TNCS Elementary and Middle School Information Night 2017

What we learn with pleasure we never forget. – Alfred Mercier, 19th century writer and physician

 

tncs-elementary-middle-school-information-night-2017On November 30th, The New Century School hosted it’s annual “info night”—an event that provides prospective families with an opportunity to get a glimpse of TNCS’s elementary and middle school curricula. TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali presented a brief overview of TNCS, from history to language learning, school philosophy, and a peek inside classroom operations.

In 2006, the school was established with five students in a one-room schoolhouse in Patterson Park. The owners of this school are two like-minded Moms that wanted language immersion as a priority for their own children, so they got some other parents together and thought it would be a great idea to start this school. Here we are, 11 years later with 215 students! We start at 2 years old and go through 7th grade. Our main objective is to attract people who are interested in language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin. We also practice Montessori principles, and I want to talk a little bit about how that overflows into our elementary/middle school program and what things we take from the Montessori preschool into to that program, especially for those families who are currently enrolled in our preschool.

First, some practical points: We have more than 50 staff members, and we offer before care all the way through to after care program. We open at 7:30 am and close at 6:00 pm, wth the school day running from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Back to the benefits of multilinguism, what sticks out in my mind as most important and why I like to work in language-immersion environments is that it offers you many ways to problem solve. When you’ve had that language background, your brain will work in a more elastic way—it helps cultivate executive function skills as well as aspects of what I call the ‘invisible curriculum,’ like tolerance. We learn about the world around us through language learning.

If you’re currently in our preschool program, you’ll see that some things stay the same, including our overall approach to whole-child development through differentiated instruction as well as student-driven learning. A typical elementary/middle class size in this school is no larger than 16 or 17 students. We keep it small so that we can meet everybody’s needs in the classroom, regardless of level. Our classroom management system, the Daily 5 (or 3 or 4) Rotation, ensures that every student is getting one-on-one contact with the teacher, collaboration with others in small groups, and time to work independently. Students are given specific parameters to work within that allow them to understand what their responsibilities are. Technology and computer time is also a component of the daily classroom rotation cycle.

Teachers work in pairs or groups of four, depending on grade. Each child has a homeroom class where they are designated to start and end the day as well as to engage in various subjects. Then students have a block of time with, for example, the teacher who handles ELA and Math or Global Studies. Throughout the day, they transition to other core subjects as well as receive daily targeted language instruction for 30 to 45 minutes. In addition, they get a focused subject area in Mandarin and Spanish, such as Global Studies. In this format, language really starts to emerge.

We also have a very strong arts program. K through 8th-grade have two music classes with Music Director Martellies Warren each week. They also have two art classes and two physical education classes every week. Currently we partner with Coppermine.

Our greenhouse and chicken coops, when operational, give children the chance to cultivate plants and livestock, and we also offer a vegetarian, locally sourced lunch. Finally, we offer the Ozone Snack Bar, a student lounge where older kids can relax, socialize, and enjoy a healthy snack at select times.

IMG_2605After Mrs. Danyali spoke, each teacher briefly described his or her classroom approach and particular subject area. Following these teacher presentations, audience members asked specific questions of the presenters.

Info Night is a great way to get an initial introduction to TNCS. Additional highlights of this event can be found in Elementary and Middle School Info Night 2017, a helpful powerpoint presentation. However, to really get to know the school and discover the wonder that takes place in classrooms here every day, attend an Admissions Friday or Open House event and witness the magic first hand. Subsequently, your child will spend a shadow day with other TNCS students and experience what it’s like to actually enjoy learning.

TNCS’s Inaugural Student Awards Ceremony!

Head of School Alicia Danyali leads The New Century School in many ways, not just practically and administratively. She mentors in unseen realms as well, gently promulgating what she calls her “invisible curriculum” that fosters kindness among students. During the 2016–2017 school year, Mrs. Danyali debuted the four pillars of TNCS, Compassion, Courage, Service, and Respect, as a cornerstone of her invisible curriculum and held biweekly student assemblies to discuss what these concepts mean in practice—how students can apply them to their daily lives.

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Later in last school year, she began implementing restorative circles in the classroom, which can be used to heal rifts as well as be simple communication forums. These also allow her to maintain relationships with all of her students, something as important to her as running TNCS.

That’s partly why, on Friday, November 3, 2017, she held the first-ever awards ceremony to celebrate 3rd- through 7th-grade student achievement. These achievements did not take place in academics; rather, they are indications of gains in emotional intelligence. “I wanted to focus on the TNCS student learning profile, which includes character development” she explained, “as well as to acknowledge those students that stand out demonstrating the behaviors.”

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She began the ceremony with an introductory speech to explain to students what was happening:

We have all worked very hard on identifying what makes a TNCS learner, and there are four words that can describe each and every one of you. They are compassion, courage, respect, and service, and they’re shown in different ways throughout the school day—what you do in the classroom that exemplifies one or more of these qualities. I met with your teachers and other staff, and we talked about all of the ways you exhibit the TNCS learning profile. So we are going to honor those of you at the end of each quarter who are representative of our TNCS learner. I want to emphasize that all of you have demonstrated all of these qualities, everyone has. But today we are acknowledging students who have really stood out during the first quarter.

