TNCS Elementary and Middle School Students Get Moony!

On the last day of summer 2018, elementary and middle school students at The New Century School got a very special treat. In honor of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival coming up on Monday, September 24th, they spent Chinese class making the traditional Chinese “mooncake.”

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiū Jié [中秋节]) is a harvest festival, dating back many millennia as far as the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE). It is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, thus always on a full (harvest) moon. (Note that, although the day is always the same on the lunar calendar,  the date will vary on the Gregorian calendar used in the United States, corresponding to late September or early October.)

TNCS Lead Mandarin teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) explained that making and sharing mooncakes is one of the most representative and best-loved traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival: “It is a time to be together with your family. We gather to watch the moon and eat special food,” she said.

<li>oll it out in a smooth circle.</li> <li>Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.</li>  <li>Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.</li> <li>Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern.</li>  <li>Steam for 30 minutes.</li> <li></li> 	<li>oll it out in a smooth circle.</li> 	<li>Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.</li> 	<li>Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.</li> 	<li>Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern.</li> 	<li>Steam for 30 minutes.</li>

Test run.

Her faithful assistant for the day’s cooking session, Qin (known to the TNCS community as “Monica”) Li gave a similar account:

On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the moon is especially round. A Chinese tradition is to bring mooncakes and sit outside with all the family. Together, they appreciate the round moon and eat mooncakes, which are also round. Circles represent union, so the round mooncakes symbolize family reunion. Most people in China get 3 days off so they have time to return home if they have been away on business. Since I cannot go to China on Monday, I’m going to make mooncakes and eat them with my friends.

Because a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion in Chinese culture, the mooncake tradition signifies the completeness and unity of the families who enjoy them together.

Making Mooncakes

There are many varieties of mooncakes, including baked or steamed and with all manner of sweet fillings and combinations. TNCS students made a steamed version using the following basic steps:

    1. Mix flour (wheat, rice, etc.) with water to make dough.
    2. Shape it into a ball.
    3. Place in foil and roll it out in a smooth circle.
    4. Add filling in the center of the flat dough circle.
    5. Return to a ball shape, keeping the filling inside.
    6. Stamp with a special, symbolic pattern (see photos below).
    7. Steam for 30 minutes.

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This video shows how Li Laoshi provides instructions in Mandarin, and students follow them easily. During activities such as this, in which students are absorbed mentally and physically (even through their senses), it all comes together, and their fluency increases by leaps and bounds. They comprehend without translating—they are thinking and doing in Mandarin.

Cultural Significance

Although cooking Chinese dishes—especially the ever-popular dumplings—is fairly common in TNCS Chinese class, this is the first time Li Laoshi has attempted mooncakes with her students. She explains why, this year, she felt it was the right time:

Recently, I was missing my family and felt homesick for China. But I have my students, I have my colleagues, I have my friends, so I feel so happy about that. That’s why I wanted to introduce it to students this year—we have all been enjoying ourselves and this special time together. It has been a lot of fun, and it’s a very meaningful experience.

Monica felt it was important also: “It’s a very special tradition in Chinese culture. I think kids should learn and explore the culture to better understand China.” The beautiful, traditional stamp patterns below indicate what the mooncake is filled with or what it represents.

Students and faculty alike enjoyed their red-bean-paste filled delicacies.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone!
中秋快乐!
Zhōngqiū kuàilè!

TNCS Hosts Chinese Teaching Interns, Summer 2018

To start off the 2018–2019 academic year, The New Century School hosted a group of 12 university students visiting from China to gain some intensive training in how to teach. In addition to sharing their talents and gaining insight into the American education system, they also wanted to experience what typical American daily life is like and were happy to be placed with host families to participate in cross-cultural immersion. Wenya Liu, Leisi Ye, Xiaohan Fang, Lihui Xie, Jianping Wu, Huizhu Gu, Bixia Wang, Yidong Fu, Buqing Sun, Ziyu Long, Qi Wang, and Xiao Ma, from Shanghai, China arrived at TNCS on August 22nd, and, although their visit was brief, they made a lasting impression on TNCS students.

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For their initial tasks, they assisted teachers with classroom setup and new-student orientations. TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) was always on hand to provide guidance and help with acclimatization. In fact, she provided many of the photos in this post—xiè xiè (谢谢), Li Laoshi!

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When school began on August 27th, the interns supported TNCS teachers inside the classroom.

Toward the end of their 2-week program, they were given free reign during Chinese class to take over. The videos below show them instructing TNCS middle school students in some games—the Chinese charades was especially fun to watch!This is the second annual hands-on training program that TNCS has hosted for the start of the school year. Last year, a group of nine college sophomores and juniors majoring in teaching were the first group to have come out of this partnership with a Chinese organization and the University of MD. Other similar groups (interns, teachers, families, etc.) visit regularly throughout the year.

