TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night: Your Source for Need-to-Know Info for the 2019–2020 Academic Year!

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 teachtncs-back-to-school-night-2017ers, 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.IMG_2827 copy

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.

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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!

American Music Camp Keeps the Beat for Third Year Running at TNCS!

The New Century School has made quite a reputation for excellent music education. Summer 2019 closed with the third annual American Music Camp (AMC), formerly known as AMS-Baltimore, led by Camp Director Yoshiaki Horiguchi “fondly known as “Mr. Yoshi.”american-music-camp-at-tncs

Here’s the thing about AMC—it needs to  be seen and heard to be believed. Returning campers and new recruits alike took their music-making abilities to new levels and, most importantly, they had so much fun doing it. The point of AMC, after all, besides exposing younger generations to America’s rich musical heritage (AMC is sometimes referred to as “fiddle camp”), is to help them get comfortable making music, to let loose and jam, to give something different a try, to collaborate in new ways.

And, it works!

Mr. Yoshi was quick to comment, though, that TNCS itself gets credit for some of the magic: “Thank you to the staff of The New Century School and this wonderful facility,” he said. “This camp would be so different if it were anywhere else. So thank you for making it possible.”

So much can be said of AMC and its origins, and Immersed encourages readers to visit 2017’s American Music System Summer Camp at TNCS! and 2018’s AMS-Baltimore Enjoys Second Amazing Year at TNCS! for more background, but this year’s post will focus on what happened at TNCS from August 12th through August 16th. Because it truly is magical and speaks for itself.

So, enjoy! Oh wait—one more thing—AMC included mandolin for the first time this year, instruments courtesy of Laura Norris’s Mando for Kids Baltimore Chapter!

Jam and Bucket Drum Classes

Each day followed a similar structure, with students doing music lessons, taking specialty jam and bucket drum classes, doing recitals, and also getting lots of time to play games and run around.

This is Jam Class. You may recognize returning camp instructor Melissa Tong, back for her third year from New York, New York.

Mind you, that’s just a taste. Visit TNCS’s YouTube channel for more videos of Jam Class, including “Havana”!

This is Bucket Band. Remember camp instructor Rob Flax?  He joined us for the third year running from Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Yoshi thanked both Rob and Melissa for taking a week out of their busy performance schedules to join AMC camp. Cellist Zoe Bell also helped out this year.

Recitals

Now things get really interesting. Each morning when campers arrived at AMC Camp, they were given the opportunity to join up in bands. They agreed on their formats and then told camp instructors their band name and what tunes they’d be a’playin’. Here are Thursday’s bands.

Thirsty for more? Once again, visit TNCS’s YouTube channel for more recital videos by such awesome chart-toppers as The Chicken Noodle Soup!

On Friday’s recital, attended by some other TNCS camp-goers, bands posed for band shots (hover over the image to see their band names). For their songs, visit, you guessed it, TNCS’s YouTube channel!

Final Performance

And now, for the culmination of the marvelous week of music-making—the final performance!

“I’m a firm believer,” said Mr. Yoshi. . .

. . . that all of the life lessons you need for living in a health, happy community are all things you can learn from being in music camp, whether it’s getting a group of people together and collaborating on a tune to play in a recital or getting up on stage, conquering your fears, and presenting yourself or being able to improvise when life throws seemingly random curveballs and being able to respond appropriately for the benefit of all  the people around you. So thank you parents and students for being a part of this week.

More final performance videos can be found at TNCS’s YouTube channel, and you won’t want to miss them! Let’s face it, it’s going to be a long wait for AMC Number Four in Summer 2020! Can’t wait to see you there!
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Musical Theatre Camp 2019 Welcomed Some Very Special Visitors!

The New Century School is special for a great number of reasons, and several of those reasons come together in this week’s Immersed. To start with, TNCS offers hands-down the city’s most varied and exciting lineup of summer camps, and Musical Theatre camp led by the always marvelous Martellies Warren is a perennial favorite. Then there’s all that goes into what makes such a camp so effective and so wonderful for young learners—the arts, the music-making, the mixed ages collaborating so beautifully! Not to mention skills relating to the camp  theme! But there’s one extra-special aspect to this year’s Musical Theatre camp that elevated it even further: four attendees from China joined the fun!

Meet Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex!