IMG_2517She explained that two or three students were chosen in each category and reminded the audience to be happy for and congratulate friends who receive awards. (Last names have been omitted for student privacy and safety.)

In the compassion category, Bridghid, William, and Desmond stood out by having empathy for a friend; for helping out a fellow student in the classroom; or for helping students work through an  academic or social problem.

Schonbeck and Ryan exemplified courage in the first quarter by adapting to new environments and making new friends.

In the category of respect, two students—Flora and Mia—markedly demonstrated the proper behavior expected of the TNCS student.

Chloe and Livia went above and beyond in service without being asked to help.

Mrs. Danyali closed by saying, “I think everybody here is a winner and part of this group and shows compassion, courage, respect, and service. We will acknowledge students at the end of every quarter, and we’ll also begin awarding those of you who have demonstrated perfect attendance.”

The ceremony was a highlight of the school year so far, and all students were happy to learn how their efforts to be kind to one another are recognized and appreciated. Said Mrs. Danyali, “This is a nice reminder that social-emotional learning is as important in development as academics.”

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Adriana Duprau Becomes Curriculum Coordinator at TNCS!

With the commencement of the 2017–2018 academic school year, The New Century School scaled some exciting new heights. To name just two, the inaugural 7th-grade class made its debut, and the student body en masse has grown to more than 200 children. These milestones are impressive, certainly, but are also not without accompanying challenges. How does one small school accommodate an age range from 2 to 12 years? How do teachers keep all students engaged in mixed-age classrooms? With such a well-rounded curriculum, how is continuity of instructional approach maintained across so many diverse subject areas?

Enter Adriana Duprau, TNCS’s new Curriculum Coordinator (also known as Curriculum Specialist). Mrs. Duprau is already known to many among the TNCS community—in fact, there’s a very strong chance that she has taught your child in her classroom at some point, considering that she has been at TNCS since it first opened back in 2010. Being so familiar with TNCS operations, she was the natural choice to take on this new role, which, in brief, entails supporting teachers and giving them constructive feedback on how they are implementing the curriculum. Interestingly, however, she came into the role less because someone was actively being sought and more so because she was already the go-to when an instructor needed strategies for example, for differentiating lessons. In Mrs. Duprau’s case, as you’ll see, this support extends to students as well.

Job Description

She spends about 80% of her time in the classroom so she can see firsthand what teachers are doing. She makes sure, for example, that lessons are being appropriately differentiated to accommodate the varying skill student levels in each classroom. At the same time, she wants to see that students are being challenged. On a macro level, another thing she looks for is that students are transitioning smoothly among divisions (e.g., pre-primary to primary, primary to kindergarten, elementary to middle school).

These are tasks that Head of School Alicia Danyali has handled in the past, but as the school grows, it became clear that a dedicated role was needed so that Mrs. Danyali can devote her time to running the school.

Sometimes school teachers can feel overwhelmed. Mrs. Duprau is there to “close the loop,” as she puts it. “What are their challenges; what are things that I can help with?” she asks herself, to provide an extra resource to the teachers. In some ways, it’s also a means of quality assurance. “If teachers are having a hard time, how can I offer support? Or, they may be having a hard time with a particular student—what can we do to come up with solutions?” she explains. “Having an objective observer who can stand back and take notes can be very revealing in these situations,” she continued, “and together we can problem solve and brainstorm the best approaches to addressing the challenges.”

Mrs. Duprau also plays a big part in helping Mrs. Danyali with professional development outside of the classroom, such as by demonstrating lessons during PD days and doing trainings.

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Curriculum Coordinator Adriana Duprau

Although she has embraced this support role, taking on a new position also can come with challenges. For Mrs. Duprau, the one thing she most worried about was not having her own classroom. “But, as it turns out, I spend most of my time in classrooms, so I’m really excited that I still get to have that time with students and with other teachers,” she said. And, although she has found herself so far spending most of her time in elementary and middle school classrooms, she nevertheless has had to get to know all 200+ students on a first-name basis . . . now that’s a challenge!

However, the biggest challenge she has found so far is having her suggestions go unheeded, whether inadvertently or from an unwillingness to take feedback, although Mrs. Duprau anticipates that this will probably dissipate as teachers acclimate to the idea of having a curriculum specialist and get used to accepting support.

Job Goals

She says her main goals, at least initially, are to make sure that teachers feel supported and know what should be taking place inside their classrooms. For example, programs like Reading A–Z might be new to a instructor, so Mrs. Duprau guides him or her through implementation. Again, her experience—not to mention her particular area of expertise—come in very handy here. She also sets up technology in classrooms so that appropriate ages all have access to SuccessMaker, a stalwart in the TNCS math program. All this, says Mrs. Duprau, because “we want to make sure we see growth in the students. This will give us a ‘closer look’ at the kids.”