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.

Hosting exchange students is a wonderful way to engage the entire family in a cultural exchange, and these relationships can last a lifetime. For this particular program, hosting families received a per-student stipend to cover any associated expenses like food and travel. The interns partook in daily activities during regular school hours on and off site. Outside of school activities, host families provide any number of enjoyable excursions and recreation.

Veterans at hosting, TNCS families like the Eibs and others curate activities to give their guests authentic and meaningful experiences true to the setting. To provide a taste of Baltimore, for example, they took interns to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for some good old American baseball. For some good old American history, they traveled to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, to see actual the United States constitution, perhaps the single most important symbol of this country. (See TNCS Hosts Education Training Program for Chinese Interns! for more fun from last year.)

Said Mr. Eib:

We took our interns to Philadelphia to see Independence HalI; to Washington, D.C. to visit the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the National Gallery, the Washington & Lincoln Memorials, and to my favorite bookstore in the world (Kramer’s in DuPont Circle); and, in Baltimore, to see the Orioles take on the Yankees, the zoo and the Baltimore Museum of Art, to Hampden to experience a local neighborhood for dinner and bubble tea, to Great Wall Market to show them that we can actually get a few Chinese food items, and to Blue Pit Barbecue for a nice divey dining experience where (probably) no tourist has ever visited before.

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The big thing on every visitor’s mind, is, indeed, usually food. The best way to experience a new place is to sample its cuisine, and sample they did!

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September 5th was their last day at TNCS, and the closing ceremony, moderated by TNCS Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder Roberta Faux with assistance from TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li, was held in their honor. The group was awarded certificates earned for completing their training; they also gave and received speeches of gratitude that 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. In the words of Yidong Fu, “it’s so wonderful to see what American school is like–it’s completely different from what we have in China! We have had an amazing experience!”

For TNCS, too, Fu Laoshi, the experience was unforgettable, having an incalculable impact on students’ cultural learning. You all will be missed! Until next time, zài jiàn 再见)!

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TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night: Your Source for Need-to-Know Info for the 2018–2019 Academic Year!

Now that summer has unofficially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2018–2019 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. In other words, students have had 2 weeks to acclimate—now it’s our turn!

As TNCS enters its 12th 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, 117 in the preschool and 88 in the elementary and middle schools.

An overview of tips and policies is given here, and specific documents can also be downloaded at the links provided at the end of this post as well as from the TNCS Parent Hub.

Welcome to Some Great New Enhancements!

The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Shara Khon Duncan warmly welcoming parents, new and old: “It’s nice to see all of your faces again—welcome,” she began. She next introduced teachtncs-back-to-school-night-2017ers, who then returned to their classrooms to prepare for the group breakouts by division. Sra. Duncan then addressed the parent audience and presented some important school year expectations.

Just a few things before we get started—that you’ll probably hear the teachers reiterate because these things are really important. First arriving on time to school is very important for all of our students. It gets the day started right, it helps the students feel that they are coming in and ready to go. So, please, as much as possible, arrive on time. That includes preschool. We have to get them modeled right from the beginning. I know from experience how hard it is to get out of the house—I had two girls who did not want to cooperate, so I totally get it.

Next, be sure that when you pull up into the carline rectangles at drop-off and pick-up times that you are actually in the lines and not blocking the crosswalk, so that walkers can cross safely. Also do not walk anywhere but the crosswalk for everyone’s safety. Again, we’re trying to model as best we can what we want our children to do.

Another thing I’d like you to remember is that you have been sent the Parent Guide by Admissions Director Mrs. Sanchies, which is a fabulous resource that breaks down all the essential things you need to know—such as signing up for before and after care or school lunch, what happens when it snows, and so on—so please refer to that often. You also should have received the Family Handbook, so please take some time to look through it and sign the second page.

Yet another exciting new thing this year is that, in addition to receiving weekly emails from your child’s homeroom teacher with pertinent information about what’s going on in the classroom and what’s coming up, we’re moving toward implementing software called Sycamore that will allow teachers to have class web pages. This will be very easy to log in to and use to see class-related information. The weekly emails will be sent every Friday around 5; emails about specials will be sent every other week.

Finally, please remember that we are a nut-free school and are also committed to having a sugar-free environment. So when it comes time to celebrate birthdays, for example, please make sure that you talk to the teacher ahead of time and discuss what kind of treat might be appropriate.

With that, have a lovely evening and a great year!

