One of the most anticipated annual events at The New Century School is celebrating the Lunar New Year. This year rang in Year of the Rabbit, TNCS’s second rabbit year, with the last happening in 2011, when TNCS was very much still in its infancy.
For the second year running, TNCS held a Chinese bazaar to honor the occasion. (See Li Laoshi’s Chinese Night Market from last year here.) So, on January 24th and 25th, the auditorium in building north was transformed into an indoor market of craft and clothing stalls, food vendors, and performances. This, says Yujie Peng (“Peng Laoshi”), allows students to collaborate with their peers and to communicate about real-life subjects in Mandarin Chinese.
The bazaar, she explained, presents an opportunity to explore different Chinese cultures. Students were so excited leading up to the event, she said, and it turned out even better than she had hoped. So much better, in fact, that she thinks she will need to double the goods offered next year (Year of the Dragon)! The bazaar was not only a sell-out, but it also came close to tripling the funds raised last year, with more proceeds still to come. Parents, said Peng Laoshi, had lots of positive feedback to share. Not surprising, as you’ll see!
As the photos (courtesy of Peng Laoshi) show, 4th- through 8th-grade students set up stations focusing on a topic that interested them, such as Kung Fu, Chinese food, pandas, traditional traditional crafts, and traditional clothing. Qipao, for example, is the traditional Chinese dress and is commonly worn to celebrate the New Year. Students created trifold poster presentations and presented their topics in a mix of English (so attending parents could understand) and Mandarin Chinese, as part of the lesson in learning new vocabulary related to culture. New this year, Peng Laoshi asked her students to use the three parts of their posterboards trilingually, each in a different color to represent the three languages TNCS students learn: Chinese characters and pinyin in green, English in blue, and Spanish in orange. Younger students (K through 3rd-grade) made posters to decorate the walls of the auditorium.
Another special bonus is that each class did a classroom presentation in Mandarin that was recorded and shown on a loop during that class’s time at the bazaar. Courtesy of TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese teachers, these are sprinkled throughout the remainder of the post.
At the bazaar, students needed to demonstrate their proficiency in buying and selling in Mandarin as well as advertising their stations. Goods were bought and sold with tickets that attendees could buy prior to entering. “This not only allowed them to practice their language skills, but also practice life-ready skills,” said Peng Laoshi. “They need to know how to cooperate with their peers, because each station had two, three, or four students. They also need to know how to organize their station with the different items.” Prior to the event, more learning took place as students developed online research skills and then how to coherently present their research on Chinese culture according to parameters set by Peng Laoshi.
But it wasn’t all work for these industrious bazaar managers! Each student got a package that included a red Year of the Rabbit tee-shirt in one of two styles depending on division to wear on bazaar days. At the bazaar, they each got a red cup containing two dumplings and a spring roll—they could buy more if still hungry! (This proved to be very much the case, and next year Peng Laoshi plans to have extra air fryers on hand!)
The tee-shirts were a runaway hit and have made several subsequent appearances at school, including during this past spirit week’s Twin Day.
Peng Laoshi said she didn’t have a favorite presentation—they were all great—but she did express how impressed she was with some of the beginners, who learned very quickly and brought their A game to the bazaar. “Overall,” she said, “I see that students can really learn a lot from this kind of activity.”
And now, we look forward to the Lantern (Shangyuan) Festival, which happens on the 15th day of the lunar calendar and coincides with the full moon. That is Sunday, February 5th this year. Peng Laoshi says, “I hope more people around the world can know about the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival. It’s like a new beginning—everything’s new, and we have new hope and a whole new start.”
When asked what the celebration means to her personally, Peng Lasohi said:
The Chinese new year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. It means reunion of family and celebration of the beginning of a new year. I am so happy to celebrate it with TNCS families, which is like a big family reunion and celebration. The rabbit symbolizes peace, longevity, and prosperity in Chinese culture. The year of the rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope. May the year of the rabbit bring every TNCS family good health, happiness, and abundance.