She then uses the data she gathers to close any would-be gaps, such as finding ways to help former Montessori students matriculate into the non–classic Montessori Kindergarten classroom, or, conversely, introducing students who did not come up through the TNCS primary ranks to the “Montessori feel” of the K classroom. The Kindergarten group, by the way, is the largest it has ever been, so this is an area of keen interest. Moreover, Kindergarten can comprise a wide variety of skill levels, from students who are not yet reading and writing to students already completely comfortable with chapter books. Helping teachers set up their Daily 5 stations, for example, can go a long way to successful classroom management in this heterogenous setting. This has given her ideas for how to manage next year’s K transition: “A goal for us is to figure out what objectives the primary kids should end this school year before ‘going up’ so that they are prepared and can thrive in the more structured environment,” she explained.

Incidentally, in her tenure at TNCS, Mrs. Duprau has always had children of this age in her classroom, but now she says, “having my own kindergartener at home and seeing where he is developmentally has taught me even more about this age than having been a kindergarten teacher for so long.” So now, she can bring a dual perspective to the support she offers current TNCS K teachers—that of the seasoned teacher as well as the parent.

“I also get to spend a lot of time in other subject areas,” she explains. Chinese, music, and art, for example, are not classes she would have been a part of as a teacher. Now she observes how those are going to make sure all aspects of the curriculum hang together in a cohesive way and that instructors are meshing well. “One thing I saw was that having all of one division participating in a specials class together made the class too big. Being able to be there and see what’s unfolding and offer potential solutions has been very useful. We are now splitting the groups and adapting schedules to make sure that students and instructors are getting what they need.”

Another goal is to firmly establish units of study (e.g., in Global Studies and Science) that rotate on a 3-year basis so that students are all getting the full breadth of each discipline. The information is taught at differentiated levels, and she envisions gathering all of these lessons together in a master curriculum.

Reflections

“Although I really miss having my own classroom,” says Mrs. Duprau, I am really enjoying this new position, and I think it’s very beneficial to the school. “There are aspects of the role that I am continuing to grow in, because I have never held a job quite like this one before—I now work as much with adults as I do with kids!” She finds the position perfect for her current situation, with two young children at home to care for, and she is also learning a tremendous amount about teaching from this new vantage point.

“My primary objective is to be helpful and to facilitate smooth operations,” she said. “My interest was sparked when I would help other teachers who were unfamiliar with the mixed-age and mixed-language approach, and I found that I loved that interaction. I broached the idea of having a curriculum specialist in some capacity at TNCS, and the administration agreed immediately.” She learned her superb classroom management skills both as a Baltimore City public school teacher and by her first mixed-age experience at TNCS.

If she ever does return to the classroom, she says she is considering trying an older cohort to see what that would be like. In the meantime, Curriculum Coordinator suits her just fine!

 

 

 

 

TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night!

back-to-school-night-2017Now that summer has officially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2017–2018 school year with its annual Back-to-School Night. The focus of the evening was to meet your student’s teachers and to present the student’s daily schedule, a curriculum overview, and school policies.

Welcome!

The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Alicia Danyali warmly welcoming parents, new and old, and introducing TNCS’s teaching staff. “They make the school an amazing experience for the students everyday, with their nurturing and professional expertise that enables a professional learning community,” said Mrs. Danyali. She also reminded the packed audience about the school’s Core Values. As the school’s foundation, these values of compassion, courage, respect, and service are displayed throughout the school and emphasized daily by all at TNCS, as well as during classroom lessons, assemblies, and restorative circles.

As TNCS enters its 11th year, it’s worth noting how the school and its programs have expanded and grown to what they are today. Changes each year are inevitable, but TNCS has stayed true to its identity and has successfully weathered those changes, transforming would-be obstacles into opportunities and growing the student body to more than 200 children. (To get a look at past year’s back-to-school nights or just to reminisce about the school’s early days, read TNCS-Back-to-School Night, 2013Back-to-School Night, 2014Back-to-School Night, 2015, and Back-to-School Night, 2016.)

Elementary/Middle School Break-Outs

Once the initial introductions and welcome message concluded, parents moved on to spend time with their child’s teachers. This was the opportunity to learn about what the school day looks like, what the educational goals are for the year, and what the expectations are of both parent and child. Upper Elementary and Middle School was jointly hosted by veteran Math and Global Studies teacher Beatriz Cabrera and new English language arts and Science teacher Jon Wallace. Mr. Wallace introduced himself, saying:

This is my 15th year teaching, 13 in private, and 2 in public recently. I’m very happy to be here with this amazing bunch of students who are all so diverse, and it’s wonderful working with the parents. I became a teacher because I really enjoy seeing the students learn. It’s a great thing when you see the light bulb go on. When I child first realizes a concept or becomes good at doing something, learning skills, to see that happen is just amazing. I come from a family of teachers and I’m working hard to give the students the best education I could possibly give. I’ll be here early, and I’ll be here late to try and give the best to your children.

Sra. Cabrera handled many of the practical details, reminding families of the importance of being on time. Class begins promptly at 8:25 am with key information and planner assignments, all things you don’t want your child to miss. “Check the planners and make sure to sign them. You will receive four quarterly report cards, we and will have two parent/teacher conferences, one in November and one in February. We are always available to meet with you and discuss anything you want,” she said.

