TNCS’s Inaugural Spring Festival: By the TNCS Community, for the TNCS Community!

In a big first for The New Century School, Director of Student Support Alexis Boyd pulled off a next-to-impossible feat: the TNCS Spring Festival . . . in the school parking lot!

On Tuesday, April 18th, from age 2 right up through the 8th-graders, all TNCS students had an absolute blast. And, although Ms. Boyd had the heaviest lift in actualizing her “brain baby,” this was truly an event by the TNCS community, for the TNCS community. “I wanted to put together something both students and families could enjoy,” she said. It took a tremendous amount of logistics and planning, and there were a lot of moving parts to coordinate the morning of the event. But everyone chipped in and did their parts, including TNCS faculty and staff, families, and students.

Ms. Boyd says, “I want to give a huge shout out to Alicia Rojas, our volunteer coordinator, who really stepped up and supported me as I was trying to get all of our stations filled. It took a lot of manpower to make sure that this day went smoothly, from managing the staggered schedule to selling tickets and and wristbands to emptying the parking lot that is typically full and navigating drop-off without the typical carline. Students also helped out a lot by making posters and promoting the event.”

The festival included Mary’s Go-Round Petting Zoo, Sistahs’ Sweets food truck, a Kona Ice truck, a photo booth, a hot dog and snacks table, a bounce house, and all the games and activities students could want. Hands down, the favorite station was the petting zoo, which, says Ms. Boyd, will definitely be on the roster for next year. “I could not imagine not having my Tinkerbell there!”

Although she was able to spend a few quality moments with her favorite lamb, most of the day she was “running and ripping” to keep everything moving and everyone engaged.

The festival had morning and afternoon components: the preschoolers got the morning. TNCS parent Jennifer Arndt-Robinson was on hand for this portion, manning the photo booth:

This is a great new addition to the school’s lineup. It’s a wonderful way to get families out here enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and having some new adventures. The kids are loving everything and are really excited. My daughter has been talking about it for weeks! I’m helping families take photos at the photo booth and giving them memories and collecting some memories for the school.

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In the afternoon, classes of kindergarteners through middle schoolers attended in a staggered fashion.

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As alluded to above, this phenomenally successful festival is now going to be an annual tradition. Ms. Boyd says, “the students made it very clear that if they don’t have it next year they will feel a certain way. So, I plan to continue it and make it bigger and better than the year before.”

TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson shared Ms. Boyd’s vision of creating a festival that was more than just a way to have fun.

Is there a better way to welcome Spring than in the joyful arms of Community? I am convinced that the more often we gather, the stronger our bond becomes. I appreciate Ms. Boyd’s vision and ability to engage our entire student body with thoughtfulness and intention. Let’s also commend her bravery in bringing farm animals to the heart of Fells Point! Kudos to Ms. Boyd, her team of volunteers, and our TNCS families for all their efforts. From our 2-year-olds to our 8th graders, yesterday’s celebration of rebirth and renewal lit our path toward sunshine and good times in the coming weeks.

TNCS March STEM Madness 2023: That’s Science!

The month of March at The New Century School is a big one for STEM subjects. From Math Kangaroo to the STEM Expo, TNCS students are steeped in STEM!

It’s important to note right off that, at TNCS, the STEM Expo is a demonstration of scientific rigor, not a competition. Participation in the Expo is required for all students in grades K through 8. So, on Friday March 10th, TNCS students unveiled the projects they had been working on for several weeks for a packed house of attending families.

Scientific Method vs. Engineering Design Process

But let’s start from the beginning: developing their ideas. “For the younger grades, first we reviewed the differences between the scientific method and the engineering design process in an effort to help students better understand what makes a meaningful project,” explained TNCS science teacher Rob Brosius (“Mr. B.”). “We included in this discussion the nature of testable/measurable questions and the importance of isolating variables. For example, you can’t question which cookie tastes the best because you can’t generate numbers about that—it’s subjective.”

Even though middle schoolers were able to start right away, having learned this part already, a big part of Mr. B.’s job at this stage for all students is moderating expectations. Wanting his students to succeed (and to learn!) and work on a project they are really interested in, he gave the younger students a bunch of testable questions and asked them to choose a handful that attracted their interest. From there, they went on the Science Buddies website to search for a project that matched up with their question. Once a project was identified, Mr. B. helped students adapt it if necessary (e.g., if it was a little too complicated) in such a way that allowed them to work independently.