Elementary and Middle School Breakouts

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 specific class-related expectations are of both parent and child. Upper Elementary and Middle School was jointly hosted by veteran Math and Science teacher Nameeta Sharma and veteran English language arts and Global Studies teacher Ilia Madrazo.

Ms. Madrazo 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. She promised parents that any questions or concerns about anything going on in the classroom would be responded to within 24 hours. She also went over the handout that enumerated class and school policies as well as gave a deeper dive into each subject’s curriculum. First up, the fun stuff!tncs-2018-2019-back-to-school-night

Specials

New art teacher Jia Liu will be profiled in an upcoming Immersed “Meet the Teacher” post, and art happens twice weekly. Students also have music taught by the illustrious Martellies Warren twice a week. Physical education now includes 1 day of teacher-led PE consisting of yoga, plus 1 day of regular coach-taught PE each week. Teacher’s Choice is also now considered a once-weekly special, and this 45-minute block can be used for exploring a topic students want to learn more about, an activity the class collectively would like to pursue, or anything different from the usual academics, explained Ms. Madrazo. This might even be making a fun visit to the Ozone Snack Bar!

Ozone Snack Bar

Speaking of “the ‘zone,” students can also visit the snack bar housed in the second-floor Union Box space of Building North, from 8:10 am–8:25 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting the week of September 10th. Teachers will have sent permission slips that allow parents to set a spending limit for their children as well as opt for cash payment or convenient billing through FACTS. Li Laoshi will supervise these morning visits.

Recess

New this year, students will be going outside every day, regardless of weather. “Rain, shine, snow,” said Ms. Madrazo, “whatever happens, we’re going out every day. We’re taking them to Thames Street Park currently, so they have plenty of space to run and have fun.”

Field Trips

At least four trips are planned this year (at least one per quarter). Parents–chaperoning field trips is a fantastic way to not only experience a fun trip with your child but also to rack up some of the obligatory 10 volunteer hours! This quarter, a trip to the Irvine Nature Center is scheduled (9/17). Next up, the ever-popular National Aquarium! Successive trips will be announced as they are confirmed.

Math

Ms. Sharma took over to explain the math curriculum. “We have four rotations,” she explained. “Students will work on the computer on Success Maker, in small groups playing math games, independently in their workbooks, and one on one with me.” The primary resource is Singapore math, which returning students are already very familiar with and probably worked with over the summer to stay in practice. Middle school students will use the Go Math curriculum. TNCS students may also once again opt in to participate in the Math Kangaroo competition in March—TNCS’s third annual!

English Language Arts

Ms. Madrazo took back over for ELA. “I had the pleasure of going to New York this summer,” she began, “to take training in teaching writing. We will continue using the Lucy Calkins writing curriculum.” (See State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing at TNCS for more on Calkins’ acclaimed approach.) “We will use ‘mentor texts’ that are great works of literature that help students figure out what was done really well that they can incorporate in their own writing. They write every day in class for 20 minutes. The biggest indicator of success in high school is the volume of writing they have already done. It is extremely important for them to be able to take notes, to write deep and long, and to develop ideas.”

ELA uses the Daily 5, which consists of: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work.

Wordly Wise 3000 will once again be used for ELA homework. Wordly Wise 3000 focuses on improving students’ vocabulary by furthering their understanding of new words and concepts. By focusing on vocabulary development, students are able to read increasingly challenging texts with fluency and improve their chances for success in school and beyond. Additionally, spelling practice will also help improve student writing. (See more on ELA homework below.)

Science

The major science themes throughout the year that will guide learning and understanding will include Unit 1: Macrobiology and Genetics, Unit 2: Engineering, Unit 3: the Scientific Method (Science Fair), and Unit 4: Astronomy and Weather.

Interdisciplinary learning is a big part of TNCS’s approach, so ELA and world language reading will routinely relate to science and global studies units.

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 will be differentiated based on grade level:

  • Quarter One, Ancient World Cultures with focus on India, Greece, and Rome
  • Quarter Two, World Cultures and Geography with focus on India and Africa
  • Quarter Three, Civics
  • Quarter Four, American History

Surprise! Ms. Madrazo plans to teach in and incorporate as much Spanish as possible here! (Reinforcement in English will always be available, but learning a subject in another language deepens language fluency exponentially.)

Spanish

Spanish learning will be taught through the use of different games, dances, and songs. I was born in Chile, and this is my third year as lead Spanish teacher,” said Sra. Sanzana. “Spanish class is a little bit of everything—grammar, culture, vocabulary, talking, reading, and listening,” she said. As in other subjects, teaching is differentiated. “I divide students into groups based on levels after making a differentiation plan for each child,” she explained. “Don’t be afraid of whatever comes; I will be here helping them.” Note that, as TNCS has evolved, Spanish class now happens daily, with Friday being reserved for fun and games in Spanish.

