TNCS Middle School Capstone Trip: Return to Puerto Rico!

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.

Puerto Rico, Here We Come!

After school and a quick meal of pizza on Monday, April 25th, TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders were BWI bound, accompanied by chaperones Adriana DuPrau (TNCS Dean of Students), Daphnee Hope (TNCS School Counselor), and Lori Gorbey (TNCS Front Desk).

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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.

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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.

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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!

Wednesday, April 27th: CeDIn Day!

This day’s itinerary was all about CeDIn (a laboratory school from preschool to 4th-grade). Its mission is:

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!

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Later that afternoon, TNCS students got a much-anticipated trip to the beach!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Meet the Teacher: Charlotte Longchamps Joins TNCS as K/1st Teacher!

Charlotte Longchamps joined The New Century School for the 2021–2022 school year to lead a mixed-age kindergarten/1st grade classroom. She may be a relatively recent addition to the faculty, but her philosophy of teaching this age group is deep rooted and has facilitated a very rapid acclimatization to TNCS.

Meet Charlotte Longchamps!

Mrs. Longchamps grew up in Severna Park and has been in Maryland for most of her life. Her now-husband is from the Columbia area and lived here in Baltimore when they began dating. They moved to Boston, both pursuing advanced degrees: a PhD in Human Genetics for him and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with certificates in Social Justice and Policy Development from Boston College for her. She previously earned a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University.

If it’s starting to sound like Mrs. Longchamps is a natural fit for TNCS, there’s more: “I’m very influenced by Montessori practices and philosophy, so in my own personal philosophy of education and instruction I will implement Montessori practices,” she explained. Although the K/1st classroom is not considered a Montessori classroom, many of those practices are still incorporated into the curriculum by teachers at this level—they work!

Mrs. Longchamps did her student teaching in Arundel County schools (where she went to school as well). She then taught in Montgomery County and first grade at Bethesda Elementary School for 3 years before the temporary relocation to Boston in 2019. It was there that she experienced the Montessori Method, providing weekly STEM instruction at a Montessori school.

The Longchamps moved back to Baltimore in 2021 to be closer to their families.

Mrs. Longchamps at TNCS!

Now happily ensconced at TNCS, she appreciates the smaller class sizes and the tight-knit community of teachers and families. “I have great relationships with all the teachers in the school,” she explained, “and we’re all able to work together to kind of develop curricula and improve our classrooms and instruction.”

In addition to being a K/1st homeroom teacher, Mrs. Longchamps teaches two core subjects: math and ELA. “Since I have the joy of teaching both core subjects, we really get to do some intense work with math and reading,” she said. At first, navigating the mixed ages was challenging. She had experience teaching both ages, but, until now, not both ages together:

It’s been a learning experience teaching two age groups at once. It was interesting to learn how to parallel teach or even compartmentalize those areas with those grades. It was a lot of setting up initially with differentiated centers and differentiated lessons and getting the kids to be independent so I can work with them individually or in small groups. But it’s helped me become more flexible as an educator and really tweak my own planning and instruction to fit the individual students. It was a bit tricky to figure out in the beginning with not yet knowing the kids and the community and wondering if I was heading in the right direction, but you to be able to think on your feet and modify to fit their needs as you go.

Now that she has the hang of it, the emphasis on differentiated instruction and individualized approach to learning are what she likes most about TNCS, apart from the community of teachers she speaks so highly of.

Even though kindergartners and first graders may seem like they are developmentally very similar, “where they are” can actually be quite different. In addition, kindergarten at TNCS is considered a transition from preschool to elementary, so it’s approached differently. Kindergarten students are in an immersive language experience (and Joan Cui, the other K/1st teacher teaches them Mandarin Chinese and Global Studies and Science in Mandarin), whereas 1st graders learn 45 minutes daily of both Spanish and Chinese. (Not to confuse things, but kindergarten students also receive 45 minutes a day of Spanish instruction.)

Back to thinking on her feet, Mrs. Longchamps has also had to be flexible with even where the class eats lunch because of COVID-19. “We try to eat lunch outside whenever we can,” she said. “There are picnic tables on the playground, some students have picnic blankets, and some of them have little folding chairs. So we’ll do that outside as much as possible but when the weather isn’t great or in the winter, we would eat at our classroom desks. Not any longer, but for a while, that meant eating in shifts of four kids at a time to minimize the amount of time not wearing masks.”