“Mike” (Zimo Han), age 11, is from Hunan. “Jane” (Xinyi Ma), age 11, and “Coco” (Jiarui Sunn), age 9, both live in Beijing. “Alex” (Qinghua Shang), age 6, is from Tianjin. The group was in Baltimore for 1 week, after which they headed to New York, NY for 4 days of sightseeing (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, etc.). It was everybody’s first visit to the United States. Mike and Jane were accompanied by their mothers (Aili Mao and Jing Li), and Alex was accompanied by both his mother and grandmother (Yu Zhang and Aixian Zhang). The group also had a “handler” of sorts from the Harvest Company of China to help facilitate activities and make sure everyone was comfortable. They stayed in two furnished Baltimore row houses in the Bolton Hill neighborhood and enjoyed having three spacious floors of living space to run around in. Their evenings after camp were mostly spent relaxing at home, playing chess and other boardgames and watching tv—they even learned the idiom, “to click around” when referring to not watching anything in particular but channel surfing. The adults in their party cooked breakfast for them each day, but they had plenty of opportunity to eat their favorite food—pizza! Lunches and dinners were often enjoyed out at restaurants.

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The kids spoke wonderful English as a result of lessons in school, but they also appreciated the chance to speak Mandarin Chinese with TNCS students. They reported having a great time and made lots of friends at camp. Back at home in China, their hobbies included playing basketball (Mike), drawing (Alex), reading (Jane), and figure skating (Coco). See some of their other talents below! While the kids were in camp, the adults did some sightseeing around town, taking in Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Library, for example, as well as visiting the Naval Academy in Annapolis and getting some shopping in at Arundel Mills Mall. A Target run was also de rigueur!

Behind the Scenes

Because Peter and the Wolf only has a handful of roles, the 25 total campers took on roles as a group, so, for example, the character of “Duck” was actually four campers. Campers ranged in age from rising 1st-graders to rising 7th-graders, and they hailed not from just China and TNCS but from schools all over the city like Patterson Park Public Charter School, Hampstead Hill Academy, St. Casimir’s, and the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Helping Mr. Warren lead camp was intern Carrie, who came to TNCS from China in early July and will stay for 1 year.

They learned important technical skills like stage blocking related to being part of a musical theatre production. Mr. Warren reported that they had the whole performance mapped out on the first day and so were able to devote their remaining days to rehearsing. After each rehearsal, Mr. Warren provided some debriefing notes for each group.

Comments like, “Wolves, wonderful job today! You were in time with the music, and you have amazing music to play off of!” and “Remember AIC? Always in character!” were common. The performers themselves likewise offered suggestions for how to improve a certain scene, like “Grandpa(s) should hang their heads and look disappointed in Peter.”

As per usual, campers made art to decorate the stage front. These are stunning!

They also crafted props and costumes and made great use of the Imagination Playground for set pieces.

The Play Is the Thing!

Mr. Warren introduced the performance and vowed not to interfere but to let his pros handle anything that came up. “They did an amazing job acting and putting up with my silliness,” he said. “It was wonderful!”

And now, we present Peter and the  Wolf, in its entirety!

Farewell, Friends!

On the last day of camp, after the performance of Peter and the Wolf, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex treated the audience to some performances of their own.

They were also presented with Certificates of Participation in their English language immersion camp.

The adults who accompanied them were thrilled by the whole experience and were kind enough to share some of their impressions of the program. Alex’s mother is an English translation teacher at a college in Tianjin. Mike’s mother both promotes literacy and runs an Adidas store in Hunan. She also takes her job as mother very seriously and was very happy to be able to spend mornings with her son, here in Baltimore, cooking special meals. Jane’s mother is also in education.

They had various reasons for wanting their children to attend camp at TNCS. They wanted the authentic experience of a customized trip and did not want to be stuck on tours such as what a typical travel agency would offer. They wanted the flexibility to be able to have their possibly changing needs met, as Mike’s mom described it. They also wanted the chance to practice their English. Furthermore, their children tended to be shy, they reported, and they were hoping that an immersion summer camp might bring them out a bit. An ancillary reason is that they were very curious about immersion-style learning itself, which is quite rare in China. “The way you teach students and the way you live so freely is totally different from China. It really impressed me,” said Alex’s mother.

At TNCS Musical Theatre camp, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex were doubly immersed, in a sense, because they also had to get comfortable being on stage and making new friends. For this, the adults were beyond grateful. They saw their children bravely trying new things and quickly becoming comfortable doing so. “I still remember the first day Alex went to school,” said his mom, “and when he came back home he told me he didn’t want to go again because he was too nervous. The next day he came back and something had changed. He tried his best to join the class, and he was so happy from then on.”