Spanish class will adopt a Daily 4: Read to self, read to each other, independent work in their folders, and work with the teacher. Reading comprehension will be a big emphasis. A big addition this year for students who are ready for it will be writing 100-word essays in Spanish. For everyone, learning by teaching will be introduced—the big kids get to read to their smaller compatriots in Spanish and work with them on vocabulary and so on. “They will become the teachers,” said Sra. Sanzana. “They will solve their own problems to do so, such as figuring out how to pronounce an unfamiliar word.” This idea was happily embraced by parents, who well know the benefits of this popular TNCS approach.

Mandarin

Li Laoshi believes Mandarin Chinese is best learned through pursuing various real-life activities that connect to what lesson is being taught. “I really believe that interest is the best teacher,” she explained, “so we cook, do calligraphy, go on trips, and other do other activities that the students really enjoy.” Project assessments are mainly performance based—in other words, she wants to see her students successfully using their Mandarin skills. Like Spanish, Mandarin class now happens daily.

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. “On Friday, September, 21st, we will make mooncakes in honor of China’s mid-Autumn Festival, and the students are very excited!”

Li Laoshi got big laughs when she suggested that parents allow themselves to be interviewed by their students as part of homework and thereby begin to pick up some Mandarin themselves! Around the room, parents began counting to themselves (“yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī , bā, jiǔ, shí . . .”), rightly proud of their Chinese prowess! She suggested the websites Hello World for beginners and Duolingo for other students to get further practice at home.

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.

Homework

The big question on BTS attendees minds’ was, “what’s up with homework this year?” There’s good news: The bottom line is, homework is necessary but should never be onerous. “Our purpose here is to help the kids to succeed,” said Ms. Madrazo, “not to have unrealistic expectations and make everyone unhappy.”

Homework in math, ELA, and world languages will be assigned each Monday and is due on Friday. Other important points to note are:

  1. Students are expected to record their homework assignments each Monday in their planners, but please check that they are doing so.
  2. Students are expected to complete this work independently with minimal support as needed from parents. This is key—helping your child to an extensive degree will not show teachers where and how they need to adjust assignments and better meet students where they are.
  3. After care participants are given time to complete homework as well as as-needed support from Sra. Sanzana.
  4. Your child’s teachers are flexible. If a student needs more time to complete an assignment well, communicate this, and teachers will work with you to accept it the following Monday.
  5. Mandarin and Spanish alternate weeks for elementary students, whereas middle school students should expect weekly Spanish homework.
  6. Additional Internet research may be assigned when pertinent to, for example, specific global studies or science lessons.
  7. To great applause from parents, weekly science homework will not be assigned, however.
  8. Altogether, weekly homework assignments should take about 2 hours or less, depending on division, apart from daily reading and writing and any music practice (if your child takes instrument lessons).

Here is the breakdown:

  • Math: Homework will consist of ~30 minutes per week of problem solving or Workbook completion (translating to four pages in the workbook for 4th- and 5th-graders and two or three for 6th- through 8th-graders).
  • English Language Arts: Each week, there will be one lesson (~30 minutes) in Wordly Wise per week, which includes a list of vocabulary words to know, and various assignments to complete.
    • In addition, this year, students are expected to spend 20–30 minutes reading independently and at least 10 minutes writing (or mind-mapping, which is a critical part of the writing process) every day.
    • Daily writing should be in cursive and in pen; students will have been given prompts from Ms. Madrazo or can free write. Journals are provided, but separate sheets of writing are also acceptable when a student forgets to bring the journal home.
  • Spanish: Grades 4 and 5 will work on a small packet the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month; 6th- 7th, and 8th-graders will have homework weekly. Homework will be reading-comprehension based.
  • Chinese: Grades 4–8 will work on a small packet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month.

What Lies Ahead!

Although BTS night is over, know that teachers and administration are always readily available to answer any questions regarding your student’s development. 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 and administration who are adopting new roles and taking the school in new directions.
Finally, expect to hear more about forthcoming parent volunteering opportunities and service learning initiatives. Stay tuned!

To get a look at past year’s back-to-school nights or just to reminisce about the school’s early days, read:

AMS-Baltimore Camp Enjoys Second Amazing Year at TNCS!

At The New Century School, music education is extremely important:

Music instruction has always been an important component of TNCS’s dedication to educating the whole child. Music is a meaningful part of every TNCS student’s academic journey, and music happens throughout the day, including during cultural study. In addition, formal music classes are available both during and outside the school day to elementary and middle school students.

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“Making music should be a communal thing and it should be accessible to everyone.” –Yoshiaki Horiguchi.