Parents, Mrs. Longchamps has an important message for you:

I want them to know—and I hope that they could tell from my actions—that my number one priority is their child’s perception of belonging at school and feeling safe and included. Feeling loved and welcomed is first, and then the academic piece comes behind that. You can’t learn if you’re feeling unsafe or stressed out or not included, so cultivating this safe environment for their children is important. I really emphasize building relationships, getting to know their children individually and deeply during our time together. I feel like the more we know each other, the more motivated they’ll be to learn. The more I will know to help them succeed. So that’s my priority. It is so essential to build up that positive attitude toward learning. You need that foundation before you can build up and bring in academics.

Mrs. Longchamps may well be cultivating lifelong happy learners with this beautiful approach to educating young children. She also says, “my students are so sweet and funny, thoughtful and loving . . . it’s great to watch them grow through the year.” Although she is planning to return for the 2022–2023 school year, she will be out for part of it, welcoming and nurturing a future student of her own. Congratulations, Mrs. Longchamps!

TNCS Elementary and Middle School Students Hop To It in 2022!

The New Century School breaks the mold in so many ways that achieving new “firsts” has almost become the norm. Yet here we are with 2022 just having begun, and TNCS is already doing it again—this time with fur!

Out of the Hat and into the Classroom!

On Tuesday, January 18th, the TNCS Student Government headed to the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Center, better known as BARCS, on a very special mission: to pick up a rabbit to be fostered in TNCS ELA teacher Gab Sussman‘s homeroom.

Seven Reasons To Foster
1. Fostering increases an animal’s chance of getting adopted.
2. Your own pets will learn more social skills.
3. You get to see if you’re ready to own another pet.
4. Fostering is temporary.
5. You can choose how to foster.
6. Fostering keeps animals out of shelters.
7. You are saving a life.

The idea for fostering a pet at TNCS originated with Ms. Sussman, herself a small animal lover. After making the arrangements with BARCS and finding Freckles’ biography on the BARCS website, the rest is TNCS history.

“Whether they have scales, feathers or hopping feet, BARCS is a safe haven for all animals in Baltimore City.”

Among the Student Government members to bring Freckles to her temporary home were Natalie Lawner, TNCS Historian, and Hanako Dillon, TNCS Public Relations. We have these two dedicated 6th-graders to thank for the following photos and interview.

Interview with TNCS Student Council Public Relations

Immersed: What does fostering a pet involve?
PR: Fostering a pet involves wanting animals to live in a loving home while they are still up for adoption. It is also very important to take good care of the animal as expected from the shelter. We are responsible for feeding, keeping her cage clean, and socializing her.
Immersed: How did Freckles get chosen?
PR: Freckles was chosen because she was the only small furry animal at the shelter at the time.
Immersed: Who named Freckles?
PR: We are not sure who named freckles but she came to us with the name.
Immersed: What is Freckle’s backstory—how did she come to BARCS?
PR: There is not a lot of information about how or why she came to BARCS but the came to BARCS on December 15, 2021
Immersed: How will students take care of Freckles?
PR: Students in Ms. Sussman’s class will help feed Freckles and clean her cage every day.
Immersed: What will happen to Freckle when school is not in session, such as over weekends?
PR: As of now Ms. Sussman will be taking Freckles home on the weekends, and will eventually begin to socialize Freckles with her own bunny Bunnicula. We are exploring what it would look like for students/families to take her home too.
Immersed: What would you like readers to know about this TNCS initiative? What is the takeaway message?
PR: We would love to share the importance of rescuing animals from shelters rather than buying animals from a breeder because there are so many animals without a home, and that you don’t have to spend lots of money to get a sweet and loving pet. We would also like to show people that fostering an animal is a great way to bring a pet into your family if you are unsure or unable to take care of an animal long term. By taking care of Freckles as a class we want to encourage kids to be more involved with taking care of pets and caring for them.

Freckles at TNCS

We know! We know! Everybunny wants to see how Freckles is doing! Just see for yourself . . .