Wishing you lots of luck this rabbit year! Tù nián dà jí! 兔年大吉
Multilingualism is a cornerstone of The New Century School‘s academic approach and a key part of TNCS’s commitment to the whole child. Immersed has reported on the importance of multilingualism several times (and is even named in its honor), but ongoing research continues to reveal fresh advantages of this practice, so we’re resolving to speak up about this rich topic in the New Year!
Multilingualism at TNCS
We live in an interconnected world more so now than ever before. This interconnectedness can bring us together when we welcome and embrace diversity. Thus, being able to communicate with people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds is vital to thriving in our global society and is among the many well-established advantages of multilingual education (listed below for your convenience).
At TNCS, students learn English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese, both inside the classroom and out. We’ll get more fully into what this means below, but first, let’s look at how it all starts. Students start at age 2 in either a Spanish or Mandarin Chinese immersion classroom. As they progress through the divisions, formal instruction in both languages is layered in as they are ready.
Although targeted instruction in the grammar and mechanics of a language is always going to be necessary, for true proficiency, the learner must be able to use the language—to speak it, to read it, even to learn in it. This is why multilingual education intersects so naturally with the Montessori approach, the next division a TNCS student will enter. Maria Montessori advocated for an educational style that fosters independent learning and absorption of language while engaged in “work.” The Spanish and Mandarin Chinese language programs at TNCS flow naturally into this scheme.
While the Montessori classrooms at TNCS are part of the preschool division, Montessori not only lays the foundation for students’ future academic career, but it also continues to inform the educational approach right up through middle school at TNCS with its emphasis on self-directed learning. In elementary and middle school, TNCS students study Spanish and Mandarin Chinese daily, in addition to having many opportunities to use their languages in authentic contexts, as you’ll see below.
Multilingualism Inside and Outside the Classroom
At TNCS, language immersion means being so proficient with language that students can study, for example, Global Studies in that language. Or read a book about China in Spanish. Let that resonate for a moment, and imagine how synergistic that kind of learning is . . . how many kinds of learning are taking place simultaneously within the child’s brain and how they each unlock further potential and space for yet more learning. It’s like a learning wormhole! A learning kaleidoscope!
Back to the inside and outside the classroom part—being an authentic multilingual global citizen (one of the pillars of a TNCS graduate) informs every aspect of learning at TNCS. Here are just some of the ways this happens:
Learning from teachers who are native speakers of the language being taught
Attending summer immersion camps in either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese
Hosting exchange students, interns, and teachers
Conversing with students in other countries via Skype
Participating in annual celebrations of the Lunar New Year and Spanish Heritage Month
Making art, learning songs and dances, and cooking foods that are part of the culture
Taking field trips to restaurants and other cultural centers
Individual stories detailing these wonderful adventures are listed at the end of this post. (Hint: and they include oodles of adorable photos of TNCS students past and present!)
Proven Benefits of Multilingualism
For a refresher on the science, here are demonstrated advantages that multilingualism confers.
Increased cognitive function:
Increased ability to solve problems, think creatively and recognize patterns
Improved academic performance
Enhanced linguistic awareness and understanding of an individual’s native language
Increased ability to apply concepts to novel situations
Delayed development of, or increased resistance to, dementia
Improved focus and decision-making
Improved cultural and social skills:
Enhanced appreciation for the differences in cultures
Effective connection with people of different cultures and backgrounds
Increased ability to empathize with others
Enhanced emotional intelligence
Economic advantages in the new global economy:
Improved ability to conduct business in other countries
Enhanced ability to engage suppliers or contractors from specific language backgrounds
Increased expansion of existing business conducted in other countries
So let’s speak up in 2023, TNCS Community—in all of the languages! Happy New Year! Feliz año nuevo! Xīnnián kuàilè (新年快乐)!
Here is a (far from exhaustive) list of past posts on multilingualism at TNCS. Although you most likely won’t have time to click on each and read them in their entirety—there are just too many!—their sheer number and breadth attests to TNCS’s ongoing commitment to authentic language learning in service of cultivating global citizens.
It’s time. The New Century School is just completing its 13th fall semester, and we need a reckoning of all this amazing school has accomplished in that relatively short amount of time. Why 13? We chose to memorialize the 2022–2023 school year because it offers a truly remarkable first: a TNCS student who started TNCS at age 2 when the school opened in the fall of 2010 will graduate as an 8th-grader this June—she will have completed the full TNCS experience and is the only student to have this distinction!