Jane had a lovely time, too. She wrote a letter to her friends back home completely in English, which made her mother very proud. She was having so much fun with them that she stayed up late to make gifts for them. “She really cherishes the friendships she has made,” said her mom.

Normally very independent Coco experienced some homesickness at first but quickly adapted and returned to her gregarious, social self.

Jane’s mom mentioned that she noticed a big change in all four of the children after their week at camp. At first they were reticent, but they very quickly embraced the experience and were livelier than she had ever seen.

Mike’s mom’s nicest surprise was the Orient Express restaurant owned by a TNCS family. She said the Chinese food there was better than what she can get in China!

Alex’s grandmother was most taken with the arrangement itself. She appreciated being able to learn from the trip on their jaunts, while the children were having such a rich immersion experience. She also enjoyed feeling so welcome and commented on how friendly and thoughtful everyone has been. Monica Li got an especially warm compliment for all she did to make their time comfortable and smooth. Monica is indispensable to TNCS!

On their last evening in Baltimore, they were going to Tokyo Seafood Buffet, where they would be trying their first taste of Maryland blue crab. We miss them all already and hope they remember TNCS and Charm City fondly, as we will hold them dear as well!

 

TNCS Summer Theatre Campers Embrace The Bard!

From July 15th through 19th, The New Century School welcomed back annual guest instructor Alex Hewett, who led the first TNCS Shakespeare Camp! Ms. Hewett is a TNCS favorite and has taught many aspects of drama, including scenes from various Shakespeare plays, to TNCS students through the years. (You can see some of her past camps and workshops here, here, here, and here.) but this year is special for being dedicated to one of the Bard’s plays. Currently, Ms Hewett is a Teaching Artist at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC).

A Midsummer Dream Camp at TNCS!

We know what you’re thinking—Shakespeare?! For kids?! Ms. Hewett’s answer is a resounding yes. Nevertheless, with a mixed-age group, she had to be strategic. Interestingly, all of the campers are either going into 2nd grade or 5th grade, so she paired them up, younger with older. It worked like a charm!

I started with Puck’s monologue to see how we did with that, and then determined which abridged version of the play with how many lines we could get through in 1 week. I don’t like dumbing down things, but in order for us to get this done, I went with The 10-Minute or So A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘creatively edited by’ Brendan Kelso. It keeps the integrity of some of the text and definitely keeps the overall feel. It brings in some colloquial language, too, which helps the kids’ understanding.

Besides, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has fairies—very mischievous fairies at that—and lots of laughs. You don’t have to be a scholar to find the Rude Mechanicals funny! That’s not to mention Bottom in donkey form. Even more importantly, the play is about love, and camp centered on that theme. Ms. Hewett says:

Even though Shakespeare’s stories are hundreds of years old, the feelings that the characters have, whether heir kings or peasants, are the same feelings that we have today. We have love, we have disappointment . . . we have sadness and grief. His stories transcend any time period and any culture because we’re all human. The story plots are also relatively simple—someone loves someone else, but the love is not reciprocated; someone wants to have power but somebody else in charge. I particularly love A Midsummer Night’s Dream because it’s magical, and I think kids really relate to that.

She was joined by Amy Hechtzizes, who hadn’t worked with elementary age children in a while but found the experience “difficult and hilarious and awesome”! (Sounds about right.) The two met at a women’s theatre ensemble workshop at The Strand theatre. Costuming help came from artist Liz Swanson. The campers themselves came from schools all over the city in addition to TNCS, including Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA), Patterson Park Public Charter School (PPPCS), and St. Casimir’s. They contributed some lovely drawings on theme to decorate the stage. Props were fashioned out of Imagination Playground materials—those trees (see videos below) are works of art!

Hello, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company!

Midweek, as a reward for all of their hard work, the group of budding thespians got quite a treat—a field trip to the CSC’s theatre in downtown Baltimore! Led by Studio Director, Gerrad Alex Taylor, they toured the theatre, getting to see all areas, including backstage and the gasp-inducing armory . . . all those swords! Go ahead—ask your kids what orchestra, mezzanine, and second mezzanine are! They can also probably clue you in as to how the Green Room got its name. Back in Shakespeare’s day, backstage was outdoors, so unless they were on stage, actors were passing the time until they were needed outside “on the green.”  Some of the important directorial considerations he shared with them included how to stage the play so that the actors can engage all of the audience, even those they may not be directly facing.

