As we keep saying, a lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March, but perhaps no event is more anticipated than the annual Science Fair. This year’s presentation of projects by TNCS 3rd- through 8th-graders had to be done a little differently since we can’t gather en masse yet, but the projects themselves were no less remarkable for their creativity and all-around innovation.
The Science Fair is important, explains elementary and middle school science teacher Rob Brosius, because, “It’s challenging and rewarding. [Doing science experiments] teaches you how to approach any problem with a solution-oriented perspective.” Students made their presentations via Zoom, which Mr. Brosius painstakingly stitched together. This way, TNCS parents will be able to view all student projects and presentations at their leisure. Another benefit stemmed from this new approach—TNCS students were more relaxed as they presented and were able to really explain their experiments in a deeper way. You can sense their (well-earned) pride. They demonstrate a thorough understanding of the science underpinning the project as well as the process that got them to their conclusions—the Scientific Method.
Mr. B. said:
I am making sure that all students can present their research even if they have not completed their data collection and analysis. We have highlighted the importance of each step of the scientific method in relation to personal and group projects. I have tried to communicate the idea that even if your project does not prove your hypothesis, it can still be considered a valuable experiment.
When compiling all of the videos took longer than expected, Mr. B. made a preview video as well as a couple other Science Fair–related videos to keep parents in a state of eager anticipation.
Now, let’s get to the real deal!
Third and Fourth Grade Projects
These March-Mad Scientists were clearly inspired by their inventive hypotheses and pursued answers to their problems with tenacity and vim! Mr. B. says that he was very impressed with the 3rd- and 4th-grade projects.
The stand-out in this group was a project on Mask Effectiveness—very topical!
Sixth through Eighth-Grade Projects
The stand-out in this group was the project on Water Filtration.
As the independent and dependent variables varied, and the hypotheses were proved or disproved, in addition to following the tenets of study design, students also had to evaluate their work to determine how they could eliminate any confounders next time around.
As you can see, topics ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology to psychology, ecology, and economics, to robotics and engineering. These students are clearly mad for science, thanks in no small part to Mr. B.’s enthusiasm and commitment to the subject!
We leave you with these two words: Elephant. Toothpaste.
A brand-new school year brings changes, including welcoming new members to The New Century School community. It’s no exaggeration to say that this year brought more changes than normal, but it’s also true that TNCS has made sure these changes are the good kind.
Enter Robert Brosius, who teaches English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies to 3rd- and 4th-graders and Science to 3rd- through 8th-graders.
Meet Rob Brosius!
Mr. Brosius hails from Queens in New York City, from a storied neighborhood called Middle Village, which he describes as originally being built on a swamp that was later drained and turned into park areas. He came to Baltimore in 2008 to attend Loyola University then moved here permanently in 2012 after graduation. “I enjoy being in Baltimore more than being in New York,” he says. “Although New York has its flair and chaos, Baltimore allows me to slow down and process what’s going on around me. It’s a more community-oriented town.”
At Loyola, Mr. Brosius studied Biology and was a pre-med student for a while (he changed course a bit to go into more of the research side of things). He also minored in Chemistry as well as Italian Studies. This “Renaissance Man” is, in fact, half Italian (and German) and spent 4 months living in Rome in a Study Abroad program. He says his reason for pursuing this experience was to connect with his family roots and—of course—the food. “Who can argue with basil and tomato sauce?” he joked.
Road to Teaching
“My path to becoming an educator was interesting to say the least,” said Mr. Brosius. His first experience was at Loyola helping to set up and stock the teaching labs there and supervising and advising 15 work/study students. (He also liked taking care of the lab plants and animals.)
He then worked at TALMAR Horticultural Therapy Center, with TALMAR being an acronym for Therapeutic Alternatives Maryland. Their mission is to “. . . offer an innovative, therapeutic environment in which to provide work skills development, and vocational, educational and recreational programming in horticulture and agriculture.” Mr. Brosius explains that grant-funded TALMAR started out as primarily a greenhouse-oriented florist and then got more into horticultural therapy over the years. He taught farming techniques to high-schoolers and college students but was primarily involved in managing vegetable, flower, and egg production. When TALMAR pivoted to programming for adult military veterans, Mr. Brosius realized he preferred working with younger students. “The adults were great, but I felt like I could use my talents more effectively with kids.”