A deeper dive into each subject’s curriculum followed.

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Specials

New art teacher Eunhee Choi made a cameo appearance (she had several classrooms to visit) and told the group, “I was born and raised in Korea—South Korea,” she clarified, to audience laughter. “I’ve been teaching 17 years. I’m very happy to teach here, I feel very comfortable in this school,” she finished. Students have music, physical education, and art twice a week.

English Language Arts

ELA uses the Daily 5, which consists of: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work. Reading themes will include realistic fiction, fantasy, biographies, mystery, immigration/migration, historical fiction, and folktales. Writing will focus on a variety of skills including narrative, informational, persuasive/opinion, and poetry. We will continue using Lucy Calkins in the classroom throughout the year as well. (See State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing at TNCS for more on her acclaimed approach.)

In spelling, Wordly Wise 3000 and Spelling Workout will be incorporated. Wordly Wise 3000, focuses on improving students’ vocabulary by furthering their understanding of new words and concepts. Spelling Workout is a more traditional spelling program to help improve on identifying spelling patterns. “Our goal is to focus on vocabulary development, which will enable students to read increasingly challenging texts with fluency and improve their chances for success in school and beyond. Spelling will be focused on helping improve student writing,” explained Mr. Wallace.

Science

The major science themes throughout the year that will guide learning and understanding will include electricity and magnetism, chemistry, the Scientific Method (Science Fair), and oceanography.

Math

In math, students will work in small groups and independently everyday as well as do Khan Academy—the Daily 3. “They will do different math games and once again participate in Math Kangaroo, said Sra. Cabrera. “We will practice these problems in class and continue to use Singapore math. I will work with them in small groups mostly. I think it’s better to help them gain confidence.” Middle school students will be introduced to the Go Math curriculum.

Global Studies

Global studies will comprise both United States history and World history. The Elementary and Middle School programs will focus on the same unit of study but we be differentiated based on grade level:

  • Quarter One, Ancient World Cultures
  • Quarter Two, World Cultures and Geography
  • Quarter Three, Civics
  • Quarter Four, American History

Mandarin

As for language immersion, we are fortunate to have two wonderful, enthusiastic teachers in Wei Li, Mandarin, and Fabiola Sanzana, Spanish. Chinese will be learned through various activities and projects with assessments being mainly performance based. “Better Chinese will continue as our backbone curriculum as well as our Daily Four,” said Li Laoshi. In Daily Four, students are divided into small groups and use different levels of books according to their language proficiency. The students rotate among the four centers, which are meet with teacher, computer, reading, and games. “Friday will be the weekly Activity Day featuring various activities that integrate Chinese culture, such as calligraphy, Tai chi, Kung Fu, Chinese games, and cooking Chinese food,” she continued.

Students will be assessed the traditional way (pencil and paper); however, the main approach of assessment will be performance-based. For every new unit, formative assessment will be used daily and summative assessment will be used at the end of each unit.

Spanish

Spanish learning will be taught through the use of different games, dances, and songs. I was born in Chile, and this is my second year as lead Spanish teacher,” said Sra. Sanzana. “Spanish class is a little bit of everything—grammar, vocabulary, talking, reading, and listening,” she said. As in other subjects, teaching is differentiated. “I divided students into groups based on levels,” she explained. “Don’t be afraid of whatever comes; I will be here helping them.”

Homework

The question on BTS attendees minds’ was, “what’s up with homework?” Here is the breakdown:

  • Chinese: Grades 3–7 will work on a small packet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month.
  • Spanish: Grades 3 and 4 will work on a small packet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month; 5th- 6th, and 7th-graders will have homework weekly.
  • Math: Homework will consist of 15 minutes of problem solving or Workbook completion.
  • Language Arts: Each week, there will be one lesson in Wordly Wise, a list of vocabulary words to know, and various assignments to complete.

Forging Ahead!

Although BTS night is over, know that “teachers and administration are always available to answer any questions regarding your student’s development as we partner throughout the school year,” as Mrs. Danyali put it. Also know that you’ll be meeting teachers new to TNCS in Immersed profiles throughout the coming year as well as hear more from staff who are adopting new roles and taking the school in new directions! Stay tuned!

 


Here are links to other elementary classroom BTS Night handouts for your convenience.

 

TNCS School Lunch Program Gets a Refresh!

You may have noticed that The New Century School has been cooking up some fun changes for the 2017–2018 school year. One such change is happening in the the kitchen, where two new faces have appeared. With former chef Emma Novashinski* moving on to embark on a new professional chapter, TNCS school lunch has been taken over by veteran TNCS parents Danielle and John Moomau. Kibnesh Anebo, who assisted Chef Emma, now takes on the role of Lead Cook. (Click Garden Tuck Shop and Lunch Goes Global to read about the origins of TNCS school lunch.)

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Team School Lunch: Danielle, left; Kibnesh, middle; John, right.