Mr. Taylor is also an actor in the company. One of his favorite recent parts with CSC was the rebel Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, because he got to “throw a table” in that volatile role. He also acts in Washington, D.C. and has taught drama at HHA. The tour ended with a Q&A with Mr. Taylor. Then, to top it all off, they borrowed costumes and got to rehearse on the CSC stage!

The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth!

But this special production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream sure did! (Okay, there was one casualty in the form of a pair of unfortunate sunglasses.) Back at TNCS, the last day of camp meant that families were invited to come for a performance.

Want more? You can see additional videos including the full rehearsal at CSC on our TNCS YouTube channel—while you’re there, please consider subscribing!

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TNCS Primary Classes Engage in Some High Drama!

For the last year, primary teacher Maria Mosby has hosted special drama workshops for her students at The New Century School. Young children are especially keen for experiences that challenge and inspire them in an interactive way, and theatre provides the ideal arena for such activities. Importantly, being on or behind stage also allows children free rein to be creative and to express themselves.

A Year of Acting Out

So, while she was in teacher training, Ms. Mosby met a drama teacher and actor named John Waldron who also teaches preschool and lower elementary children, and they have remained friends in the succeeding years. Last June, Mr. Waldron offered to come to TNCS and do one of his classes as a fun, end-of-year activity for Ms. Mosby’s students. “It lasted over an hour because they were so intrigued,” said Ms. Mosby. “So we decided to invite him back this year to do quarterly classes with the children.”

For the 2018–2019 school year, the quarterly classes expanded to include all primary students, and their enthusiasm for Mr. Waldron’s drama class has not flagged! Says Ms. Mosby: “The children love it! The warm-ups, improvisational games, and opportunities to not only act out stories but also express their creativity really keeps them involved. There is no need to say, ‘Please sit still and pay attention to the presentation.’ They usually ask for more.”

According to his bio, “[Mr. Waldron] specializes and trains in improvisational theatre. The games and activities he includes in his workshops help promote active listening, creativity, team building, and social interaction.”

Although drama/theatre does not a specific connection to the Montessori method per se, it’s a logical fit. “Dr. Montessori did encourage children to use their own imaginations (once they had a solid foundation in reality) to create,” explained Ms. Mosby. “This is what the children are doing in a way.” She also explained that Dr. Montessori observed that children’s creativity and self-expression seems to blossom around the age of 6 or 7 years. However, it’s clear that even the youngest TNCS primary students were fully engaged in Mr. Waldon’s classes. He does capture an audience! And that’s no surprise, given his background. He earned a BFA in theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been involved in teaching, directing, and performing for over 20 years. He currently teaches drama to lower elementary students at a Montessori school in Falls Church, VA. He also teaches students through high school age as well as adults.

For the culminating class that happened May 28th, Mr. Waldron pulled out all the stops. The students performed a play, sang songs, danced, and “wrote” their own play. Ms. Mosby said she especially enjoyed this one. “This presentation was something new that I hadn’t seen him do before, and I am always impressed with how he captures the children’s attention and cooperation without really any need for assistance from me or any disciplinary tactics,” she said.

The play they performed was “The Sixteen Little Pigs,” and if that sounds familiar, it’s because instead of limiting it to 3, each student got to be one of the house-builders in the classic tale.

Guess who played the wolf, to much audience appreciation?

But they liked him crying even better!

In a plot twist, however, empathy and compassion win the day, and everybody gets their “just desserts.”

Sorry, for this next one we have no words . . .

Why did the wolf get a happy ending, again?

Then it was fun-on-stage time!

In “Emotional Orchestra,” a small group each represented “happy,” “sad,” and “surprised.” When pointed to or called on, the group acted out their emotion.

In the student-created play, the children made up stories by each adding a line, after which Mr. Waldron acted out the story the children put together.

TNCS primary students were truly fortunate to have had this experience. Mr. Waldron  has worked with students from ages 3 to 93. His has performed at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania with Classika/Synetic Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and National Theatre. He has also performed at Wolf Trap for the International Children’s Theatre. “These experiences have helped him form a unique approach to introducing young performers to theatre and acting,” his bio states

What’s Next?

In the near future, Ms. Mosby reports that Mr. Waldron may soon be directing Maria Montessori, the Musical. We won’t want to miss that—hopefully it’s a traveling show!