Ms. Sussman says: “Freckles has already opened up in just the few days we’ve had her! When I had visited her a few times at BARCS, she always hid in the back of her cage and was not open to being picked up. Now, she is freely moving around her little cage, happily accepting pets from students, and is more tolerant of being held!”

She has delegated the care of Freckles to students, explaining, “there is a special job in my classroom dedicated to managing the foster pet! Two students feed Freckles twice a day, refresh her water, and clean her cage. Cleaning is not so difficult because Freckles has taken well to litter box training (yes, that’s right, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box!).”
But the real magic Freckles has brought to TNCS is this: “It has been such a joy seeing how loving and excited students have been since we took her in on Tuesday,” said Ms. Sussman. “I feel like Freckles is bringing us one more special reason to look forward to coming to school, which I know in these times can feel more stressful and exhausting for some.”

Looking for ways to help care for Freckles? We’ve got you! Check out Freckles’ wish list for items to contribute to her health and well-being.

Ms. Sussman says, “An extra special thank you to all those who have already contributed! We are excited to get her set up with supplies that will help us adequately care for her in the classroom. Even after she moves on to her new, permanent home, these gifts will stay so that we can continue fostering small, furry animals in our classroom from BARCS.”

Want more? Consider adopting Freckles and making yours her forever home! Ms. Sussman says, “Any TNCS family that is interested in adopting Freckles can email me at sussman@thenewcenturyschool.com to set up a little Meet & Greet after school one day (following all of the Wellness Committee’s guidelines, of course!).”

Daphnee Hope: TNCS’s School Counselor Shares Her Philosophy of Positivity!

At The New Century School, the whole child is important, and this is not just lip service. Not just students’ academic selves, but their psychological, social, emotional, and artistic sides are cared for and cultivated. So, although the 2021–2021 school year has been particularly challenging for students who are still coping with the fallout from the pandemic, TNCS students are fortunate to have a very important addition to faculty this year to help: Daphnee Hope, TNCS School Counselor. Mrs. Hope began counseling during the last school year in a limited capacity but has now made it official, and TNCS students are flourishing under her guidance. Together, her and TNCS Dean of Students Adriana DuPrau have joined forces to ensure their health and happiness.

Counseling

Mrs. Hope has been meeting with TNCS students through whole group lessons, targeted small groups, and one-on-one counseling. Counseling has been really fun this year,” said Mrs. Hope. She feels she can really blossom in this role, and with no existing curriculum to draw on, she has been developing her own. This has given her the freedom to move in the directions she feels most necessary and that will yield the most fruit. At the same time, she says, “there’s a big learning curve, and I am still finding my voice as a counselor. There’s a lot of wonderful things, but it’s also challenging, so I’ve been making connections with other school counselors in the area and asking questions about general policy and what resources they use.”

She is on campus Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and sees each classroom (elementary and up) twice a month. Character-building lessons differ and are based on developmental age.

Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

For this age group, Mrs. Hope does a 45-minute character-building lesson based on the Positive Action curriculum, whose premise is that positive actions make us feel better about ourselves and brighten our lives, which leads to making more positive choices. “It’s all about how positive actions make you feel better as a person. When you feel better, you radiate goodness, and then you’re making other things better—a ripple effect,” she said. She uses puppet animals with the kindergarten students, and a system of adding the names of students spotted making positive actions on a special elephant hanging on the wall for all to see for the second- and third-grade students. She says this is helping all students notice more and more good things happening around them.

“For K through 3, the whole month of November was about communication,” she explained. “We started with nonverbal communication and body language. We practiced how it’s important to look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to, and we also talked about active listening versus passive listening. When somebody asks you something, you don’t immediately change the subject to talk about yourself; you listen and then you make a follow-up comment.”

4th Through 6th Grades

Although Mrs. Hope started this group out with Positive Actions, she found the need to adapt and adjust for this spectrum of ages. So she polled them on what kinds of things they might enjoy exploring. Relationships and other social aspects are historically challenging areas for this age group, so Mrs. Hope has been talking with them about peer influences and otherwise tailoring her monthly themes to what their needs are.

“They need a lot of support with self-control, so I’m trying to work in partnership with the teachers to make plans for individual students,” she said.

