go through in middle school. We’d have these conversations while we were driving in the van, and they’d have all these questions. They started talking a lot about how what they go through when they’re feeling down, and I think it’s so important to equip them with how to handle those emotions. They think no one understands, but we do understand even if we’re not all in the same set of circumstances. I think community within the class is how we have to move forward and doing things all together, even though it’s 6th through 8th grade. It will help them with the social and emotional part of being a middle schooler. We can definitely add more of that in our curriculum.
The service-learning stint took place in Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo, which is “a bioluminescent lagoon, mangroves, coral reefs, dry forests, sandy and rocky beaches set between headlands.” “We went to what used to be a coconut palm conservatory, but those trees are not native to Puerto Rico,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. “They were planted there and were completely wiped out after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. So the nature conservatory wants to now plant native trees, which are stronger and better able to withstand any future hurricanes.”
Este día de las madres, sorpréndela con una membresía AMIGOS Para la Naturaleza. Pon al alcance de tus seres queridos la posibilidad de disfrutar durante todo el año de nuevas experiencias transformadoras en lugares históricos y ecosistemas únicos en Puerto Rico.
Working in pairs (they had to share shovels), the overall group planted more than 100 native trees of various species up and down the beach and into the forested area, with the TNCS contingent responsible for a large fraction of that number. The tour guide spoke only in Spanish.
The service learning part of it was awesome. It was really physical, and I’m hoping that it impacts them in a way they’ll remember. We were working with a whole bunch of other people of all ages to plant these huge trees. It was hard, but the students didn’t complain because they knew it was their community service. One thing that I’d like to change about the trip is having them do a little bit more community service, such as with animals. There were so many homeless dogs and cats, and the students really wanted to help them. I reached out to a few places but it was hard to find any that would accept younger than high school age. We met a lot of older students, who were very nice to our students.
As they were departing Puerto Rico at 3:00 pm, they used their last hours to have some down time and enjoy the beach!
I definitely want to do it again. I was just so proud of the kids again for stepping out of their comfort zone. There was no homesickness or complaining, and, in fact, they all got along great. One of the things that I pulled away from the trip is that they all got to know each other on such a deep level. They walked away calling each other best friends. They were all really respectful of one another, yet they’re all very different. It was was also great to see how open they were to meeting new people. I felt like I saw who they really are. Z, for example, helped an elderly man across a stream without any prompting. It was nice to see how many people thought that they were such great kids—I was told multiple times that this was the best-behaved middle school group they’d ever seen.
Interview with Students
Along with Mrs. DuPrau’s great overview of the trip, let’s hear about it from the students’ perspective.
Immersed: What was your overall impression of your trip?
Z, F, and J (as a chorus):It was fun; it was amazing, great, awesome, exciting.
F: It was full of opportunities to get out of your comfort zone.
Z:Oh yes. All three of us jumped off a cliff! I was so scared to do it because I thought I was going to drown! But Carlos, our guide, made us feel more comfortable.
J: I was scared of heights, but I did it.
Immersed: What other experiences did you have?
Z: I liked planting trees.
Immersed: Planting trees—was that the service project?
Z: We planted more than 16 native baby trees altogether.
(B joins our chat. Which was really more like their chat :).)
J, F, B, and J (all completing each others’ sentences): There were a lot more trees before the hurricane, but they were palm trees. They want to get rid of those and replace them with native species because they are stronger and will be less likely to blow over in a hurricane. We planted them in the rain forest.
Immersed: Tell us more about being in the rainforest.
Z: It was very dry, surprisingly, and there were so many vines and roots snaking out.
Immersed: Tell us what you learned about your service.
F: I felt like I was helping out after the hurricane.
Z (with lots of support from F): Yeah, there are still a lot of houses that are torn down or without roofs, and they’re still fixing everything to this day. I feel like I was doing something really good by planting trees because when the next hurricane comes, they won’t be the kind of trees that knock down houses!
(Many inside jokes ensue, none of which were comprehensible to an outsider.)
Immersed: What was the best part of your trip?
Z, F, B, and J (as a chorus): The rainforest! Not where we planted the trees but where we went hiking—El Yunque.
Z: Then there was the catamaran. It was good! We went snorkeling. We saw a sea urchin.
J: I almost fell over from trying to walk in the flippers.
(Cascades of giggles.)
Z: The flippers were so hard to walk in; we looked like penguins.
Immersed: What other wildlife did you see?
Z, F, B, and J (as a chorus): We saw a huge snake! And some huge iguanas at the old fort in San Juan. They were really big.
Immersed: Wow. You guys really did a lot.
Z, F, B, and J (as a chorus): We did; we did. We went to a lot of beaches, too.
Immersed: Tell us about meals—did you cook in your apartment? Did you mostly eat out? What kinds of new foods did you try?
Z, F, B, and J (as an excited but unintelligible chorus except for a few words): Good, non-spicy, eggs, guacamole.
Z: On days that we went to the beach, we would return to the apartment and make spaghetti or pizza or cereal or something. On days we were out, we would eat out.
Immersed: What else do you want readers to know about your trip?
Z: If you go there, bring a lot of sunscreen.
F: Don’t go to Wendy’s or Burger King.
(Lots of agreement from the gang.)
Immersed: How do think this experience changed you?
Z: It made me have a closer bond with these three. It helped us understand each other more. Before we went on the trip, I was probably the only one who really spoke to J, and I was one of his first friends here. Now we all hang out.
F: This changed me in so many ways. I go to know those three better, and we have a better bond.
J: It made me appreciate them a lot more. Because honestly B and F and I weren’t that close. But once we got to Puerto Rico, and I actually got to spend time with them, it was just all fun.
(Next the group reflected on their changing dynamics back at school and how other students also have begun respecting them more.)