The next step in the process was listing and assembling materials. The TNCS science inventory is well stocked, and Mr. B. was also able to order needed supplies. “We try to reduce the amount of help given by families in an effort to help students feel more accomplished/confident and develop a better sense of independence,” he said. “This is an exciting time of the year for our students and the science program. We hope to help them explore their passions as they relate to scientific exploration.”

Robots, Drones, and … Kitty Litter?

Student projects ran the gamut, from building robots that moved in a straight line or spun in circles, to drones, to testing which kitty litter was most absorbent. (Surprise, surprise—it’s Target’s Up and Up brand!) “A lot of the younger students gravitated toward nature and chemistry, so we had some plants and animals and moldy bread projects,” said Mr. B. Moldy bread is, of course, a classic.

Older students, he explained, tend to have grander ideas that might not be entirely realistic to complete in the timeframe, so his goal there is to help them gain the knowledge that they would actually need to be successful. One student wanted to build an artificial pancreas, for example, recognizing that it was something that people would want to use. Mr. B. modified it so it was more on her level and has hopes she might return to it next year with increased knowledge and readiness. “That’s something I try to evaluate: ‘are there students who had projects they wanted to do but didn’t get to do?’ Because I can help them get ready to do it for the following year. At the end of the quarter, we put all the projects into a spreadsheet to keep track of what students do every year,” he said.

Science for Good

Although TNCS does not judge the projects, the requirements are similar to those of a standard science fair. Mr. B.’s goal with the STEM Expo for the younger students is to make sure they understand the scientific method and the engineering design process. For the older students, he encourages them to compete in external regional competitions that require increased dedication and attention to detail. And, even though no project was “judged,” a couple stood out for how well they fulfilled the project requirements. “One was from a student in the 2/3 class looking at whether the color of light affected the growth rate of mustard plants. The student put the seeds very carefully in a grid on wet paper towels, put colored cellophane over each, placed them all in plastic bags, and then left them in the sun to see what the germination rate would be and how much the stems would grow. She did all the research herself and to a standard I would consider 4/5 grade level,” he said, ” because it shows that she really understands the process as a whole and realizes that research is what leads you to any great science project.”

Another standout was from a middle schooler who wanted to make more eco-friendly, biodegradable ink. Mr. B. appreciated that project because it can be improved on through repeat testing.

I enjoy seeing students find projects that are practical and can actually solve or try to solve a real-world problem. That’s the epitome of a good science project: it’s something that if you presented this information to people they could replicate it and use it to help others or help themselves. Scientific exploration is very much about solving problems. We hope that by the end of this process students will feel a greater sense of community and a responsibility to help others. The goal is to help students become increasingly rooted in humanity, grounded in their intent, and focused in their dedication.


Feeling nostalgic for STEM? Visit past TNCS expos and science fairs below!

A Is for Ambitious Girls (and Boys!) at TNCS!

The New Century School loves to host special guests, from student and teacher cohorts from China; to artists, musicians, authors, and presenters; and even to the MD Secretary of State, TNCS exposes students to a wealth of art, ideas, and culture.

The latest in this long line of prestigious visitors is none other than lawyer, author, activist, producer, and founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, Meena Harris. Oh, and she also just happens to be the U.S. Vice President’s niece.

In partnership with Greedy Reads, Ms. Harris was invited to TNCS on March 16th to talk about her latest children’s book, A Is for Ambitious. This is her fourth book for children, a sequel to Ambitious Girl, about ambitious and spunky AG. Marissa Valdez is the visual mastermind behind AG.

This time, AG’s adventure takes place in a “fun and empowering picture book that reclaims words often used to undermine girls and women from A to Z. When they’re ready to take on the world, ambitious readers will have the vocabulary to do so.”

Other books include Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, inspired by her aunt and mother and The Truth About Mrs. Claus.