7th and 8th Grades

For middle schoolers, Mrs. Hope is using the Habitudes® curriculum that the counselor at Friends School recommended. “It involves lessons centered around the core values of self-discipline, motivation, and responsibility,” she explained, to cultivate leaders and “[equip] them to navigate through life’s challenges and opportunities”. Mrs. Hope says TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders are loving it!

“Habitudes has challenged our middle schoolers to slow down and think about the qualities that make great leaders. Last month we focused on perspective taking,” she said. This month, we are jumping into responding with empathy, both with ourselves and others.”

Advisory has a place here, too.

Small-Group Sessions

In between classroom-session weeks during the first two school quarters, Mrs. Hope also holds small-group sessions during lunch for 4th- through 8th-graders. Students join these groups based on their individual needs, such as managing anxiety, building self-esteem, or managing grief and loss.

Every other week we do a ‘lunch bunch’ depending on their needs, so I surveyed students about what areas they feel they need support in and how they rank their mental health. That’s a big focus right now, just giving them the space to work on their mental health because I think a lot of them are struggling with it. So, for example, in the managing anxiety group, we talk about irrational thoughts and how they snowball. We think our thoughts are reality, but I’m trying to work with them on just because you think something, doesn’t mean that’s what is true.

In quarters three and four, she’ll hold small-group sessions for the younger TNCS students in building north. Their needs are much different, given their developmental stage.

One-on-One Counseling

As her time spent with students is fairly intensive, Mrs. Hope has picked up on some issues. “I have become aware that many of our middle schoolers are struggling with their mental health,” she said. Mental health issues are all-too common in this age group, but the last 2 years have only increased the incidence:

Poor mental health impacts all areas of a child’s life, ranging from academic success to feelings of self-worth to healthy peer interactions. The last two years have been particularly hard on our children as they journey through adolescence. Scary statistics show that between February and March 2021 alone, the number of emergency room visits increased by 50.6% for presumed suicide attempts among youth in comparison to 2019. At the moment, I am working on improving the mental health of our students.

In addition to having one-on-one conversations with students, Mrs. Hope might also make health referrals to outside therapists for those who could benefit.

Social and Emotional Learning

The structure Mrs. Hope has created for reaching all TNCS students in various ways is very well thought out and executed, but how is she putting all of this into practice?

Suffice to say, she has been busy. She created a social-emotional learning (SEL) calendar for every grade level with monthly themed topics, for example. This month, because it’s a short one, we are doing gratitude across the board,” she explained. “It’s going to look different in each classroom. For 7th and 8th grade, it’s looking at the physical, mental, social, and spiritual effects of gratitude on the body (see the slide show they’ve been studying from here). With younger kids, it’s exploring the power of saying, ‘thank you’. Teachers are implementing these conversations in their morning circle time, core classes, hallway transitions, lunch, and so on, all across the board.” Mrs. Hope is trying to make it easy for teachers to implement and reinforce these mini-lessons anywhere. “The message that I’m conveying twice a month has to be reiterated by teachers, who are with their students 85% of the time, or else it’s not going to stick.” Younger students work on things like respecting physical space.

Social Media

In the 7th- and 8th-grade classroom, discussions about social media have been foremost. “As you may know,” wrote Mrs. Hope in an email to parents, “there is a worrying correlation between screen time and depressive symptoms, particularly amongst teens. Ms. Sussman and I are spending the month of November discussing all things social media with your children—the pros, the cons, and the in betweens. We would love your partnership in this conversation and in your attention to your child’s weekly screen time.”

After watching a TEDx talk by a social media expert, Bailey Parnell, students shared that they appreciated how honest and realistic she was, particularly about how important social media is many peoples’ lives and how it all comes down to how it’s used. “Learning about and talking about these topics allows us to make informed and intentional decisions. Parnell called this, ‘practicing safe social,’ which, yes, a few students chuckled at,” said Mrs. Hope.

After they took the ISEE exam in mid November, middle schoolers watched The Social Dilemma, a “documentary that explores the relationship between technology and human behavior and will prompt more discussion and reflection about student usage,” said Mrs. Hope. (You can read more here about the film.)