F: Even the teachers see us differently. We may be more mature.
Immersed: Think about the service aspect of your trip. Did it make you want to do more?
Z: I now look around at things and see what I can do at the moment.
J: I’ve been helping out more around the house and saying hi to strangers when I pass them on the street.
(After several attempts to wrap things up, it soon became clear that the group was stalling in order to miss science class. Ahem.)
Immersed: Did the trip awaken the love of travel in you?
Z: I like travel—I just don’t like airplanes!
F:I enjoyed my first airplane ride.
J: There was a lot of turbulence, but it was fun to be on a plane.
(Next we had a bittersweet conversation about where they are going to high school. Sniff.)
Immersed:Okay, any last thoughts? Anything at all?
Z: We are very grateful for all of the people who came to our fundraising and also to the private donors—other TNCS parents. We wouldn’t have been able to go without them.
Immersed: What will your next service projects be? Anything over the summer?
Z: I’m coming to volunteer here as a camp counselor over the summer.
The energy the four students had as they reflected on their international service-learning trip was so tremendously positive—this was clearly a very wonderful experience for them. Interestingly, they took away from it exactly what we would hope: expanded horizons and a broader outlook on life and on people as well as a deepening sense of the beneficial impact they can have on the world.
Souvenir from the group.
Well done, you four—you’ve made an indelible mark on 724 S. Ann St. We will miss you next year but know that you will make your respective high schools all the nicer for your presence!
The group reflects on a wonderful experience . . . and looks ahead to the amazing adventures awaiting them.
Last month, TNCS was thrilled to welcome back the Queen of Green for a collaborative art project with TNCS K/1st-graders. Ms. Parlato’s art generally has a social message, and the ocean-themed project she undertook at TNCS was no different. Tying into the oceanography unit the lower elementary students were doing, Ms. Parlato first spoke to the classes about the art they would be creating together and why. “We’ll be making a mandala, which is a special symbol that shows how things are connected. How are we going to use this art to help people, the ocean, and the world?” she asked them. After getting some very thought-provoking audience responses, she thanked them and summed up their ideas: “Your art is going to make people think about why it’s important not to litter.”
Art with K/1st Classes
Ms. DeMatteo’s and Prof. Caceres’s classes launched the project. With the younger students, Ms. Parlato’s focus was on textures. They first discussed different types of textures that might be found in the ocean (“squishy like a jellyfish,” “wiggly like an anemone,” “gooey like seaweed”).
“Now your job is to paint some of these ocean and water textures, using some recyclable materials like cereal boxes and cardboard I have brought in for you,” the RecyQueen explained. “Once you make all of the textures for me, I’m going to make a special kind of collage out of them.”
Mrs. Jenks’ and Sra. Sanchez’s classes took over phase 2, which was making the fish that would swim through the oceans created by the younger group.
Here, the focus was more on ecosystems and the delicate balance ocean life requires to thrive.
La Reina de Reciclaje
After her two visits to TNCS and having accumulated four classrooms’ worth of mandala components, Ms. Parlato put it all together and unveiled the masterpiece at TNCS’s 2018 Art Show on Thursday, May 31st. It speaks for itself.
“These kids want something else,” commented Ms. Parlato. “They don’t want an environment full of styrofoam and trash. They are speaking change through this art, and kid art is powerful.”
Earth Day happens on Sunday, April 22nd this year, with the theme “End Plastic Pollution”. But celebrating our planet is an everyday occurrence at The New Century School—green energy, ecological conservation, and sustainable gardening practices are themes TNCS students are very familiar with, as these are fundamental tenets of the school.
Earth Day itself is always special, though. For the second year in a row, for example, the TNCS Parent Council headed up Sakina Ligon, will host a Family Fun Day that, among lots of other super fun activities, includes crafting with recyclables (see below). TNCS Past year’s Earth Day observances include TNCS Takes Earth Day by Storm and Go Native for Earth Day 2016!
Earth Day 2018, however, is extra special. Why? The greenhouse is back up and running, to the delight of students, staff, and families alike. With the changes in the lunch program for the 2017–2018 school year, the greenhouse lay dormant for a few months. Not so any longer! Meet Manuel Cueva, who joined TNCS in September as part of the new kitchen staff and has now taken over as Gardener.
Sr. Cueva is originally from Cajamarca City, Peru, where he was a construction supervisor and engineer. “I worked at an NGO, IINCAP Jorge Basadre, focused on community development. I worked on projects related to the environment, youth development, health, community banking, and ending child labor,” he said. He came to the United States in June 2016.
Now that he’s here, he has begun working with TNCS students, teaching them to grow produce from seeds. “I like working with my hands and working outside, and I love taking care of nature,” he explained. They started last month, planting indoors, and, as the seedlings have grown sturdy enough, they are gradually moving them into the greenhouse beds (lovingly built last year by TNCS volunteers).
Sr. Cueva has worked with every TNCS class, from the 2-year-olds right on up through the middle schoolers. They have planted marigolds, beans, strawberries, tomatoes, and radishes, and any edible produce will be used in school lunch.
Trabajo del Jardin Abajo
On Friday, April 20th, Sr. Cueva took Professor Manuel’s students to the greenhouse for some transplanting.
From the photos, it’s clear that students thoroughly enjoyed their greenhouse time as well as all of the advance preparation with the seedlings they lovingly raised. But children also learn and benefit in many other ways from growing things.
Through gardening, they can develop new skills, such as the sense of responsibilitythey derive from caring for plants; the scientific understandingthey gain as they learn about cause and effect (plants will die without water, but thrive when they are properly tended); self-confidence from achieving their goals and enjoying the nutritious food they have grown; and the love of nature that develops as they learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place. From there, stewardship of the environment also develops naturally.