From there, he sought a formal teaching job and wound up with a position at The Wilkes School, where he taught Math for 4 years to 2nd- through 5th-graders and earned his 90-hour teaching certificate along the way. He also helped out with the aftercare program, leading a Dungeons and Dragons–style club and exploring basic game theory. During the summer of 2019, he also ran a program for the Rosemont Community Interfaith Coalition, which he describes as both a very challenging job and one of his greatest learning experiences. “It was difficult to engage 50 kids ranging in age from 4 to 13 all at the same time,” he says. “But it made me really evaluate what education is and how to balance their academic and physical education. I figured out a lot of my classroom management style from that experience.” Some tools he brought to TNCS include call and repeat exercises. “You make a basic rhythm or beat, and you set the expectation that if you produce a beat, such as by clapping, the student will return that beat to you,” he explained. Another trick he picked up was moving groups of students safely from place to place, something that will come in handy on TNCS’s urban campus. “These skills are invaluable in the teacher’s toolbelt!” he said.
After his summer directorship ended, he returned to Wilkes, but COVID-19 came along, and, sadly, the school was forced to close. His boss, though, kindly introduced him to TNCS, after attending an independent schools professional development program and meeting TNCS Co-Executive Directors there.
Welcome to TNCS, Rob!
And that’s how it happened! Mr. Brosius joined TNCS in the summer to help out first with facilities upkeep and then running an art and science camp. “And now we’re moving and grooving!” he said. “I even taught tai chi to my classes today!”
Mr. Brosius can claim a very special first at TNCS—his classes take place on stage, even his 3rd/4th homeroom. He has seven in-person students and another eight participating virtually in his homeroom. He’s very comfortable with the small class size, being something Wilkes had in common with TNCS. He likes to be able to individualize instruction.
“The year is going great,” said Mr. Brosius. “The students are following the social distancing protocols, and the technological aspect has been pretty smooth for the most part. At first there were some difficulties, but I’ve learned to switch between different cameras and when to mute, so that’s going extremely well now.” He also appreciates the curriculum and how organized everything has been. Some aspects remain unknown, such as how to adjust when the weather turns cold. For now, students are comfortable eating lunch outside and otherwise getting lots of outdoor time. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” he says. “I have a lot of confidence in this group of kids. They’re very bright and can rise to the challenge. Some luck wouldn’t hurt, either.”
Form and Function Junction
As mentioned, Mr. Brosius’s specialty is science. As science teacher, his mantra is, “environment equals form; form equals function.” He elaborates:
In any particular environment, you’re most likely going to find things that are suited for that environment, which creates the form. Then the form helps determine what the function is—although it really works both ways. But through the evolutionary process, plants and animals and other organisms exist in the way they do because they were brought up in the environment and evolve in the environment they are best suited for. For the most part, you can learn a lot about an organism’s function based on what it looks like.
His approach in the classroom is not only underpinned by science, it’s also lively and fun. “I try to incorporate music a lot and sing songs. Sometimes I play the piano, and the kids get a kick out of that.”
Is it starting to sound like Mr. Brosius is particularly well-suited for the TNCS environment? “I love teaching. It’s just one of those things that comes naturally to me,” he said. Form equals function, indeed.
Psst—some virtual extracurricular offerings might be forthcoming from his general direction. . . don’t tell the kids, but he might sneak some math and science concepts in. #CouldYouBeOurHealer?
Now that summer has unofficially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2019–2020 school year with its annual Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 5th. 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. In other words, students have had 2 weeks to acclimate—now it’s our turn! However, many parents were not able to attend, so this post will outline some of the more important bits of information you’ll need to get ensure a great year ahead.