So, they have been talking about the effects of addictive behaviors and how unplugging from time to time is so important. Homeroom teacher Gab Sussman has been all for it, saying, “Mrs. Hope has assigned our class to learn more about and discuss the roles of social media in our lives. This week, we watched some videos that touched upon a few important topics, such as how social media affects our friendships, both positively and negatively, and how social media can portray and influence falsehoods about our lives. I appreciate the opportunity to be having these important conversations within our Homeroom!”

To demonstrate the rewards of de-screening, Mrs. Hope came up with the idea of monthly nature days; read about the very first below.

Gender Inclusivity

As TNCS has aged up and developed a true middle school, the needs of these older students have also grown. Even so, TNCS has always fostered an environment of inclusivity. “TNCS students embrace this inclusivity, especially around the evolving topic of gender identity,” said Head of School Tad Jacks in a letter* to parents.

In a separate email to parents, Mrs. Hope wrote:

In my role as the school counselor, I will be delivering developmentally appropriate health lessons that are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Research notes that there is a direct correlation between a student’s sense of belonging and their academic achievement. In fact, ‘many students may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative modes of learning that acknowledge students’ personal experiences’ (Kaplan and Miller 2007). As a result, it is vital for educators to carve out spaces where students feel seen and supported as their most authentic selves.

So, when she’s not with students, she has been working on writing TNCS’s gender-inclusive policies for the last 3 months. “We’ve been talking to other schools and looking at research and trying to develop policies that are very supportive of all of our students and also respecting their privacy. The 7th and 8th grade are definitely keeping me on my toes!”

The first gender-identity lesson for middle schoolers took place in November. “We explored how gender exists on a spectrum, clarified terms such as ‘gender expression’ and ‘gender identity’ and unpacked how to support each other by using correct pronouns. Many students were already educated and comfortable with this topic,” she said. Students were very engaged, respectful and asked supportive questions. I am very proud of the dialogue that emerged from this discussion.”

At the end of the lesson, they could complete a form for their teachers that shared more about their gender identity and pronouns if they chose.

The resources they used to launch their gender identity and gender inclusive discussions were amaze.org, GLSEN, and the Genderbread Person v4.0, “a teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.”

*Read Mr. Jack’s full letter here.

Pen Pals

The 3rd- through 5th-grade groups are partnering with the United states Postal Service to do a pen pal project. “They place you with classrooms in different regions of America, and you get a pen pal for the rest of the year. Then they actually coordinate a zoom visit with the homeroom classes so everyone can see what their pen pals look like,” said Mrs. Hope.

Students will write four total letters beginning in January. The idea is to learn about a child who has grown up in a different area of the country and build rapport, which is why it falls under SEL, but this neat project also weaves in academics by honing letter-writing skills and how to have a conversation and ask interesting questions.

Schoolwide SEL Initiatives

As mentioned in the introduction, Mrs. Hope and Mrs. DuPrau have partnered on several initiatives to increase students’ day-to-day happiness. They held the Blue Out anti-bullying awareness day, for example, for which the entire school dressed head to toe in blue. A spirit award was handed out to the “bluest” class, which was Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders, and they were treated to ice cream. A subsequent spirit week took place during American Education Week during which classes again competed for who could show the most school spirit.

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The dynamic duo will also be working with the TNCS Parent Council on recognizing our teachers and all-around making it fun to be at school.

Cuddles and Crafts

And now, you get a sneak peek into an upcoming SEL initiative that TNCS students will be absolutely bananas over. Mrs. Hope found Pets on Wheels, a nonprofit that brings therapy dogs to folks in need of a little cuddle, and came up with the idea of Cuddles and Crafts for TNCS students. “We’ll do a mindfulness craft for 45 minutes or so and then we’ll have the dogs come through the classrooms for a little bit of self-care, mental health positivity . . . just taking a breather and having some fun,” she said.

TNCS students always beg for projects that involve animals, so this should be quite the hit. Pictures to come!

Unplugging and Getting Out and About

You might be noticing the emphasis on fun, and there’s good reason for that. As Mrs. Hope puts it, “This is our first smooth full year back, and I’m seeing a lot of SEL issues popping up like at recess—simple communication and relationship issues. So to wind out quarter 2, she is developing ways “to focus on reconnecting with ourselves.” This means getting off campus and getting off screens!