TNCS is also rounding out a full Chinese zodiac of years. Established in the Year of the Tiger, TNCS closes 2022 also as a Tiger year and will begin 2023 as a Rabbit.
In this post, you’ll take a walk back through time. You’ll see your babies back when they were (or if they are still) babies. You’ll revisit cherished memories. You’ll smile to see beloved friends, teachers, and faculty who are still a part of TNCS in spirit if not in person. In short, you’ll be amazed . . . and probably moved to tears.
(Another thing you’ll notice is how actually bad phone cameras were a decade ago! Also, a sad note on videos: some no longer display as TNCS’s YouTube channel is now defunct.)
Finally, you’ll get to judge for yourself. As TNCS Co-Director/Co-Executive Founder Roberta Faux said over a decade ago, “school should be where kids discover their passion.” Has TNCS provided opportunities for passion-finding?
Milestones and Firsts
TNCS has accomplished sheer marvels. In its first 5 years alone, the once tiny one-room schoolhouse established by Co-Executive Directors/Co-Founders Ms. Faux and Jennifer Lawner with five students grew into a full-fledged preschool and elementary school. Milestone after milestone was sighted, then met, including launching a greenhouse and school-lunch program, acquiring a gymnasium and auditorium; implementing a robust STEM curriculum; introducing Immersed; earning two coveted STARTALK grants; and creating a wonderfully rich education that integrates the arts, modern world languages, inquiry-based learning, and self-motivated discovery.
Since those incredible feats happened, still more miraculous developments took place: the student body has grown to hundreds, the middle school opened in 2016, the Ozone café debuted, and the international service-learning program began to name just a few (and plenty more are listed below).
Through all of this truly remarkable evolution, TNCS’s original raison d’être has remained true: language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin paired with self-directed exploration. The program has blossomed in beautiful ways around this core idea, but it informs and underpins everything at TNCS.
Although providing an exhaustive accounting of the last 13 years is impossible because of the sheer volume of accomplishments, enjoy these highlights in the form of past Immersed posts about this one-of-a-kind magical place.
To start us off, here is a rough timeline of some pivotal TNCS events:
2006: Patterson Park Montessori (PPM) opens
2010: PPM moves to 724 S. Ann St. in Fell’s Point and becomes TNCS
Have we whetted your appetite for more delicious memories? Read on!
What Sets TNCS Apart
We could go on and on (and do, actually). But so many features of this beautiful school have elevated it to truly one of a kind, including multi-language learning, emphasis on the Arts, and all the special moments that take place daily in the classrooms.
TNCS has always welcomed special guests to campus to broaden students’ horizons, to participate in meaningful exchange with the community, and to further the TNCS aim of discovery and enrichment. Parents present their jobs or heritage in classrooms, musicians perform, guest speakers share their wisdom, and experts in their fields teach their crafts in special classes. TNCS even got a visit from the Secretary of State, who was wowed by Ge Laoshi’s kindergartners proficiency in Mandarin!
Workshops/Town Halls/Information and Back-to-School Nights
Informational forums are a great starting point to get to know TNCS and how and why it came to be in addition to what new trails it will blaze. Through the years, these events help tell the story of TNCS.
TNCS students start giving back the moment they enter TNCS’s illustrious halls. The cumulative impact they have had over the years is staggering. But TNCS itself also gives back. In one of many such ways, in 2018 TNCS launched a partnership with “sister school” Wolfe St. Academy. Exemplary Wolfe St. students are granted scholarships to TNCS, the TNCS community participates in clothing and food donations for Wolfe St. families in need, and TNCS students visit their sister school friends for the “Reading Buddies” program.
In 2019, TNCS middle schoolers took their first international service-learning trip.
Since its inception, multilingualism has been an integral part of The New Century School‘s identity, with instruction provided in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese as well as English. With long-time Mandarin teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) returning to China this fall to help her family, an important position opened up. As you’ll see, TNCS could not have found a more perfect new teacher to take over Mandarin Chinese instruction than Yujie Peng!