As TNCS enters its 10th 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 continuing to grow the student body.
An overview of tips and policies is given here, and specific documents can also be downloaded accessed via the TNCS Parent Hub (as well as Blackbaud—see more info below).
Welcome to the 2019–2020 School Year!
The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Shara Khon Duncan warmly welcoming parents, new and returning: “It’s nice to see all of your faces again—welcome,” she began. She next introduced the new staff and elementary and middle school teachers, who then returned to their classrooms to prepare for the group breakouts by division. (Immersed will profile Suzannah Hopkins, Admissions; Lindsey Sandkuhler, K–1; Loretta Lee, 2–3; and Daphnee Hope, 7–8 in the annual “Meet the Teacher” series so you can get to know them better.) Chef Danielle provided tasty refreshments for attendees.
Sra. Duncan then addressed the parent audience and presented four primary points about this school year at TNCS.
Blackbaud Comes to TNCS
Never fear, it’s not a swashbuckling pirate! Blackbaud is a brand-new student information platform rolling out for the new school year. Led by Sra. Duncan, TNCS had been on a quest for an effective, efficient system for more than a year, and Blackbaud rose to the top after a thorough vetting process. Said Sra. Duncan,”with a student information system, we should be able to get information about a student; make queries within the database; and, most importantly, we should be able to communicate with families.” Sra. Duncan gave well-deserved props to Karin Cintron for setting up Blackbaud and getting it out to parents.
In addition to everything Blackbaud will make easier to accomplish from an administrative perspective, like admissions, re-enrollment, and so on, the parent experience will be greatly enhanced as well. The system houses class pages, an interactive calendar, community groups for networking (e.g., class parents, Parent Council, volunteering), resource boards, a newsfeed, links to Family ID and other sites, and more. Throughout this school year and as parents get familiar with it, Blackbaud will become the go-to for just about everything school related. “No more digging back through emails to find out what concert attire is supposed to be,” said Sr. Duncan. “It’ll all be there for you in one convenient location.”
The rollout will continue in a piecemeal fashion, as TNCS administration recognizes that too much change all at once can be overwhelming. This initiative is to help make school processes easier, after all. “I really want everyone to buy in to Blackbaud as our primary communications tool,” said Sra. Duncan. “However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t email a teacher—please continue to do so. Blackbaud is more for our school-wide points of business.”
Communication: It’s Not Just Talk
Speaking of communication, this brings us to Sra. Duncan’s second topic. “Last year was my first year as Head of School, and I learned a lot. One thing was the importance of communication. I really want to beef up communication with parents, but that’s a two-way endeavor.” She urges parents to speak up when they have a concern, not to wait around and let a situation get out of hand or cause bad feelings. “If something’s bothering you, please let us know,” she said. “It’s better for all of us if we can address a problem from the outset and possibly make a difference. You’re not bugging us—these are your children. We’re supposed to be working together.”
Sra. Duncan has a way of getting to the heart of a matter! Keep the lines of communication open through emails, phone-calls, conferences . . . but preferably not during drop-off.
Carline: Ins and Outs
And that brings us to the third topic of the evening: drop-off and pick-up. The most important take-away here is safety. There are children and adults walking about, and their safety is paramount. The carline is a wonderfully convenience for parents, but it only works the way it’s supposed to when everyone follows the rules.
Drivers:The speed limit is 5 mph. Not any higher for any reason. Please obey the traffic directors and their signals.
Walkers:Use crosswalks–don’t walk through the parking lot! Drivers are obeying traffic directors and might not see you. The directors themselves might not see you. Do yourself and your child a favor and use the crosswalks!
Double parking:Don’t do it! You might get ticketed, as police officers are really cracking down on that this year. It also causes numerous circulation problems and causes frustration for TNCS’s neighbors. What is double parking? It can mean temporarily parking next to a legally parked car and leaving your car with the hazard lights on, but it also applies to leaving your car at all anywhere on the street that isn’t a designated parking spot. “It gums up the system,” said Sra. Duncan.