Reflection Day

As a way of reconnecting with themselves and improving their mental health, middle schoolers participated in the first-ever Reflection Day as a homeroom. This involved spending the day on a local hiking trail, relaxing in nature, and carving out time for self care.

Mrs. Hope had been talking to students about putting phones away and the healing power of nature—how good it is for our bodies and our minds. She hopes for this to be a quarterly event, and the first one was a huge hit. Students throughly enjoyed their hike to Annapolis Rock. “It was a bit chilly,” said Mrs. Hope, “but students said multiple times how nice it was to unplug and talk to each other. They appreciated having the face masks off, too. It’s so nice to see someone’s whole face and expression.”

They hiked 5.87 miles, and students were utterly in awe of the views. “We got to make some wonderful memories together as a class,” said Mrs. Hope. “They are already keeping me on my toes and asking what hike we are doing next!”

What was Ms. Sussman’s take? “Our unplugged hike along the Appalachian Trail on Monday was absolutely amazing! A major shoutout to Mrs. Hope for dreaming up and organizing this trip for us. It felt so special to be out in nature for the day together as a homeroom. We certainly missed the students who couldn’t make it, and look forward to future opportunities to spend quality time outside of the classroom with each other.”

She plans a smaller hike in Patapsco State Park with the 4th- through 6th-graders and is hoping to partner with Living Classrooms to implement an off-campus day for the K through 3rd-graders.

Mini Trips off Campus

To keep spirits up, Mrs. Hope and TNCS teachers are finding all kinds of ways to insert rewarding mini excursions throughout the school day. As a reward for taking the grueling ISEE exam, for example, middle schoolers walked to BOP Pizza for a class field trip and some lunch. Mrs, Hope said they displayed hard work and determination throughout this tough test.

Mrs. Hope’s advisory group asked about grabbing a bagel and cup of cocoa for breakfast. They decided to make it a regular thing and will visit a neighboring shop like Pitango or the Daily Grind each first Thursday of the month.

The K through 3rd group will take a walking trip to Kilwins for a treat next week. “We’re working really closely to create opportunities for the kids to just get out of classroom and build community,” said Mrs. Hope.

Edit 12/7/21: Photos from the Kilwins trip!

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And the older kids!

 

Girls on the Run

From the beginning of the school year, female TNCS students had the option of participating in Girls on the Run (3rd through 5th grades) or Hearts and Soles (6th through 8th grades), a twice weekly running program that culminated on Sunday, December 5th with a 5K race. According to their website, GOTR’s mission is “to inspire all girls to build confidence and make intentional decisions, while fostering care and compassion for self and others. Trained coaches use physical activity and dynamic discussions to build social, emotional and physical skills in every girl while encouraging healthy habits for life.”

TNCS students fell in love with the program, which Mrs. Hope credits their amazing coaches for—huge thanks to TNCS mom Debbie Casanova for coaching the younger girls and Gab Sussman and Nameeta Sharma for coaching the older ones! Although it’s sad to see the end of this truly inspirational program, you can bet it’ll be back next year!

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It’s clear that Mrs. Hope is energized and committed to optimizing the mental health of TNCS students. “My philosophy with our counseling program is to focus on the mental health of our children and to put a big emphasis on positivity and gratitude and things that lift them up, because there’s so much that’s happening right now in the world,” she said.

Adriana DuPrau: TNCS’s Dean of Students on Service-Learning, Fundraising, Community-Building, and the All-New Advisory Board!

Adriana DuPrau has been an integral member of The New Century School since its inception. She was one of the original teachers, a role she held for several years, then became the Curriculum Director for a few years, and is now embracing her brand-new position as Dean of Students. When we say “embracing,” we really mean it. Mrs. DuPrau is shaking up the 2021–2022 school year in ways never before seen at TNCS!

In just the first couple of months of school, Mrs. DuPrau has initiated several service-learning, fundraising, and community-building projects, and she has also been an important member of the all-new Advisory Board (along with TNCS Head of School Tad Jacks, Student Counselor Daphnee Hope, and other faculty members). Here is an overview of what’s been happening!

Service-Learning Projects

Service-learning is annually a big deal at TNCS, but Mrs. DuPrau approached it a bit differently this time around. “I met with all the K–8 classes and found out what their interested in,” she explained. “Animals are definitely at the top of the list!