For TNCS specifically, Ms. Mosby approached the upper elementary and middle school teachers about possibly doing some Latin and Shakespearean plays next year. Mr. Waldron also holds regular classes at the Little Theatre of Alexandria as well summer camps for 3rd- through 8th-graders. This year’s lineup in include Skits A Rama, Heroes and Villains, Mystery Improv: WhoDunnit?!, Improv-alooza, Screen to Stage, and Mythological Madness.

TNCS Middle School Students Go to Town on Chinese Culture and Communication!

On Monday, May 20th, middle schoolers at The New Century School took a very special jaunt to Washington, D.C.—they went on a Chinese field trip! The trip was organized and led by TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”), and middle school student whisperer Adriana DuPrau also accompanied the group.

Culture (and Communication) Club

“I really want students at our school to know more about Chinese culture as well as practice their Chinese in an authentic environment,” said Li Laoshi, and so off to D.C. they went! They first toured the Freer|Sackler Gallery of Asian art and then strolled through Chinatown and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Li Laoshi’s twofold objectives of culture and communication were thus perpetually being met.

download.jpgAnd with very good reason. If the point of teaching Mandarin Chinese to non-native students is for them to learn and use the language, those are two big factors in achieving proficiency. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), The five goal areas of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages establish an inextricable link between communication and culture, which is applied in making connections and comparisons and in using this competence to be part of local and global communities.” The five goal areas are also known as the “5 Cs“; download them here.)

ACTFL characterizes communication as, “. . . at the heart of second language study, whether the communication takes place face-to-face, in writing, or across centuries through the reading of literature.” At TNCS, Li Laoshi has always made sure that communication occurs in “real-life” situations to emphasize what students can do with language rather than what they know about a language, such as how many vocabulary words.

As for culture, ACTFL says, “Through the study of other languages, students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language and, in fact, cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs.” It’s knowledge. It’s not just a cultural event—it’s a connection between the language and another subject. TNCS students regularly engage in everything from Chinese cooking (dumplings, noodles, pancakes) to learning how to use an abacus, to practicing calligraphy. The field trip for middle schoolers brought a lot of these experiences home.

Chinese Art

As the national museums of Asian art at the Smithsonian Institute, “the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery preserve, exhibit, and interpret Asian art in ways that deepen our understanding of Asia, America, and the world.” TNCS students were treated to a private tour of the exhibit Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, 1644–1912, which “provides an insightful look into the public and private lives of imperial women during the Qing dynasty. This first-ever, in-depth exhibition focuses on five empresses to reveal their long-overlooked influence on the arts, religion, politics, and diplomacy of China.”

tncs-middle-schoolers-visit-chinatown-in-dcThe tour was extremely well constructed for students. The guides provided supplemental objects that students could actually touch. The girls in the group got a big kick out of being able to try on the long, gold, talon-like fingernail guards that the empresses used to wear—telling the world that they were far too imperial to work. Boys and girls alike were astonished by the slight size of a pair of silk shoes worn by wealthy Chinese woman who practiced foot-binding, and were equally relieved to learn that the Manchu women of the Qing dynasty did not partake in that cruel custom.

download-1Guides also provided interactive activities at regular intervals. For example, after viewing the empresses’ splendid and very elaborate wedding gowns, students were asked to design their own, incorporating some of the important symbols and colors that they had just learned about: Dragons represent imperial authority, fish represent fertility, and the lotus flower represents purity, to name a few. The phoenix was the most recurring symbol, as it represents empress, or queen. Likewise, the color yellow is the imperial color. Symbols like those shown above were also carved into frames and objets d’art.

 

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There were even clever riddles to solve!

1. What has the claws of a hawk
the horns of a deer
the eyes of a rabbit
the teeth of a tiger
the neck of a snake
the belly of a frog
the head of a camel
the scales of a fish?

Hint: The answer is also the symbol of imperial authority.

“The exhibition was awesome. The tour was very educational, and the tour guide was very knowledgeable,” said Li Laoshi.

2. What has the head of a golden pheasant
the body of a mandarin duck
the tail of a peacock
the legs of a crane
the mouth of a parrot
the wings of a swallow?

Hint: The answer is also the symbol for empress.

Chinatown

After a wonderful time at the museum, TNCS students got to walk around Chinatown a bit in the warm, pre-summer afternoon. So warm, in fact, that the Chinese Rita’s was all anyone could talk about!