Obey traffic laws:For example, avoid blocking the intersection of Ann and Aliceanna streets.
You may have noticed that Sra. Duncan is no longer directing exiting traffic. Unfortunately, not to mention unacceptably, she was nearly hit three times last year and is not willing to repeat that risk. “I love my life,” she said, “and I would love to continue being Head of The New Century School with my legs intact.”
“I don’t know of any school that has a carline that everyone likes,” said Sra. Duncan, “and it never goes perfectly. But, we all have to work together. We are doing the best that we can to get the students out of the school buildings and into your cars. So, your patience is really important and appreciated.”
Grades Get Real
“I saw way too many high grades last year,” began Sra. Duncan. “While you might think, ‘great—that’s awesome!’, it’s really not. High grades are great only if they are truly earned.” So, she met with teachers to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what the grades mean. How are children earning their As, Es, and 1s? Indiscriminately serving out high grades now will not serve students well when they move on to high school, and reality sets in. “One, we’re not setting our students up for success with this approach,” continued Sra. Duncan, “and two, we certainly don’t want to get the reputation that we inflate grades.” She also pointed out that students will not try harder if they have already achieved the pinnacle of success. “They need room to grow, something to work toward. There’s room to grow in a B, and it means that teachers will be working with your child in those specific areas.”
“Please don’t panic if you see some honest grades come home. We really want to do what’s best for our students.” Inflate gate deflated! Homeroom teachers will provide more information on grading rubrics.
And that was the gist of Back-to-School Night. More homeroom-specific information will be communicated by teachers, via Blackbaud, and from Class Parents. Enjoy your school year!
In the past couple of weeks at The New Century School, 4th- through 8th-graders explored a very special new mini-unit in science—robotics. Robotics is the interdisciplinary branch of technology involving the design, construction, operation, and application of automatons (you know, robots). It integrates mechanical, electronic, and information engineering as well as computer science for the development of ‘bots in addition to the computer systems that control them, captures their sensory feedback, and processes the information they gather.
Benefits of Robotics Class
Cool, right? Even cooler in school, right? You bet your motherboard. Robotics in education is one way that schools can prepare this generation for a (near) future in which technology is ubiquitous and, frankly, has already changed the way we do almost everything, almost everywhere. (“Siri, look up the history of robotics.” “Alexa, play some background techno.”) Students are going to need to be prepared in adult life with the programming and other skills required to . . . pilot a spacecraft to Mars, say.
Much more importantly, though, is how robotics gets students really thinking creatively—from designing their ‘bot to building it—this baby is all theirs, and the level of concentration they bring to executing their ideas is a testament to how engaged they are. Speaking of concentration, research shows that hands-on learning activities (like robotics) actually enhance concentration and attention levels. And then there’s the perseverance that robotics demands. Problem-solving and trouble-shooting through any obstacles along the way helps students develop determination. There’s a built-in payoff after all—if they work through their frustration and maintain a mindset of try, try again, they get a working robot out of the deal!
Depending on the particular activity, collaboration and teamwork—two more super buzzwords—might also come into play.
That’s where TNCS dad Travis Hardaway enters the picture. “I’ve been building a robotic lawnmower since last fall because we have a very steep and dangerous hill to mow,” he explained. “Last summer I rolled my John Deer and decided I’d see if I could come up with a different approach to cutting the grass. Both of my children have taken an interest in watching my progress, and we’ve gone to several classes at The Foundry (which has sadly closed down) in 3D printing, laser carving, and other things.”
So, he brought his ideas to Mrs. Sharma’s middle school science class to see what the 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-graders would do when handed a soldering iron! “Robotics is an important and growing field and will play an increasingly bigger part in our lives in day-to-day interactions, and other unseen ways,” said Mr. Hardaway. “I believe that robotics now is in a similar state to computers in the 80s and early 90s, and kids who get involved early on will be in a position to help shape the field. Robotics is also great for kids because they get to make physical things and learn about fundamental electronic principals.”