Meet Yujie Peng!
Peng Laoshi came to Maryland in 2012 from her hometown of Wuhan in Hubei Province in central China. She enrolled at Towson University to pursue a Master’s Degree in secondary education, having gotten her undergraduate degree from Wuhan Polytechnic University with the plan of returning to China to resume teaching English as a Second Language to high school students. She says, “It was really fun to be a high school and homeroom teacher in a public high school in China because I enjoy communicating with young people. After 4 years, I sought further education because the more I taught, the more I feel I want to improve myself.”
She gets her desire to teach (and to always keep learning) genetically—both her parents are educators. She says she always knew she would follow in their footsteps:
I love being a teacher. When I was in high school, I really appreciated my English teacher, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher like her because she was so encouraging and very caring. Now, we’re more like friends, and I still keep in touch with her, sharing updates in my career. I have also kept up with my professional development.
But returning to her high school classroom in China never happened. While at Towson, Peng Laoshi met and married her husband, who was studying information technology, and wound up staying here. Coincidentally, he, too, is from China, from the capital city of Fuzhou in Fujian province. The couple settled in Howard County and now have two children, both TNCS students as of this year!
But before coming to TNCS, Peng Laoshi taught for 3 years at Oyster-Adams bilingual school, a public preK–8 school in Washington, D.C. She taught students in 4th through 8th grades. The school was a dual language school in which students take some courses in English and some in Spanish and then switch them the following year. Peng Laoshi was brought on to teach Chinese as well as to create a Chinese curriculum for 4th- and 5th-graders (Chinese was already being offered at the middle school level). Peng Laoshi even picked up a little bit of Spanish herself while there!
A note wishing Peng Laoshi well from a former student.
While at Oyster-Adams, she took a graduate course in Trinity Washington University and earned K–12 teaching certificates for both D.C. and Maryland. She also attended as many Chinese education conferences as she could to learn from different teachers. She really is a born educator!
Peng Laoshi at TNCS
As for how she brought all of this teaching talent to TNCS, we have her 4-year-old daughter to thank. Peng Laoshi was eager to get back into the classroom after her children were born, but only half-day programs were available for toddlers. Coming to TNCS means that her daughter can be in Ms. Sharon’s primary Montessori classroom and her son in Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd-/3rd-grade classroom all day, and she even gets to take them to school and bring them back home with her! Her children are “heritage speakers”—they were born in the United States and speak Mandarin at home. So far, they are both adjusting very nicely. Her son is her “helper” in Mandarin class, and she thinks the Montessori program is just great for her daughter: “I see kids working very well like in the mixed ages. They can learn from each other. The older students take the leadership to help the younger ones, and the younger students learn from the older ones.” Even on the weekends, her daughter is asking to go to school!
Back to Peng Laoshi, she joined TNCS in September and learned the ropes from Li Laoshi, who stayed through October to ensure a smooth transition. (Peng Laoshi covers instruction for students in 2nd through 8th grades, while Cui Laoshi continues teaching her K/1st immersion class.) The challenge has been differentiating instruction within age groups. She was accustomed to differentiating by age group, but now, she explains, she has multiple layers of differentiation to manage.
She quickly adapted and has figured all that out beautifully. Really, her philosophy of teaching is probably a big reason why. She also credits the foundation that Li Laoshi built, using a textbook focusing on real-life interaction rather than abstract linguistics. Peng Laoshi has used this foundation—and her education and experience—to develop and formalize the curriculum. She says that engaging the students is critical, not only to keep their interest so they continue to learn, but also because they work in different capacities to accomplish the needed differentiation, sometimes with her, sometimes in small groups, and sometimes independently. The work also needs to be meaningful to them, so, for example, the younger cohorts made mooncakes out of Play-Doh for the Mid-Autumn Festival in September, and all students are learning songs in Mandarin for the upcoming Winter Concert. Other “hands-on” activities for older cohorts include taking a walking field trip to a Chinese restaurant and ordering in Mandarin. “I love the idea that students can learn not just in school, but everywhere!” she said
The 6th- through 8th-graders went first.