As the school has grown, so has the music department and the opportunities it offers. Last summer, TNCS strings instructor Yoshiaki (“Yoshi”) Horiguchi brought the first-ever American Music System (AMS) Camp to Baltimore, and a whole new avenue for music exploration opened up at TNCS. This year, AMC-Baltimore’s second year in existence, kept the music alive and branched out in some great new ways.

What is American Music Camp-Baltimore?

It all started in Charleston, SC—in fact, that’s where TNCS Co-Founders/Co-Executive Directors met Yoshi, then a camp instructor. According to the AMC website:

The purpose of American Music System . . .. is to create and support educational environments and activities that develop and nurture the musical and social skills needed for children to participate meaningfully in the rich culture of musical diversity in the Americas. Our top priority is quality education for all interested students through example, instruction, and mentoring. We strive to make these environments and activities affordable to families of all income levels.

amc-smallAmerican Music Camps have locations throughout the east coast, and AMC-Baltimore is the newest addition to the family (check out American Music System Summer Camp at TNCS! to learn more about its inaugural year last summer). While every American Music Camp has traditional American music at its core, each camp location has its own unique experience to offer. AMC-Baltimore, for example, is proud to include a bucket band and beat boxing in its curriculum, music-making specific to this region. Music that is common to all camp locations includes traditional music from the Appalachian Mountains to Bluegrass and Blues. Much of the music they learn has been passed down through many generations—some, like the Texas Waltzes you can view at the end, had never been transcribed until now but had lived on in the oral/aural tradition.

Students learn from world-class faculty who perform American Music in all parts of the country and get the opportunity to play in ensembles and learn how to improvise. This year’s camp instructor lineup included Emilie Catlett, Rob Flax, Yoshiaki Horiguchi (also Camp Director), and Melissa Tong. (Click their names to learn more about them or download their bios here.) Yoshi, Rob, and Melissa returned to AMC-Baltimore from last year’s camp, and Emilie joined afresh.

To qualify, students needed at least 6 months instruction on violin, viola, cello, bass, piano, or guitar. As many students study music through the Suzuki Method, AMC-Baltimore understands the importance of aligning with this method, offering the chance to hone skills and continue with daily practice while exploring music that is outside the Suzuki Method repertoire.

tncs-amc-baltimore-summer-campYoshi explained that each student received a lanyard at the start of camp that contained the student’s ID as well that student’s itinerary of classes.

 

Above all, students are encouraged to apply their hard work in an engaging and fun musical environment. AMC-Baltimore’s nickname—fiddle camp—says it all!

Making Music Magic

The thing about descriptions of AMC-Baltimore is that, although certainly a starting point, they can’t do this amazing camp justice. What happens during the week of strumming, drumming, picking, and singing is nothing short of magic. Students become receptive to and experience music in a way that formal instruction precludes. Parents report that their children start saying things like, “I didn’t know the notes, but if I closed my eyes, I could see the music.” Although trained from early ages to read music, they start picking up songs by ear. They are encouraged to jam, extrapolate, and improvise, and they are open to doing so because they see how much fun the instructors are having while modeling this approach to music-making. Oh! Music is fun!

So, if seeing (and hearing, in this case) is believing, here are some videos of in-class practice. Videos of the final performance students put on at the end of the week for families can be found below. (Also check out TNCS’s YouTube channel for even more!)

The above three videos show students separated by level (first is students with less experience; bottom two are advanced), but, “depending on the class,” says instructor Rob Flax, “some things are also all-group activities. There are really no rules, so whatever happens, happens. It’s a very carefree and exciting way to get creative.”

We’re Jammin’

A song called “Lobster Socks” grew out of one of these impromptu sessions (as well as Rob’s sartorial choices) but took on chords and a melody as more and more students caught the spirit. Said Rob: “We are looking to take music off the page and explore different stylistic ornamentation. Students learn how the different harmonies work and all the nuts and bolts that make up a song.”

(Rob’s verbal explanations were accompanied by musical demonstrations of what he was describing, which you can listen to here, to get the full experience.)

The way our jam sessions work is, we’re all sitting in a big circle, and anyone can start a song. As soon as I can figure out what the first note is, I can jump on in. Hopefully everybody jumps in. We tell the students, ‘if you’re not sure how this song goes, wait and listen. Maybe try and figure the notes out by ear as we go, or ask a teacher, or look at the chords on the board.’ Everybody find something to do—even if it’s slapping their cellos to a beat, like Yoshi does with his double bass. They can also do solos. A student just comes to the middle of the circle and improvises something that might be completely different from the melody of the song and just be as silly or creative as they want, then step back out and let the group take over again. The way we end a song is by sticking a foot in the air to signal that this is the last time!