Some very lucky K/1 students in Ms. Longchamps’s classroom got to speak with Ms. Harris, and they clearly enjoyed this extra special story time! “The students were excited to meet Ms. Harris and learn about her journey to becoming an author,” said Ms. Longchamps. ” ‘Where do you get your ideas for books?’, ‘Do you ever write about your own experiences?’, and ‘How do I become an author?’ were all great questions they asked.”

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Students not only enjoyed themselves, however, but they also learned some very important concepts: “They loved reading along with Ms. Harris and learning about all the empowering new vocabulary in her book and applying it to their own lives and experiences. K/1 learned how words can make us feel powerful!,” said Ms. Longchamps.

Read: Meena Harris encourages girls to be ‘ambitious,’ ‘bossy’ and ‘confident’ in inspiring new book.

And, to keep the empowerment coming, check out this wonderful activity book by the publishing house that brought us AG, Little, Brown and Company.

Find books by Meena Harris and more at our wonderful neighboring bookseller, Greedy Reads!

Mr. Warren Goes to Washington!

And just like the 1939 film, this story is worthy of Hollywood!

You all know Martellies Warren as the beloved long-time educator at and Music Director of The New Century School. Many of you even know of his second career as a member of the three-time Grammy nominated Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy. But did you know that Mr. Warren just sang in person for President Biden and Vice President Harris?

In honor of Black History Month (and what a way to close it out!), Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy were rather suddenly invited to The White House to perform on Monday, February 27th, but they really don’t know fully how or why except that it probably had something to do with their single titled “Call to Action,” a powerful song inspired by the George Floyd tragedy but that exemplifies what Black History Month is all about: righting social injustice and advocating for equity.

Someone in Washington contacted the group’s management, a performance for around 200 to 300 guests was arranged, and the rest, well . . .  we’ll let Mr. Warren take it from here!

What had been proposed as a 45-minute set got whittled down to one song, but they said that’s pretty normal and they have to be flexible given that it’s The White House. So, we sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The experience was amazing. Although it was not my first time being at the White House, this was the real deal. I literally stood on the South lawn, and we were escorted around like famous people. Then we were brought into this room, and there they were—President Biden and Vice President Harris! They shook our hands and asked us where we’re from and what we do. Of course, I had to tell them I’m from Montgomery AL, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, and President Biden was like, wow! I also told him that I’m an educator a The New Century School, and he was really intrigued that I teach and have a musical career.

Then, Vice President Harris gave me the warmest hug, and I was able to tell her that before she passed, my mom got to see her become the first African American Vice President and the first woman Vice President. She then wanted me to tell her about my mom, so I shared how she was my cheerleader, and now it’s a little different because I don’t have her here. But Vice President Harris said, “she’s always with you; don’t ever forget.” It was a really heartfelt moment with her. I know my mom would be smiling.

As Mr. Warren recounted this amazing experience to his family, his brother reminded him that as a child, he always claimed that he’d meet the president one day. And here we are. He didn’t just meet the president, though—he conversed with and sang to the president and the vice president!

What an honor indeed, and thank you for name-dropping TNCS, Mr. Warren! You’re never far from our thoughts, either!

For the full event, watch this video. Mr. Warren appears at 1:06.

TNCS Celebrates Black History Month 2023 with African Dance!

In keeping with its emphasis on celebrating culture and diversity, The New Century School observes Black History Month annually by inviting special guests to showcase art, perform music, and present special topics.

This year, on February 22nd, TNCS welcomed the Keur Khaleyi African Dance Company for a special presentation for our students and staff. “Keur Khaleyi is a multigenerational, tradition-driven African dance company,” said TNCS Director of Student Support Alexis Boyd. “Their mission is to promote, provide, and produce African culture to the community at large and share the riches of the African Diaspora.”

By all accounts, the performance was absolutely inspiring, as these photos show. The opportunities for audience participation made it even sweeter!

Fortunately, TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson captured some video, so we can also hear all the fun!

Earlier in the month, members of the dance company visited TNCS preschool classrooms to do story time and introduce the drum and the other instruments to TNCS preschool students. “That was amazing,” said Ms. Boyd, “and I got a lot of good feedback from the families about it.” Kids came home eager to practice the new words they learned in Swahili!

For past Black History Month celebrations, see these posts from February 2020, February 2021, and February 2022.