DFRobot, the company who makes the kits Mr. Hardaway used says this of its product:
Meet Mr. NEON, the light chaser beam robot that can help kids or novice electronic enthusiasts learn about things like soldering and simple knowledge of circuit. Mr NEON is designed to look like a three-leg monster whose eyes or tentacles glow in accordance with ambient light level. The stronger the light is, the faster it moves. There is no programming involved and all soldering is intuitive and rookie-friendly. So it is perfect for novice electronic enthusiast. Also you can give Mr. NEON different face through changing the expression stickers.
The middle school session was such a huge success that Mr. Hardaway returned to do a session with the 4th- and 5th-graders. This time, though, he says, “I thought I might solder the transistors in place beforehand to save time and give the younger students a greater chance of success.”
When asked what prompted him to take on such an ambitious project with TNCS students, given that his “real job” is in the field of music, he replied in this way:
I don’t have an education in robotics or electronics, but I’ve been taking things apart and tinkering for my entire life. I got a BigTrak when I was a kid for Christmas and spent hours programming it to drive around our house. In high school, I was interested in both music and computers, and, although I took the AP in computer science and did several summer internships, much to my parents dismay, I chose to pursue a degree and career in music. While I haven’t tried to tie music and robotics together yet, it is appealing. When I was teaching at Hopkins, I did have my students invent their own electronic instruments to perform on, and they came up with some pretty clever ideas.
And his impression of the experience?
It was a lot of fun! The experience at TNCS was fantastic and exhausting. I learned a lot about working with younger kids in the classroom. I was really impressed with how quickly they picked everything up. Some of them didn’t follow the instructions exactly and had to improvise, but they came up with interesting adaptations. Not every robot worked, but there is a lesson in that, too, and they had a great attitude about failure, which is definitely a possibility when you are building something for the first time.
A lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March—no brackets needed—but perhaps no event is more anticipated than the annual Science Fair. This year’s projects by TNCS 4th- through 8th-graders were hand’s down the best yet, remarkable for their creativity and all-around innovation.
So, can a human kill a megalodon underwater?
These March-Mad Scientists were clearly inspired by their inventive hypotheses and pursued answers to their problems with tenacity and vim! TNCS Science teacher Nameeta Sharma deemed “the budding scientists with their proud presentations” a success and thanked families for taking out time to attend the event on March 13th.
An important part of Science Fair at TNCS is that students must present their projects to any interested party who approaches. They must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the science underpinning the project as well as the process that got them to their conclusions—the Scientific Method.
Parents and family members were invited to join as well as Kindergarteners and TNCS faculty and administrators! Head of School Shara Khon Duncan said, “I loved the enthusiasm with which the students shared their projects with their parents and visitors. You could tell that they were proud of their work!” Mrs. Sharma also remarked on the enthusiasm she saw in her students.
As the ice melted, the balls bounced, the mixtures mixed, in addition to following the tenets of the Scientific Method, students also had to evaluate their work to determine how they could eliminate any confounders next time around.
Of course all students worked diligently on their projects (and, thanks, TNCS—all work was done during school hours so they had no excuse not to!), but some projects stood out, whether for the idea itself, the artful presentation, or the enthusiasm of the budding scientist. Mrs. Sharma, who invoked Neil Degrasse Tyson, saying “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” as the spirit of this year’s Science Fair, found these lines of inquiry to be quite interesting:
Does the rate of electrolysis increase with table salt or baking soda?
What is the specific heat of different liquids?
Which salt works best in melting snow (or ice)?
Which compound/salt would work well in an ice pack?
Which basketball (indoor or outdoor) bounces highest?
How does anxiety affect memory at different ages?
Does age of children affect the bacteria found in their hands?
Does music help in the growth of plants?
Does activated charcoal help in water filtration?
Which soap extracts the most DNA from a strawberry and a tomato?
Which vinegar dissolves eggshell fastest?
Topics ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology to psychology, ecology, and economics, to robotics and engineering. Immersed presents the visual highlights here, in alphabetical order.