There’s magic in that process. The jam sessions is where a great deal of discovery happens. I love to see, at the end of the day after all our other organized chaos, students finishing their day and still playing as they leave the room because they’re so excited. They’re still participating even after the show has ended, so to speak. That means we’re doing something right. That’s my favorite part.

Bucket Band

A perennial favorite among kids, bucket band rose to new levels, thanks to Rob’s instruction in Indian and Persian scales, among other types of music. Each student gets the chance to riff on a theme in “Rufus,” and the other videos show percussion instruction of increasing complexity. The drumstick “rabbit ears” you may see signify that the song is done.

Welcoming New Participants

This year, in addition to camp enrollees, AMC-Baltimore welcomed two students from OrchKids as well as a raffle winner from Patterson Park Public Charter School to join fiddle camp.

“OrchKids is a year-round, during and after school, music program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods,” according to their website, and Ayanna Wiggins and Isiah Dixon agree with that description. Yoshi was an OrchKids teacher for 8 years and had the “pleasure and privilege” of teaching both Ayanna and Isiah during his tenure there. He reached out to some of the site coordinators for suggestions of students who might be available to attend camp, and out of about 1,000 OrchKids among eight sites, Ayanna and Isiah were chosen to participate.

jnf6iAyanna, entering 10th grade in the 2018–2019 school year, has been playing violin for 7 1/2 years. She got into playing violin at Lockerman Bundy Elementary—the school where OrchKids debuted its program. “I like the sound of the violin—I just fell in love with it,” she explained. “And it was something to keep me productive.” She plans to apply to Harvard and Yale law schools in the next 2 years, but, “If being a lawyer doesn’t work out, I want to go to Julliard,” she said.

QJYm6Isiah, entering 8th grade, has been playing cello for 9 years. “In my 1st-grade year at Lockerman Bundy, I tried the cello and didn’t like it. Then I tried the clarinet and didn’t like that, so I went back to cello. Now I like it,” he said. He plans to pursue a music degree in college, supplemented by basketball.

Both OrchKids students enjoyed AMC-Baltimore very much, calling it “fantastic.” “With younger kids,” said Ayanna, “I get to be a mentor they can look up to. I can show them how enjoyable playing music is and motivate them.”

Final Performance

From “Boil ’em Cabbage Down” to “Elk River Blues,” the tunes delighted the audience and musicians alike. (But, sorry, no “Lobster Socks.”)

Mark your calendars for next year, folks, because AMC-Baltimore’s third year will bring even more of the music-making magic!

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Spanish Immersion Camp 2018: Fun Times! Tiempos Divertidos!

The New Century School was fortunate to welcome Señora Begoña Bredberg to teach the 2018 2-week Spanish immersion camp this summer. Read about Sra. Bredberg in TNCS Spanish Immersion Camp 2018 Features Talented Guest Instructor from Spain!.

This post, titled by one of the camp attendees and a huge fan of both Spanish immersion camp and of Sra. Bredberg, will explore what campers actually did during their 2 weeks of Spanish-speaking fun! Camp started July 23rd and ran through August 3rd, with 9 students (including TNCS’s first-ever camp raffle winner) attending Week 1 and 16 in Week 2. They ranged in age from 4 years to 11 years, and the level of Spanish spanned from none to quite proficient. This meant that Sra. Bredberg had to determine how to differentiate classroom activities right away. “They can all follow instructions, and I use some English only when it’s essential, along with the instructions given in Spanish. But to get this many different children to speak,” she explained, “means having enjoyable activities to do at all times, that do not take very long, to keep their interest.”

Habilidades Fundamentales

Her approach was to first give campers a chance to get to know her as well as each other so they could acclimate to the environment and feel comfortable. This also included explaining the differentiated areas of the classroom so they know the structure and also for classroom management, given the age and proficiency ranges. On Day 2 and henceforth, she moved into her curriculum, introducing more learning-related activities now that the students were familiar with expectations. Mornings meant convening in a circle to get an overview of the day’s events; from there, the day progressed quickly from one activity to the next.

For practice work, she used Aprendo jugando—actividades de español para niños de 6 a 9 años (I learn playing—Spanish activities for children 6 to 9 years) and Español para ti—Iniciación en ambientes comunicativos multiculturales (Spanish for you: initiation in multicultural educational environments). These workbooks of games and other activities provided the foundational vocabulary campers would need for application in real-world settings—from sports, to clothing, to food, and so on.

