TNCS March Madness Continues: Mad Scientists!

As we keep saying, a lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March, but perhaps no event is more anticipated than the annual Science Fair. This year’s presentation of projects by TNCS 3rd- through 8th-graders had to be done a little differently since we can’t gather en masse yet, but the projects themselves were no less remarkable for their creativity and all-around innovation.

The Science Fair is important, explains elementary and middle school science teacher Rob Brosius, because, “It’s challenging and rewarding. [Doing science experiments] teaches you how to approach any problem with a solution-oriented perspective.” Students made their presentations via Zoom, which Mr. Brosius painstakingly stitched together. This way, TNCS parents will be able to view all student projects and presentations at their leisure. Another benefit stemmed from this new approach—TNCS students were more relaxed as they presented and were able to really explain their experiments in a deeper way. You can sense their (well-earned) pride. They demonstrate a thorough understanding of the science underpinning the project as well as the process that got them to their conclusions—the Scientific Method.

Mr. B. said:

I am making sure that all students can present their research even if they have not completed their data collection and analysis. We have highlighted the importance of each step of the scientific method in relation to personal and group projects. I have tried to communicate the idea that even if your project does not prove your hypothesis, it can still be considered a valuable experiment.
When compiling all of the videos took longer than expected, Mr. B. made a preview video as well as a couple other Science Fair–related videos to keep parents in a state of eager anticipation.

Now, let’s get to the real deal!

Third and Fourth Grade Projects

These March-Mad Scientists were clearly inspired by their inventive hypotheses and pursued answers to their problems with tenacity and vim! Mr. B. says that he was very impressed with the 3rd- and 4th-grade projects.

Fifth-Grade Projects

The stand-out in this group was a project on Mask Effectiveness—very topical!

Sixth through Eighth-Grade Projects

The stand-out in this group was the project on Water Filtration.

As the independent and dependent variables varied, and the hypotheses were proved or disproved, in addition to following the tenets of study design, students also had to evaluate their work to determine how they could eliminate any confounders next time around.

As you can see, topics ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology to psychology, ecology, and economics, to robotics and engineering. These students are clearly mad for science, thanks in no small part to Mr. B.’s enthusiasm and commitment to the subject!

We leave you with these two words: Elephant. Toothpaste.

Lessons from the Sandlot: TNCS Middle Schoolers Unplug and Connect!

The month of March is often the busiest at The New Century School—absolutely tons happens. We’re happy to report that this year, despite circumstances, was no different!

A large part of the excitement was the return of Daphnée Hope after maternity leave that began late last fall. Ms. Hope had been the 5th- through 8th-grade English Language Arts and Global Studies teacher, and her students initially had bit of a hard time grasping that she was returning in a whole new role.

TNCS’s First School Counselor

That new role is TNCS School Counselor. While finishing up her graduate degree (with a new baby, no less), she is doing her mandatory internship at TNCS. From now until the end of the school year, she’ll be on campus twice weekly to counsel students, create character-building lessons, and connecting students with resources.

Why counseling? “Since my very first year of teaching, I knew right away that I wanted to be a school counselor because my favorite part of teaching is not actually curriculum—it’s building relationships with students,” she explains.

Being able to help them work through any problems that they’re having having, to think deeper and connect with their feelings, is so important. Especially in middle school, they need to understand how to identify their emotions and connect with them. I was talking to a student yesterday who has been really struggling, and just being able to say, ‘you’re a teenager; everything you’re feeling is very normal,’ and seeing the relief on their face that there’s not something wrong and it’s okay to have strong feelings, was great. I especially love middle school because at that age, everything they feel is felt so deeply, and counselors and teachers have a big hand in shaping how they get through.

Ms. Hope says that she put off her dream for a while to get a few more years of teaching experience under her belt and then realized last year that it was time to go for that degree.

“I’ll be meeting with each level monthly and do a series of counseling lessons dependent on the needs of each group,” said Ms. Hope. “For example, today is 1st-grade’s first lesson, and the teacher shared that they’ve been having some issues with bullying. It’s part of a school counselor’s job to create responsive services, and so I’m going to create lessons for them about bullying—what it looks like at this age. It can be as simple as excluding someone from playground games over and over. So, with that age group, I’m going to be using picture books and drawings to make it clear and age appropriate for them.” She explains that kids often don’t realize that their behaviors rise to the level of bullying and sometimes just need to understand that those behaviors are hurting another in some way. We humans don’t come by our social skills naturally; we have to be taught. Although parents certainly provide a lot of this kind of teaching, school is were students spend most of their time and is also where they most need to apply these skills. “It’s equally our to educate them on how to communicate with each other, such as looking into each other’s eyes when they’re talking, and, if someone is talking to you, turn your body toward them to convey better positive body language,” said Ms. Hope.