Their kitchen takeover came to pass over the summer, when TNCS Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder Roberta Faux asked the Moomaus to consider assuming the role of kitchen manager. “At first we thought it would be impossible,” said Mrs. Moomau. “Considering that we operate our own full time food safety training and consulting business, how could we do the job of Chef Emma?” In fact, their proposed role would take a different shape. “Kitchen manager includes creating menus, overseeing production, maintaining regulatory compliance, food safety, inventory, and ordering,” she explained. With Ms. Anebo as Lead Cook and an additional new hire to assist with prep and clean-up coming on board, they realized they could manage. “And the idea of being able to engage more with our daughter, connecting with her classmates, all the teachers, administration, and other parents was appealing as well,” said Mrs. Moomau.

Wth a combined experience of over 50 years in retail food management, the Moomaus were a natural choice. “John and I both put ourselves through college working in the restaurant industry, working every position in the restaurant from dishwasher to bartender, and later working nationally doing multi-unit openings, culinary training, and finally regional operations.” They even met while working in the food-service industry. Mrs. Moomau is originally from New Orleans, and Mr. Moomau is from Silver Spring, MD, but they co-managed a restaurant in Washington, D.C. located at 14th NW and F Streets in 2003.

Then, in 2006, they left the corporate industry to start QRS Training, their own food consulting and training company, which offers classes and certification programs for food and alcohol licenses in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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Kibnesh prepares sesame noodles with faux chicken.

Now, 11 years later, they are bringing all of their expertise to TNCS students! The Moomaus are responsible for all food inventory and ordering of any supplies needed to run a smooth kitchen. They will oversee daily quantity of lunches needed and turn over the production line to head cook Ms. Anebo. Said Mrs. Moomau: “A local and clean path had been taken on by former TNCS Chef Emma and the founders of the school from the beginning when creating the lunch program. We seek to continue this and implement ways to influence the children with more international foods, but foods they will eat because it’s colorful, delicious, and fun.”

Although school lunch has a slightly new “flavor,” by far, most aspects of the program will stay the same. Mrs. Moomau explains:

Chef Emma started the school lunch with a different perspective. Understanding that she had to be compliant with the Maryland State Board of Education, which requires a protein, vegetable, fruit, and grain, she created menu’s that were colorful and different than what traditional school lunch programs offer. Keeping with TNCS’s promise to parents and students to be vegetarian and nut free, she researched and created lunches that offered children a new palette of flavors: soy nuggets that look and taste like chicken nuggets, colorful micro greens, and vegetables that the children planted and cultivated in TNCS’s own school garden. She got the kids excited and involved about the food they were eating. We wouldn’t change that piece of the program. Changes to the menu, however, will come as we get to know the children more and their likes and dislikes. But, whenever we introduce a new menu item, we promise to keep it delicious, healthy, fresh, and fun.

These menu adjustments have already started appearing in the form of food themes corresponding to each day of the week: American Mondays, Latin Tuesdays, Pasta Wednesdays, Asian Thursdays, and the already infamous and popular Pizza Fridays.They are trying new twists within these themes, too, such as avocado and cream cheese sushi rolls. “We don’t want to offer the children food that they don’t like, but we also want them to eat healthy, well-balanced, and low-sugar meals. So, we will continue to offer plenty of fruits and veggies that can be dipped into yogurts, hummus, guacamole. The children love to eat food with their hands, and dips are some of their favorites,” said Mrs. Moomau.

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Keepin’ It Clean and Green!

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Monica is making strawberry-blueberry parfaits.

Other ways that the Moomaus are ensuring continuity with the lunch program include continuing to order from food vendors who supply organic, fresh local produce, whenever possible; non-GMO ingredients; and no artificial coloring. “We’ve been establishing a clear expectation with our food providers that we want ‘clean and green’ food for our school,” they explained.

Of course, with any new venture, adaptations are inevitable. As before, one thing the new kitchen team wants to ensure is that the children they are feeding are eating. “We watch what goes into the trash everyday,” said Mrs. Moomau. “We approach the menu with the children’s perspective first. For example, today was ‘Asian Thursday’ and we offered Sesame Noodles, but our first thought was, the kids probably won’t favor rice noodles, so we’ll make the dish with an American twist and substitute whole-wheat, fat spaghetti noodles. It was a hit!”

Acclimating to the role might have been another challenge, but the Moomaus have found that support from the school administration has enabled them to surmount would-be obstacles:

Ms. Faux is so flexible and understanding that it makes the transitional period a lot less stressful. She has a solution for almost anything. When the founder of the school tells you, ‘don’t worry, if we absolutely have to, we can always order pizza,’ you know it’s going to go very well. And, although the first 3 weeks have had some bumps and learning curves, we’ve managed to get through without having to order pizza delivery!

They had this to say in closing: “We strive to do what’s right for our children and to make decisions that benefit their health.” And, let’s be honest, since kids like simple food and love to eat with their hands, dipping veggies in ranch or tortilla chips in guacamole or bean dip, for example, are not only kid favorites but are packed with vital nutrients.”

*Wondering how Chef Emma’s doing? She, too, has new adventures to share, and Immersed will keep you informed. Here’s a teaser: Emma’s Tea Spot will be opening in Hamilton soon . . .