“I also used this YouTube video to show the students some of the popular songs I used to learn at their age,” said Sra. Bredberg. “At that time there were a group of clowns—all family—who created a television program, ‘Había una vez un circo,’ and all the kids loved them. This video shows a modern animated video of their most popular songs. The kids learned two of them: ‘La gallina turuleca’ (the first camp) and ‘Susanita tiene un ratón’ (second camp).”

tncs-spanish-immersion-camp-2018Susanita Has a Mouse
Susanita has a mouse
A little mouse
She eats chocolate and nougat
And balls of anise
Sleep near the radiator
With the pillow on your feet
And dream that you are a great champion
Playing chess
He likes football, cinema and theater
Dances tango and rock ‘n’ roll
And if we arrive and notice that we watch
We always sing this song

The Hen Turuleca
I know a neighbor
Who has bought a hen
That looks like a canned sardine
It has the wire legs
Because she is very hungry
And the poor thing is all plucked
Put eggs in the room
And also the kitchen
But she never puts them in the corral
The hen Turuleca
It is a singular case
The hen Turuleca
She really is crazy
The hen Turuleca
She has laid an egg
She has put two
She has put three
The hen Turuleca
She has put four
She has put five
She has put six
The hen Turuleca
She has put seven
She has put eight
She has put nine
Where is that little hen?
Leave her, poor thing
Let her put ten

Desfile de Moda

One day in Week 2 saw many of the foundational lessons being put into practice. On this day, students made muñeca de papel (paper dolls), dressed in all of the various clothing they had learned to identify and name in Spanish. “With clothes, it’s a lot of words to learn, so we have been practicing to say what they are wearing,” said Sra. Bredberg.

“When they are active, it’s good. I can do Spanish with them individually or in groups because I see that that helps a lot. They are able to say many more things and understand many more things now. Even those who had no Spanish on entering camp have picked up an amazing amount.”

The muñeca de papel exercise was then followed by a highly anticipated event—a desfile de moda! Fashion Show!

Each student had the opportunity to walk the “catwalk” and describe what he or she was wearing. It was a hoot!

Al Final del Día

At the end of each day, campers once again convened in a circle to debrief the day’s events. They reviewed and reinforced vocabulary, and everyone had the chance to contribute.

Said Sra. Bredberg of Spanish immersion camp:

The experience to teach Spanish immersion camp at TNCS has been great—to work with kids in this way. I had worked with kids before, but only for private lessons. Spending the whole day with them is a lot different. A lot of what I’ve been doing is improvisation but also getting to know them. To see what’s important to them allows me to adapt as I go along. I get them engaged in an activity, and I keep the classroom very dynamic at all times. They come together in groups, then we stop, disperse, and do something else. We come back together, and the day flows like this to they will not get bored or tired, which will not help them speak or learn.

Her and her husband have loved their time in Baltimore, as well. “This area is so great,” she said. “We love to look at the architecture and take in all that Fell’s Point has to offer.” TNCS hopes to welcome you back soon, Sra. Bredberg!

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TNCS Strengthens Community Partnerships with Southeast Baltimore Area Schools!

Summer camps at The New Century School are not just for TNCS students—any student age 2 through 8th grade is welcome to attend. This year, TNCS collaborated with the Development Committee of Patterson Park Charter School to donate two specialty camp “scholarships” as part of a raffle fundraiser for PPPCS, as shown in the flier below.

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MeHeading up the raffle was Development Coordinator Heather Savino, who describes her position as comprising two roles: “first and foremost, it’s fundraising, and, second, external communications.” She explains that the Development Committee is relatively new, and she took over as Coordinator for the 2017–2018 school year. The summer fun raffle was an effort to both raise funds for PPPCS as well as represent an activity that benefits students and families. Ms. Savino explains, “Someone on the committee mentioned that spring is the time that all of the parents are talking about where they’re sending their kids over the summer. Because not everyone at our school can afford summer camp, we decided to try to find a way to make summer camp more widely available.”

Sharing Values, Sharing Resources

Dr. Liz Obara, PPPCS’s Community School Coordinator, who oversees the school’s relationships with other Baltimore schools, organizations, and businesses, then suggested reaching out to these partners to see what kind of opportunities they could provide PPPCS families. Enter TNCS. TNCS Co-Founder/Executive Director Roberta Faux agreed to donate two summer camps for this very worthy cause: Spanish Immersion Camp and American Music System Camp. “We are very grateful for the collaboration between TNCS and PPPCS, and for TNCS’s support of our students,” said Dr. Obara. “We are all supporting this City’s children, so we recognize it’s all hands on deck—and collaboration is key. I love to see how organizations can work together to support each other.”