And the 4th- and 5th-graders were next.
Games are another way she keeps students engaged. In one, she had students build towers out of vocabulary cards they made themselves. The group with the tallest tower won a prize. The hitch? Students had to demonstrate their understanding of the word to be able to make the cards and to correctly write them in Mandarin. “Students love to play vocabulary card games to review vocabulary. This year they make vocabulary cards for each lesson by themselves (a set of different color cards are given to them for each lesson,” she said (see photo). Here are some of the games they play:
1. 听音找字/Find a word
Student A: Read aloud a vocabulary word (e.g., 学) or term (e.g., 老师) or ask a question (e.g., How to say goodbye? Or when you first meet someone, you will say…)
Student B: Find the correct word card and lay it out on their desks.
2. 翻读认卡/Flipping Cards
Instructions: Spread the words out face down on the table. Students take turns flipping a card over and reading the word on the card. If they read it correctly, they win and can keep the card. If they do not read it correctly, they have to place the card back in the pile. The winner is the one with the most word cards at the end of the game.
Variation: To make this game slightly harder, mix up the cards when replacing them in the pile to avoid students remembering what word was on which card.
3. 排字卡/Make a sentence
Student A: Say a sentence (e.g., 你好吗？)
Student B: Find the word cards to lay out in the right order. (你+好+吗)
Student A and Student B put their cards together and mix them up;
Spread cards out on the table face down;
Students take turns flipping over two cards.
If the cards are the same, then the student can say the word out loud and will win this pair of cards and may take another turn;
If the student reads it incorrectly, they must return the cards to the table.
Whoever wins the most cards wins.
5. 字卡宾果/Bingo (Group game)
Group chooses the word cards they have decided to review from their own sets.
One student piles up all his/her cards and mixes them face down;
Other students lay their own cards out in a 3*3, 4*4 or 5*5 squares like a bingo card.
Students take turns to pick one card from that pile and read it;
Students who have this word card can flip that card over.
Students who are able to flip over all the cards in a row, column or diagonal can say “宾果bin guo”. The student must read all the flipped over cards to win.
6. 拖拉机/Choo Choo Train(Pair/Group)
Students pile up their cards and mixes them face down;
Students take turns to pick one card from that pile, read it, and lay it down face up in the central area (All the face up cards connect like a train);
If a student lays a card that is the same as one of the cards in the train, the player can collect all the cards between those two cards, including the two same cards;
Whoever wins the most cards wins.
Although her classes are only 40 minutes long, she does everything she can to make them productive, often coming up with ideas during her half hour commute to and from school. She reflects regularly on what is working well and what might need some adjusting to make sure every student is supported. Routines are important, she explains, so that students always know what they should be doing and in that way making the most out of class time. Each class starts with deep breathing to help students get calm and focused, and then they dive right into the lesson of the day.
Her students did a beginning-of-year assessment and will do another at the end of the school year to see their progress throughout the year. “By the end of each unit, they do both a project and a quiz to assess how well they learn in four language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing,” she explains. “I also monitor students’ progress everyday through their work, their interaction with me, and with their partners. I give students frequent feedback and support whenever needed.”
Independent work often comes from a website and app she uses regularly called GimKit, through which she can set up games, homework, quizzes, audio, and so on. Correct answers earn either more power to continue playing against other opponents or in-game “cash” that students can use to enhance their profiles with upgrades or buy “powerups.” Peng Laoshi is able to monitor students’ progress within GimKit and verify that they have completed assignments. She also adds her own layer of earning rewards in the class as a whole. These rewards might be Fun Friday activities, extra time to complete homework, or stickers.
Duolingo and Hello-World are also still in the mix. No matter what students are working on and in what capacity (independently or in groups, in class or on field trips), Peng Laoshi makes sure that lessons are consistent so students continuously make connections.
It’s kind of a funny twist that in China Peng Laoshi taught English and in the States she teaches Chinese! But that kind of multilingualism in practice is very important to her:
I really love to see students grow. I really feel rewarded when I see students make progress, and I believe being multilingual helps their brains. They can see the same thing in different ways, and they are more open minded. It prepares them to be global citizens—they know different cultures, so they can accept different perspectives from different people.