BARCS

I wanted to do something related to what their wishes are because I feel like when they get to make the choices, they are that much more involved.” They decided to go with BARCS (The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), who compiled a wishlist of items so that our TNCS community can help support these wonderful animals in need.

This service-learning initiative will continue for the entire month of November, and items can be dropped off directly at TNCS. “We thought abut donating through Amazon, but then I thought, there’s something really special about like holding on to the item that you’re going to donate and walking into the school and putting it in a bin versus just ordering something and never really getting the actual item,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Students can drop off their items in bins placed by the front desk. The TNCS Student Council will help handle all the items, which will be delivered to BARCS on Tuesday, November 30th. (Wait, what TNCS Student Council? Keep reading!)

Puerto Rico

Although details are still being hashed out, the annual middle school capstone service-learning trip will be to Puerto Rico this February. COVID-19 continues to complicate and sometimes thwart big plans, but TNCS family the Waylands were instrumental in making this happen. Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope will chaperone, and everyone is excited about undertaking a service project in a tropical locale where they can also practice their Spanish-speaking skills and foster independence!

Other Service-Learning Projects

Smaller but no less important initiatives are happening all over TNCS. The Kindergarteners and 1st-graders are writing letters to veterans and walking them to the post office to mail them, which includes all kinds of incidental opportunities for learning, and Mrs. DuPrau also hopes to find a way to have TNCS students donate leftover Halloween candy to send to troops overseas. This aligns well with TNCS’s sugar-free mandate, and parents will appreciate the chance to get rid of some of it!

The TNCS Parent Council is also in the planning stages of some initiatives like the annual Adopt-A-Family for the holidays, the Coat and Warm Clothing Drive for Wolfe St. Academy that has taken place over the last few years, and hygiene boxes around MLK Day. We’ll dig deeper into all things Parent Council–related in a separate post.

Fundraising Initiatives

Related to at least one service-learning project—Puerto Rico—the TNCS student body needs to raise some funds!

TNCS School Store!

For the first time ever, TNCS students opened a pop-up school store happening on Fridays (weather permitting). See our Facebook event for more!

The grand opening last month was a huge success,
and you’ve got plenty more chances to shop ’til you drop on successive Fridays throughout the fall and winter.

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Breakfast with Blacksauce Kitchen!

TNCS dad and restauranteur Damian Mosely once again donated his valuable time and his delicious homemade Blacksauce Kitchen biscuits to help raise funds for the big trip. Mrs. DuPrau says this will really help bring down the cost of flying to Puerto Rico, and she also locked in a great group rate. So thank you, Blacksauce, and thank you Southwest!

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Community-Building Initiatives

The internal community building Mrs. DuPrau has engendered so far this year is off the charts.

Student Council

in yet another first at TNCS, this year saw the creation of an official Student Council. Students voted today for President and Vice President, after candidates built their campaigns throughout the month of October, culminating with presenting their speeches on Monday, November 1st and debating their opponents on Wednesday the 3rd. We are pleased to salute Indigo Mosely as President and Schonbeck Glazer as her trusty VP.

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Spirit Days

Mrs. DuPrau has held several Spirit Days this year, with good reason. She has sensed some lingering social and emotional issues from the recent pandemic and felt that injecting some extra fun into the school day would lift everyone’s “spirits”! “After our COVID year last year of hybrid learning, it seems like some students are still struggling with their social connections.” she said

Good Neighbor Day was the first Spirit Day of the school year. “It was so much fun to see everybody in their TNCS shirts outside smiling and laughing and taking pictures together,” said Mrs. DuPrau. The race was on to see who demonstrated the most school spirit both on campus and as a good neighbor!

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“I worked with all the homeroom teachers to get kids out of the classroom and off of campus with mini field trips, such as to go get a pretzel and lemonade for Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Longchamps birthday or buying plants at Fell’s Point Cultivated Creations for lessons in genetics for science class. I want students to get time together outside of the class so they can work on their relationships by doing fun things,” she said.

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TNCS students are also going to ethnic restaurants and ordering food in the language spoken there. They went to an El Salvadoran restaurant during Hispanic Heritage Month, and on Thursday, November 4th, TNCS middle school students went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered their lunch in Chinese. “The Chinese owner of the restaurant was so impressed by our students’ good manners and amazing Chinese,” said Li Laoshi. “Also, our students really enjoyed their yummy Chinese lunch and learned a lot from this field trip. You should feel so proud of your child!”