TNCS Hosts Education Training Program for Chinese Interns!

Last week, The New Century School held a very special closing ceremony for a group of interns visiting from China. TNCS Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder Roberta Faux said, “We partnered with a group in China and University of MD to bring over nine college sophomore and juniors who are majoring in teaching for a hands-on training program. They spent a few days at UMD doing course work and then supported instructors at TNCS beginning August 23rd. They were each assigned a classroom and assisted the teacher with classroom set-up, new student orientation, and one-on-one teaching.”

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September 1st was their last day at TNCS, and the closing ceremony, moderated by Mrs. Faux with assistance from TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li, was held in their honor. They included: Tingjing Zhu from Si chuan province, Wenmei Xu from Shan xi province, Tan Cheng and Feifei Xu from Shang hai, Yufeng Wang from An hui province, Yao dong from Ning xia province, Yaqian Ji from Zhe jiang province, and Ran an from Gansu province.

Mrs. Faux started off the fun with a game designed to illustrate the differences between fixed ways of thinking and creativity. What does it matter if you can recite the 100th digit of pi (9) or rattle off the word with the most consecutive consonants (Hirschsprung, as in the disease) if you can’t solve real-world problems as they arise in the moment? Even when she invoked the hallowed name of education guru Sir Ken Robinson, however, the Chinese interns did not buy it—they almost unanimously would have “hired” the guy who knew his facts. But they are probably all still pondering this interesting exercise!

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The group was awarded certificates earned for completing their training; they also gave and received speeches of gratitude.

Some transcribed here, these speeches provide a peek inside what the interns’ days were like at TNCS as well as how valuable the experience was for the teachers they helped support, the students they interacted with, and for themselves.

From Primary Teacher Maria Mosby: It was such a beautiful experience having the students from China visit, especially our dear friend, Ann Laoshi. They were warm, helpful, excited to learn, and we learned so much from them as well. Ann Laoshi is a natural Montessorian with a quiet grace that children and adults alike are drawn to. We wish her and all of the students much success.

From Primary Teacher Yangyang Li: Thank you so much for your hard work and support. Wish you all a happy and prosperous future! Best wishes!

From Upper Elementary Teacher Jon Wallace: It was really nice to have a caring, helpful, and curious person in the classroom. It made for a really fantastic week!

From Lower Elementary Teacher Barbara Sanchez: We will miss “Anna” very much. It’s like she knew what I needed her to do even before she asked me. She always helped the students in their small groups. The students and I will miss her very much.

From Lower Elementary Teacher Megan DeMatteo: My intern was really good at assessing the students’ needs and jumping in where she was needed. The kids loved her!

The ceremony ended with Tingjing playing a song on the ukulele and the students responding with a choral performance, followed by a reception with refreshments.

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Working at the school is only part of their overall experience, however. Equally vital and enriching is what they do outside of the school day, and that’s where the host family comes in. One component of the TNCS identity is cultural exchange, so, multiple times throughout the year, TNCS families have the opportunity to be hosts to students and/or instructors from other countries (or even from around the United States, as in the case of the recent American Music System summer camp). “It’s been a joy to host our house guests. [Our daughters] have had so much fun!  We will miss you,” said Mrs. Faux. Other TNCS families also hosted and were kind enough to share some of their experience with us.

Said host parent Calvin Eib: “The interns are a great group. Our son has been having a blast with the two interns staying with us! It’s actually made for a great first week at New Century!” As has happened during other hosting opportunities (see Hosts with the Most, Parts 1 and 2 and TNCS Hosts Winter Exchange Program), the Eib family took hosting very much to heart.

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“It was so interesting getting their perspective on working at New Century,” said Mr. Eib. “They came home absolutely exhausted after school each day!” (Welcome to the U.S. student!) “In addition to what you can see in the pictures, we took them to the Aquarium, the Shake Shack, and so on.” The Eibs learned their likes and dislikes (very popular: sushi, blue crab, taco night at home, hot [not cold] water to drink, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, eggs and rice, evening showers. Not popular: coffee, beer, cold water, pizza at the school [sorry!], and Western-style food multiple meals in a row) and exchanged cultural experiences.

Continued Mr. Eib: “Ting Jin was a wonderful singing partner with [our son]—everything from 1,000-year-old songs to modern Chinese pop. He taught her songs and numerous games (thumb wars, that clapping “concentration” game).”

“They really took time to get to know each of us and we did the same,” said Mr. Eib.

American Music System Summer Camp at TNCS!

This year, The New Century School had the very special honor of hosting Baltimore’s first-ever American Music System (AMS) camp from August 14th through 18th. Directed by TNCS’s acclaimed strings instructor Yoshiaki Horiguchi, the camp was an unqualified success, and “Mr. Yoshi” and all plan to bring AMS camp to Baltimore (at TNCS) annually. If you missed out this time, mark you calendars for next, because a lot of magic happened over the course of that camp week.