In the coming year, we can anticipate another “visit to Chinatown” via the TNCS auditorium to usher in Year of the Rabbit for the Lunar New Year and lots of Mandarin Chinese learning. We are so glad to have you, Peng Laoshi, huānyíng (欢迎)!
The weekends, says Peng Laoshi, are for spending time with her family!
At The New Century School, when the student body aged out of elementary school in the spring of 2016, TNCS added a middle school division the following fall. Just as with all other TNCS divisions, however, middle school at TNCS needed to be something extraordinary.
Adding to all of the characteristics that make TNCS essentially TNCS (like small class sizes, mixed-age classrooms, multilingual curricula, differentiated instruction, learning by discovery, and so on), the administration decided to cap off this critical development period with an international service-learning trip. The first students to complete TNCS middle school would graduate in the spring of 2019, and to commemorate that momentous occasion, they were also the first to head out abroad on what has become known as the aptly named Capstone Trip. That destination was Puerto Rico, followed by Costa Rica in 2020 just before the pandemic halted international travel, no trip in 2021 because of the pandemic-related travel restrictions (but graduates had gone to Costa Rica the prior year as 7th-graders), and now back to Puerto Rico in 2022.
They landed in San Juan around midnight and went straight to their dormitory-style lodgings at The Inter American University of Puerto Rico/Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico – Recinto Metro in Cupey. Their kind handler Pedro would be with the them for the duration of the trip.
Tuesday, April 26th: No Rest for the Weary!
Their first day in PR was packed, so they were up an at ’em early that morning. They had breakfast and headed out to the Centro Ambiental Santa Ana (CASA), located in the Julio Enrique Monagas National Park in Bayamón. The CASA (Santa Ana Environmental Center in Englsh) provides educational programs for the appreciation, study, and conservation of the environment. Perfect for the first day of service learning!
TNCS students toured the park, had lunch, then spent the afternoon cleaning and painting at CASA. This urban forest has great ecological, cultural, recreational, and educational value, as the slideshow below will demonstrate. CASA promotes the reconnection of people with nature through educational programs; research; thematic, organized fun; and relevant interpretative experiences.
The exhausted but happy kids returned home then met up for dinner and a movie with CeDIn students (more on CeDIn below). From there, things got pretty goofy!
to provide a humanistic education, of excellence, sensitive to changes in the world, that prepares for university life, tends to the integral development of the individual, and provides a space for practice and research for students of education and professions related to behavior.
The educational process is framed by universal Christian-ecumenical values; the development of knowledge skills; the integration of fine arts, technology and sports, and the promotion of a Culture of Peace.
TNCS students spent the day with CeDIn middle schoolers, visiting their classrooms, which Mrs. DuPrau described as themed and that teachers had clearly put a lot of work into. They also went into a forest together to get their eco on, then returned to school to make bracelets and play water games. Friendships blossomed! Ms. Gorbey said she particularly enjoyed meeting the students here and spending the day doing what they normally do. “It was really cool to sort of see how the kids were so different and also exactly the same,” she said. Mrs. DuPrau said, “All of the teachers there were so kind and excited to meet our students and had so many fun things for them to do. We were all excited to see what we could offer to their students and what their students could offer us. We became close with some of those kids, and it was really fun to see all of our students jump right into their recess and lunch and feel comfortable just hanging out with them.” Phone numbers and SnapChap info was exchanged!
Later that afternoon, TNCS students got a much-anticipated trip to the beach!
Thursday, April 28th: Tutoring!
On Thursday, TNCS students headed out to Academia Interamericana Metro (AIM), a school that emphasizes differentiated learning for preschoolers through 12th-graders. TNCS students tutored kindergartners through 5th-graders, helping them with their daily schoolwork, reading aloud to them, and playing math games. Mrs Hope explained that AIM was passionate about not separating students with disabilities (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, for example) from the traditional student population but instead to find ways to give them any additional support they might need. “The students and the faculty were so warm and loving—you could just feel it when you walked in; you could tell everyone had the same goal,” she said. Ms. Gorbey said she was extremely proud of how TNCS students comported themselves with their AIM friends.