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Anti-Bullying Campaign

Hand in hand with building community, Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope held a Blue Out day to address bullying. Everyone, and we mean everyone, wore blue to school that day in solidarity. “I got a chance to kind of get into each class and do a fun restorative circle as well as a follow-up activity. Each student created a puzzle piece, which were then hung up in their classrooms to show that they are all part of the puzzle. We all fit,” explained Mrs. DuPrau.

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The class with the most blue—Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders—won bragging rights!

American Education Week

Finally, American Education Week happens the week of November 15th through 18th, and Mrs. DuPrau is working hard to get everyone excited about that. “We’re going to hold an assembly that gets us all together. I want the assembly to be super fun, and I want to jump into our core values, but I mainly want us to also work on building our school spirit—singing songs and fun things like that,” she said.

Creating a TNCS cookbook is planned for this week also. The cookbook will be full of international recipes to celebrate all of our diverse cultures and backgrounds and available for purchase online.

Let’s make school fun. We want to make school a place that children want to come to, that makes them feel special. Of course academics are important, but it’s also important that we feel like we’re a family, that we feel comfortable and not overly stressed, and we can let our hair down a little bit. So I’m hoping that spirit days and assemblies and off-campus field trips are helping build that community feel.

Advisory Program

And, finally, the new Advisory Program has been doing wonders for TNCS students. Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope work mostly with the 8th-graders, Lori Gorbey works with mostly 7th-graders, Ms. Sussman works with a group of 6th- and 7th-graders, Mrs. DuPrau works with a group of 5th- and 6th-grades, and Mrs. Sharma and Mr. Brosius work grades 4 and 5.

In an email, Mrs. Hope described what this program is all about. Advisory is a program in which students meet regularly with a caring faculty member during a scheduled period in the school day. The underlying goal of advisory programs is to provide each student with consistent support and guidance from a member of the school staff. This adult, called the advisor, advocates for their group of students and runs the day-to-day activities of the advisory program. These activities range from the implementation of a curriculum to facilitation of a discussion to the distribution of important school information.

Perhaps the most talked-about benefits of an advisory program are the positive relationships that are created. Advisories help to build a sense of community in schools, which is important for preventing alienation. Furthermore, studies have shown that students’ educational success is based on academic as well as social support.

“We all do different things with our groups since our groups are all so different,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. Mrs. Sharma’s advisory meeting, for example, focuses on wellness and social relationships through dialogue and game-playing.

Mr. Brosius’s meeting encourages role-playing to think more critically about character traits. They built an imaginary village where each student adopted a different role. They discuss why they chose the roles while trying to relate this to goals in their own lives. When things get a little too rambunctious, he leads the group in light yoga to re-center them.

Mrs. DuPrau has an all-female advisory group. She introduced journaling as a way for her students to understand their emotions and how to gain control of them.  They do restorative circles to get to know each another on a deeper level. They also decorated their lockers with inspirational pictures and quotes. They also spend time in the all-new Harmony Room in Building North to relieve stress.

Ms. Sussman’s group is building trust through conversation and art. They use a deck of affirmation cards throughout the week to share their more reflective sides. They will also work on creative activities that will allow them to better appreciate each other’s uniqueness.

Ms. Gorbey’s group spent the first couple of weeks of school participating in open-ended circle time and playing games like Uno or Get-To-Know-You Bingo. During “Mindful Mondays,” students discuss their goals for the week. On “Words of Affirmation Wednesday,” students learn to confront their weaknesses and share how they can turn them into strengths.

Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope guide the 8th-graders through their final year at TNCS and get them ready for the transition to high school. These students have attended school with each other for several years and, as a result, have created warm and trusting relationships. As teenagers, they often want to talk about their feelings regarding ongoing issues in the world.

Stay tuned for further updates on this truly wonderful and important program.


After an undeniably tumultuous period for the world, Mrs. DuPrau and everyone at TNCS are making sure TNCS students continue to thrive in all ways, including academically, socially, and emotionally. The TNCS community is beyond grateful for this very special care.