According to their website, AMS-Baltimore gives kids in grades 1–8 “a chance to take part in the musical fabric of America.” What this means was described eloquently by the faculty who taught this year’s camp and follows, but in many ways, the video below captures the essence. One tenet of AMS is that context is relevant—where you make music influences the music, and the music you make in turn influences your surroundings. So, on a walk through Fell’s Point to let campers stretch their legs and grab a quick group photo, when the spirit struck, everyone joined together in a song by the water.

This lovely moment came right on the heels of the aforementioned group photo being photobombed by the local pirates, much to everyone’s delight—again, context is everything! Send out love . . . arrrr!

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The Who and the How

AMS-Baltimore camp would not have been the same without the amazing instructors who took a week out of their lives to come to Baltimore and share their talents and their sheer wonderfulness.

Pamela Wiley

It all started with Pamela Wiley, who teaches fiddle and violin. She helped Mark O’Connor develop the O’Connor Method (an approach to teaching strings), which eventually broadened to the American Music System Camp. She met Yoshi at a teacher training she was holding in Napa, CA in 2013 and was taken by his enthusiasm. For the next 3 years, he taught at her camp in Charleston, SC. He loved the concept so much that he expressed his dream of bringing the camp to Baltimore. As the head of AMS, Pam likes to be at all the camps around the country to make sure that the concept is being faithfully implemented.

One of the things that we really want to accomplish is that the kids actually learn something at the camp. They learn the different styles of American music, they learn to play a little bit in each style, and they learn to get comfortable making music together—not just their own skills but the concept of making music with their peers.

And that’s one of the primary principles, that at some point each day, kids play music together in “recitals.” These recitals are relatively unstructured and a way for the kids to experience the joy of playing music together but also to enhance their musicianship exponentially. Pam explains: “The kids get together with friends, and they put together little bands. Then they go up on stage and do a little arrangement of a song they’ve learned. It’s very nice, really truly educational. We teachers stay out of this part of the day.” Pam herself learned to fiddle in a similar way. Having played violin in a symphony orchestra for 28 years, she wanted to be able to jam with her guitar- and banjo-playing friends and so became a “back-porch fiddler” to join in the fun.

Another principle is what Pam calls the “3M principle,” an acronym for music more than melody. “The AMS is holistic music. With most instruments, you learn melodies, one note to the next. Whereas with us, from the beginning, we incorporate harmony and rhythm and awareness of the chord changes,” she explained.

American music itself is also an essential component. “We incorporate as many styles of American music, as possible, including classical. There are several different kinds of fiddling, bluegrass, old time, and Irish, and then there’s jazz, ragtime, pop, and folk music. We also encourage singing.” This music connects us to our history and culture.

We are playing songs that our ancestors played, all of our ancestors played 300 or 400 years ago, so we are actually living American history. We’re playing the same music, the same songs, on the same instrument. We’re doing the real thing, and we try to talk about songs from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War. We’re playing “Cumberland Gap” in the old-time class and talking about where Cumberland Gap is and what a really big part of American history it was.

In addition to Yoshi and Pam, the team of instructors included Pattie Kinlaw from Greenville, NC; Rob Flax from Boston, MA; and Melissa Tong from New York, NY. “I’ve put this faculty together from the teacher-training classes I did from around the country,” said Pam. “I did about 35 states and could just tell from the teacher-training classes just who was going to fit into to this, and those are the people you see at the camp. They all wouldn’t know each other but for me, and I’m so really proud of that.”

It’s clear why she would be proud. In Yoshi’s words:

The most inspiring thing to me about the faculty who are working here is that they just don’t teach at a world class level, but they’re also playing at a world class level. There are very few people you’ll find who can do both. So the thing about this faculty is that every one of them have been amazing players and are trained and study their teaching as hard as they do, so you can tell that they are really committed to the kids and making sure that the music spirit kind of lives through the kids. I’m really inspired by that and glad to be able to work with them again.

Yoshiaki Horiguchi

Yoshi has been profiled here before (see TNCS Launches Strings Program Under Yoshiaki Horiguchi), but he has a lot more to say about his new role as AMS-Baltimore director. He explains that not actively teaching gave him a whole new perspective: “I am able to observe and absorb the teaching styles of these phenomenal teachers. It’s kind of nice to complete that circle.” He also got to see camp from a new vantage point:

It provides a nice balance between the kind of classical training that this area has loads of and that kind of jamming, improvising mindset. It’s nice musically for the kids but also for finding a balance between perfectionism and improvising through life. Once you’re out of school there are a lot more decisions that you have to make on your own. So starting that mindset early through music education is really a great thing. I’m seeing the students learn how to improvise and take more ownership in the decisions that they make. Instead of being told what note they have to play through sheet music or their teachers telling them it has to be a certain way, it’s them asking the questions that can be tough to ask, like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ or ‘What if I don’t do it, what happens?’ and realizing that the worst thing that happens is you play a wrong note, you learn from it, and you just move on. Seeing that manifest itself more concretely in music is a really great thing. Hopefully, they can take that out into their lives.

Jamming, it turns out, becomes a very good metaphor for resilience, and that’s part of why this camp is so vitally important to the dedicated instructors who give so much of themselves to hold it year after year. Music is art, wonder, humanity, math . . . and a vehicle for developing good people. But how do you get kids ages 5 years to 11 years to jam, exactly?