The raffle, which also included chances to win admission to American Visionary Art Museum, Maryland Science Center, Sky Zone, and more, was held June 15th. Tickets were $5 each, and the reception to PPPCS’s first-ever fundraiser of this kind was great. Not surprisingly, “the winners were ecstatic,” said Ms. Savino. Much of the success of the raffle is probably owing to its two-pronged approach of raising money and also providing community enrichment. “PPPCS’s vision is cultivating lifelong learners and helping families create strong neighborhoods, and so we want to make sure in everything that we do that we are striving to achieve that through our partnerships. We are so grateful to everyone who donated incredible opportunities and services for our families,” said Ms. Savino.

Meet a (Very Cute) Camp Winner!

Spanish Immersion Camp began July 23rd, and the winner of that raffle was none other than Dr. Obara’s family! As a parent of a 1st-grader at PPPCS and the PPPCS Community School Coordinator, Dr. Obara says, “I wear (at least) two hats at PPPCS, so I am doubly grateful for the donation of Spanish Camp at TNCS!”

For many important reasons, she is glad for this opportunity for her child:

As a parent, I am really looking forward to my son’s participation in the Spanish Immersion Camp. As a bilingual family, we value both our languages, but really find it difficult to sustain fluency in both languages. Spanish Immersion Camp will not only offer our son more exposure and practice in Spanish, but it will also give him such a fun association with the language—so that learning won’t be a chore! I also find it valuable that the camp will emphasize the culture of Spanish-speaking countries as well, so that the language-learning won’t be isolated from the culture. Finally, I think it’s important that my son sees the importance of language learning, and can be in the company of other kids and families that also share this value.

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PPPCS hopes to do a similar raffle next year, and TNCS will continue to support their efforts to establish positive, collaborative partnerships among southeast Baltimore schools and organizations.

Like TNCS, PPPCS is a school that recognizes its impact in a neighborhood—not just for its students, but for the whole community. Schools that are committed to ensuring this impact is beneficial to all community residents are educating students in ways that go far beyond numbers and letters. As Dr. Obara put it, “Collaboration is key.” Research backs this up: When families, community groups, businesses, and schools band together to support learning, young people achieve more in school, stay in school longer, and enjoy the experience more.

TNCS Debuts New Summer Camp: Musical Theatre!

For summer 2018, The New Century School expanded its already spectacular lineup of fun and exciting summer camps to include some new offerings. One of these was Musical Theatre camp, taught by TNCS’s amazing music director, Martellies Warren.

This camp focused on allowing campers free self-expression through exploration in set design, pairing dialogue with music and movement, and exploring the technical aspects of the performance stage.

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical—humor, pathos, love, and anger—are communicated through the words, music, movement, and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it is distinguished by the equal importance given to the dialogue, movement, music, and other elements.

Exit Stage Left!

After first learning the all-important jargon–what upstage versus downstage means, for example—campers spent the week practicing a scripted humor piece as well as breaking out into groups to write, direct, stage, act (and even sing!) in their own short plays. They also designed their own playbills, which graced the front of the stage.

Here are two of the younger campers performing the humorous piece, to thunderous applause.

(Stars in the making?) All campers performed this piece. To see more examples of this funny little clip and maybe catch a glimpse of your rising star, visit TNCS’s YouTube Channel and look for “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Without Further Ado!

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campAnd now for the four plays, which, to put it simply, brought down the house. They are brought to you here, scene by scene. Scene changes in between were handled by the set team of each group, and they did a wonderful job. Mr. Warren emphasized that he intervened as little as possible to let each play troupe own the production from beginning to end. He was called on to help out with some sound effects, however, and played both a very convincing doorbell as well as a rotary phone. Other props were contributed by the players themselves.

The Perfect Slice

First up was “The Perfect Slice”—a compelling food metaphor for what we all seek, deep down. (Or deep dish?)

Murder Mansion

Next up was “Murder Mansion.” tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campWatch out, Agatha—the horror genre apparently has crowned a new queen!

Warning, “Murder Mansion” may not be suitable for all audiences. Use your discretion. (Just kidding.)

One by one . . .

Finding a Pet

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThird on the roster was “Finding a Pet,” a delightful romp through the process of welcoming four-legged friends into the family.

It’s one that nearly everyone in the audience found relatable, and kudos to the way the actors really inhabited their roles as animals.

Watch Out for the Witch

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThe final performance of the day featured a solo sung by one of the actors.

“Watch Out for the Witch” starts out as a suspenseful nail biter, but, in the end, all is well. This heartwarming tale about witchcraft mixed with sisterly love is sure to have you spellbound!

(Psst—the solo is in Scene 2!)

 

Curtain!

What a wonderful week of musical theatricality and general hijinks upon the stage. Although Friday was the final act, let’s hope that summer 2019 will include an encore of this amazing camp!

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