For many of the older students, teachers have reported common themes, like needing social and emotional connection. “Some of our students are withdrawing and showing signs of depression,” she said. This is not surprising given that they crave connection and have been largely denied it for the past year. Also, especially in middle school, students’ emotional lives expand, and they have questions and may struggle to deal with all the new “feels,” as Ms. Hope described Fortunately, TNCS now has a dedicated staff member to address some of these normal but important challenges. “My goal for the older students is to give them opportunities to see each other, to get them playing with each other and having fun games and competitions. Finding ways to allow them to connect with each other outside of the classroom is so important.”

And on that note, to The Sandlot we go!

Heads Out of, Feet in the Sand

The Sandlot, also known as “Baltimore’s Beach,” is a 10-minute walk from TNCS and empty this time of year. Earlier this month, on a beautiful sunny day, TNCS middle schoolers headed over with Ms. Hope for some of that social interaction she describes as so important. Even some students who still attend school virtually were able to join, and Ms. Hope was pleased with the turnout. “The goal of the event was to interact in a positive way before we even talked about feelings or anything. Also, I wanted to start off with something fun and lighthearted to get them used to seeing me in my new role.”

She divided them into partners based on people they wouldn’t naturally gravitate to, to build camaraderie. They did an egg race over an obstacle course with one partner carrying an egg on a spoon blindfolded, and the other calling out directions. They had to trust each other as well as communicate effectively to make it through the obstacle course. They also played handball with girls against boys, and the girls were pleased to learn that they could hold their own.

“We concluded with a lesson about relationships and how it’s different now after a year of everything being closed. How have our relationships with friends changed? Some of the kids said that their relationships actually improved and got stronger, and then a lot of them said they really struggle with their friendships. I asked them to think about how they can continue to build trust. The whole theme of it was trust and communication—ways you can lose trust with your friends and then also ways that you can continue building it.” She pointed out the irony of being “connected” yet so alienated. “It’s just so strange—they’re connected to each other in a way they probably never were before virtually, but at the same time it’s the loneliest time ever, which is why I want to get them in person and seeing each other and putting away the technology,” she said.

Ms. Hope thoroughly enjoyed the day, as did students, who begged to know when they’d be able to do it again. She says she will definitely continue planning such activities, even though this one was not without it’s challenges. “They hated my music choices,” she laughed. “They’re pretty hard to impress.” Then, too, it’s hard to find relationship-building exercises that allow for social distancing. In years past, TNCS students took various trips that were designed to develop their relationships with each other. There was Echo Hill Outdoor School starting in 5th grade and the capstone international service-learning trips for outgoing graduates. Ms. Hope chaperoned one of those trips and saw for herself how deep of an impact they had on students’ lives. She will continue to search for meaningful ways to engage and connect them.

“Let’s have fun and do things that make you laugh, because when you laugh, your stress level goes down, and your neurons are firing. Then you’re having positive experiences with other people. That’s my goal with them.”

Hope springs eternal, thank goodness.

TNCS’s First-Ever Silent Auction Opens March 17th!

The New Century School prides itself on keeping things fresh and finding creative ways to overcome obstacles. When school closed down exactly 1 year ago to the day, plans for TNCS’s first silent auction had to be shelved. Originally slated for April of 2020, the silent auction was the brainchild of the TNCS Parent Council’s Fundraising Committee. Here we are in 2021, and the Fundraising Committee has not only revived the Silent Auction, they’ve expanded the available items to bid on and have put the whole shebang online, so participation is virtual! The committee has truly done an outstanding job from gathering the lots to be bid on to photographing them for your viewing pleasure. Special thanks go to Fundraising Committee Co-Chairs Lauren Davino and Sarah Andrews as well as equally hard-working committee members Sarah Cornblath and Jessica Leonard.

This blog is, in fact, guest written by Ms. Leonard!

Grab Your Paddles!