 

While in Chinatown, the group stopped at Full Kee Restaurant for lunch. This was their chance to speak Mandarin in a real-life situation, and the middle schoolers were instructed that they had to at least order in Chinese as well as try to use as much additional conversational Chinese as they could. They did great, and even tried some new dishes. “I was very proud and touched when I watch my students use Chinese  for ordering food in the Chinese restaurant,” said Li Laoshi. She had one other request—that her students attempt to eat with chopsticks. Here is her tutorial in Mandarin:

Warning: Do not watch the slideshow below on an empty stomach! Delicious food photos ahead!

 

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Everyone had a wonderful experience, and it was a lovely way to close out the 2018–2019 school year and bid farewell to the graduating 8th-graders (sniff). To them, we say:

lets-get-in-touch_chinese-1

Wait—what? You still don’t know the answers to the riddles??? Okay, okay—here you go: 1. Lóng (龙) 2. Fènghuáng (凤凰). Happy now?

Meet the Art Teacher: Jia Liu Illustrates the Importance of Art at TNCS!

The New Century School got a new art teacher for the 2018–2019 school year. This is Jia Liu’s first year teaching at TNCS, but she has loads of experience both making and teaching art. She is from China, where she graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing with a BFA in Writing and Illustrating Picture Books in 2013. “There, I got really into picture books,” said Liu Laoshi. “While I was in school, I started teaching at the same time, around 2011, because, if I’m going to write stories for kids, I need to know them better. So, I started teaching at a children’s art center, and it turns out, I really like teaching kids!” At the same time, “teaching always inspires me to write and illustrate more picture books,” she said. A perfect synergy!

Art Student–Cum–Art Teacher

IMG_1737Liu Laoshi came to the United States in 2014 after graduating from CAFA in order to attend Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she majored in illustration with a personal focus on picture books. She also took art education classes to complement her teaching experience with the pedagogy that would allow her to teach here. “After I graduated from MICA in 2016 with an MFA, I started teaching at Baltimore public schools through the nonprofit organization Child First and at Walters Art Museum‘s drop-in weekend classes,” she explained. Although most of her friends moved to New York, she stayed in Baltimore, Hampden to be exact, because she fell in love with the quirky neighborhood. She attributes her excellent English to her time studying at MICA.

This is her first time teaching all grades including through middle school, and she is eager for the challenge. She wanted to teach at TNCS having heard about the school from a friend (TNCS’s former graphics designer Yiyun Chu) and being very interested in the concept of teaching core subjects in other languages. “I felt it’s perfect for me. I will be teaching mainly in English, but I’m looking forward to bringing in some Chinese,” she said.

Bilingual Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

Liu Laoshi has published two children’s books in China (with a group of classmates) in 2012, including “Water Monk”, and one here this past April. In 2019, she has two more coming out, including ““Bedtime for Beasties”, with others following in 2020 and 2021. “The Chinese picture book market is still very new, and most books are imported from other countries, ” she explained. However, if she can locate some copies of her Chinese books, she is excited to share them with her new TNCS students. In the meantime, they can read her English titles.

Check out her website at www.jia-liu.com to seeing more of her beautiful work, such as this lovely example below.A+tribe.jpg

It’s Going to Be a Great Year of Art!

Liu Laoshi has a strong conviction that at is good for children (and adults) and is committed to keeping the love of creativity alive in TNCS students both at school and throughout their lives.

I am really looking forward to getting to know the students at TNCS and inspiring them though my classes and work, and I hope to create a successful school year together. From my very first experience teaching, I noticed that kids gradually lose interest in art as they get older or lose confidence because they think they aren’t good at it. Although some people might have more talent than others, I think art is important for everyone. I always believe art is not only an aesthetic need, but also a very practical way of learning about ourselves and the world.

I have high expectations for each student. My goal is to create a safe learning environment, to keep all students interested in art, and improve their creativity though my class. We will be exploring different materials and art forms, as well as integrating art with STEM classes, to enhance their problem-solving skills, such as by exploring what materials they need to use to realize their vision, and provide them with more ways of understanding the world around us. Art has a lot of possibilities—in other words, I give them the assignment, but they figure out what approach will get them to the end result.

 

Currently, TNCS students are finishing up a paper mâché project that ties into the Global Studies Greek unit. Next, they will move on to projects about Rome that also integrate paper engineering (think mosaics!).

 

To parents and families, Liu Laoshi says: “Please remember that your thoughts, concerns, and questions are always important to me.”