These photos will make their parents so proud as well!
As a special treat for their generous volunteering at AIM, the gang had a little fun exploring Old San Juan later that day and into the evening.
Friday, April 29th: Hola El Yunque!
El Yunque National Forest, the groups Friday destination, is the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system! The favorite activity for Mrs. Hope was this trip to El Yunque. “We went on this really beautiful, tranquil hike. Some of the kids decided to swim and others wanted to explore the rocks and climb them upstream. You feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere and can just breathe” she described.
After exploring that beautiful locale, they headed to Playa Luquillo for a swim.
Saturday, April 30th: High Altitude!
On their last day, a beach-cleaning activity had been planned, but the weather had other ideas, so after a hearty breakfast . . . they went to a trampoline park instead!
Altitude Bayamón is one of the largest in the world, and there, TNCS students reached new heights!
After a quick stop at a restaurant to refuel, they returned to Inter American and expended more energy in the gym.
Back Home and Final Thoughts
Once back in Baltimore, the three chaperones had a chance to reflect on the trip and share some takeaways. In the end, beaches and waterfalls aside, the capstone trip is about personal growth—a chance for the students to demonstrate how they’ve matured.
Ms. Gorbey, who described the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said she was impressed by the empathy she saw TNCS students display each and every day. This trip was remarkable for being the most service-learning focused so far. “Their all-around willingness to help was a highlight for me,” she said. “They really threw themselves into the service learning.” At the end of the trip, they circled up and discussed their favorite moments: several students ranked the service learning above the “fun stuff,” another thing that made Ms. Gorbey happy. (As a quick aside, they also held nominations, and one student was named Most Likely To Have an International Romance. So cute! We love that for them!)
A third thing that struck Ms. Gorbey was how game the students were to use their Spanish-speaking skills and how well they did—ordering their food, conversing with their new Puerto Rican friends, and so on.
Mrs. DuPrau witnessed some personal growth in a few students and a dawning realization in one in particular that things were about to change in high school in the fall. Like Ms. Gorbey, she also appreciated all of the students’ willingness to really be there and do what was asked. At the same time, she feels strongly that these trips should be fun and memorable. “In some ways it was a typical middle school trip—everybody was losing their voice and maybe not sleeping as much, because they all couldn’t stop talking and having fun,” she recounted fondly.
For Mrs. Hope, the highlight was the school visits. “It was so amazing to be able to partner with the schools and have our kids meet their kids, to see the differences, and also how they interact. That was really rewarding for our students, too.” Like Mrs. DuPrau, she also saw an individual student find themselves in a new way. This student became a terrific helper and a real asset on the trip.
For Mrs. Hope, this trip was bittersweet in more than one way. Her husband was about to be deployed, and she would be sacrificing that week that she could have spent with him to go. The scales tipped in favor of going when she remembered how well she and Mrs. DuPrau travel together (and imagining what Ms. Gorbey would bring to the mix), plus this: “It was also a nice way to close off my chapter at TNCS, this last thing with them. They have been my students for 3 years . . . it was really good to be able to spend that time with them and see so much growth in individual students.”
Ultimately, this trip caps off an academic career at TNCS for the 8th-grade students and so much more. It’s the end of an era, in a way, but also opens the door for a new era at TNCS to dawn.
Hasta el año que viene!
As always, the TNCS community—families, faculty, and everyone in between—plays a tremendous role in making the capstone trip possible, from hosting fundraisers (shout out to Damien Mosely and Blacksauce Kitchen!) to planning (Mrs. DuPrau worked tirelessly!) to teaching the language (Señora Noletto made sure her students were good and ready!), to seeing to all of the details that go into such an enormous undertaking (literally, everyone!).
And for this particular trip, we have another very special person to thank: Inter American Chancellor Wayland, who generously helped coordinate the trip from inside Puerto Rico and gave TNCS students access to the wonderful Inter American sister schools (CeDIn and AIM) they visited. If that name rings a bell, it’s no accident: Chancellor Wayland (aka, “Tata”) is the grandmother of two TNCS students. Gracias por todo!