At first it was a little tough to get the kids to start a jam session, which is why we have most of the kids taking a ‘how to jam’ class. Imagine a classically trained player who has never performed anything before it’s perfected now being asked to play something on the spot that he or she has never seen. Having that mindset of the classical player and entering a jam session where mistakes are encouraged and kind of expected is challenging. So those two contradicting ideas were present at the beginning and everyone was a little bit shy. But over the course of the week, they realized that’s kind of the process. You are in a jam session, and you quietly try to figure out the notes. It’s okay to play wrong notes, and eventually you’ll play more and more notes that you know fit in certain parts of the song until the song is over. And that’s your jam session—and it’s okay, you don’t have to play it perfectly.

Pattie Kinlaw

As a violinist and fiddle player, Pattie Kinlaw teaches classical as well as American roots music and specializes in bluegrass. Enthusiastic and energetic, she says she probably had as much fun as the kids did during camp.

This week has been great! The kids are learning all different tunes, ways to play, and ways to work together. They are a range of ages and also a range of abilities, but, as teachers, and especially because this is a non-method camp, we just want the kids to interact with one another, create music with one another, and make decisions about their own creativity—just really get out of the box. It seems to work really well on various levels.

Although this wasn’t her first visit to Baltimore, she appreciated the opportunity to get to know it a little better, “to hang out, get a feel for the city, get vibe of the people. It’s been a very wonderful experience.” Back in North Carolina where she both teaches and plays, her ensemble Hank, Pattie, and the Current just released their second album.

Rob Flax

“I play things with strings, I hit stuff, and I sing. I consider myself an artist, teacher, scholar, an instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, producer, and educator,” said Rob, whose sense of fun is immediately apparent.

I’m a multi-instrumentalist and I play a lot of different instruments. I’m a strong believer in multi-instrumentalism, and I think that it was something that was very valuable for me. So I am teaching, officially, violin technique, and co-conducting an orchestra here at camp, and I’m also teaching drumming on buckets, and shakers, and other hand percussion. I am here on faculty as a bassist and as a mandolin teacher as well. I’m not teaching much mandolin or bass, but I am playing those roles as needed. Everybody in all of my classes will sing as well, because I’m a strong believer in singing as part of that multi-instrumental strategy. There’s also a little bit of dancing here and there—that should be connected to music, I think, especially with the drumming classes.

He isn’t kidding, as you can see here:

He also enjoyed camp very much, saying it went “fantastically well.” “This is the first year of this camp, and everything is running very smoothly. The faculty is outstanding—I’m really honored to be working with these tremendous musicians and educators. The kids are all very enthusiastic, which helps, too.” During his downtime, Rob found bands to jam with all over Baltimore.

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“All the faculty are amazing to watch teach. The kids look like they’re having a good time, and they’re getting a nice balance between music time on their own instruments and music making on other instruments.”–Yoshi Horiguchi

Melissa Tong

As a freelance violinist, pianist, and singer, Melissa plays with orchestras as well as rock bands, pop artists, and singer/songwriters in addition to her own blues band. She also sits in on recording sessions and plays on Broadway.

How she has time to teach AMS camp is a mystery, yet it’s clear why she’s here:

It’s been really inspiring to watch the students blossom throughout the week. On day one, everyone is naturally hesitant and shy, and we’re throwing a lot of new ideas and experiences at them. Then, to watch them open up and embrace it; to jump at the opportunities and take control; to start arranging their own tunes, organizing bands, and performing at the recitals has been really beautiful. One student in particular, who is visiting from China for the summer and speaks basically no English, was at first not engaging in the group activities. But, as the week went on, we have found music, of course, to be the universal language and he has really come around. Also, the kids have started counting off in Chinese for him. When he had his first recital, I almost started crying when he hopped on stage.

Melissa has friends in Baltimore so was able to meet up with them during her spare time as well as get out to see some shows and experience the Baltimore restaurant scene. She also tapped into the Baltimore acro-yoga community and made some new friends while upside down.

As each of her colleagues did, she felt it important to mention how special their coming together is. “We’re all a family; it’s hugely important for us to just get together for camp. We feel like the dream team. We really wouldn’t want to be working with anyone else.” “I hope that we can keep growing it,” she added. “I congratulate Yoshi and the school and community for a great first year.”

Final Concert 

On the last day of camp, parents and families were invited to a performance of all the great American (and other) music their children so enjoyed learning throughout their glorious week. From instrumentation to vocalizing to “learning to jam” class, they were immersed in music and being musicians. Here are their songs in the order they were played.

South Appalachian Old Time Class

Blues Class

Piano Class

Guitar Class

Violin Class

Cello Class

How to Jam Class

Meyer Orchestra

Ungar Orchestra

AMS-Baltimore Choir

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And Thank You, Host Families!

Said Yoshi, “The community has been amazing also, between the hosts and the area around here. The hosts especially have been so incredible to house our faculty for the week and make them feel really welcome. I’ve gotten word from all of the faculty that they’re really enjoying where they’re staying.”