TNCS’s Parent Council’s Fundraising Committee presents its first annual Silent Auction from 12 pm on March 17th through 8 pm on March 24th. Don’t think you can participate because the kids go to bed late? Looking for a break during the work day? We got you! The auction is completely virtual so you can bid whenever you want! 

We have some great items waiting for your bids, such as a signed Baltimore Ravens photo, local restaurant gift certificates, swim lessons for your kids, custom portraits, artwork from our very own TNCS community, and more!  Check it out for a full items of available so far…and we’re adding more!

(Here’s a sneak peek!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The goal of the Silent Auction is to support the TNCS community with 100% of raised funds to benefit TNCS students and staff. The Parent Council seeks to create education enrichment opportunities by bringing in guest speakers and performers as well as exploring playground and garden/greenhouse improvements. With the challenging academic year created by the pandemic TNCS’ Parent Council used funds from the Land of Kush fundraiser to show TNCS staff how appreciated they are by purchasing individually wrapped cookies for the whole staff this past November.

The TNCS Fundraising Committee always welcomes additional donations. If you have something you would like to donate for the Silent Auction please contact Sarah Andrews ( or Lauren Davino ( by March 15th.

One of two pieces of artwork made by Ms. Tanelle and Kindergarten Aftercare. Value = priceless (obviously).

Going once, going twice—let the bidding war commence!

Second-Annual TNCS Black History Month Celebration Lifts Parent and Student Voices!

More than anything else, the 2020–2021 school year at The New Century School has been a testament to what can happen when a community thrives. In the midst of the many and ongoing upheavals we’ve collectively experienced, the members of the TNCS community at all levels continue to not only surmount would-be obstacles, but turn them into new opportunities to connect and grow. This echoes a sentiment expressed by TNCS Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner a year ago, when they entreated the community to support each other through the crisis we faced, emerge stronger from it, and look back proudly on our conduct. Their steadfast vision of what TNCS can be and do has also grown stronger.

Celebrating Community

That’s why, having debuted a Black History Month Celebration just last year in characteristically stellar fashion, TNCS was not about to forfeit the promise to make this essential sociocultural event an annual occurrence, despite the practical challenges of not being able to gather in person. TNCS finds a way to forge ahead. While last year’s event was a celebration of music and culture and largely composed of student performances, this year’s event took a different tack to grapple with some of the United States’ societal ills—some of the very issues that underpin why Black History Month evolved. (Note that last year’s event certainly also brought its share of gravitas, especially when renowned artist Harold Caudio took the stage.)

To back up a bit, earlier this year, TNCS Head of School Señora Shara Khon Duncan and staff announced their plans to implement the Pollyanna Curriculum throughout school as one way to give TNCS students a way to talk about what they were seeing and hearing about racial and social injustice—the spring and summer of 2020 were socially turbulent not just because of the pandemic. According to their website, “Pollyanna is a national nonprofit helping academic and other institutions achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”

Racial Literacy

That brings us to the Black History Month event on Wednesday, February 24th, which featured a talk and Q&A by illustrious Guest Speaker Jessy Molina, currently of Molina Consulting (and a consultant for Pollyanna, among many other institutions and organizations). Ms. Molina founded Molina Consulting in July of 2020 in her Baltimore home after having served as the director of diversity, equity, and social justice at two local independent schools as well as working in nonprofits for the prior 15 years. She describes her path to Molina Consulting this way:

I am an attorney, a mediator, and a facilitator. I decided to move into full-time consulting work because I wanted to support more organizations and institutions to make long-term, sustainable change around equity and justice. I also had an interest in doing more conflict mediation and healing work with people and communities.

This is the best professional decision I have ever made. I am thrilled that I get to support people in healing from racial trauma every day, and in doing so, continue my own healing journey. Our bodies are carrying the weight of racial stress, anxiety, and trauma, and I’m grateful to support people to find more freedom and joy. We have to learn how to talk about race and racism in this country, and to make systemic changes with big impact. I am grateful to be part of that.

Schools are ideal places to start these conversations and to develop “racial literacy.” “Racial literacy,” explains Ms. Molina, “is the ability to understand race and racism in the context of our history, understand race as a social and political construct, understand how racism is institutionalized and perpetuated through systems, and know how how to shift practices, policies and protocols to make systemic change that leads to more equity and justice for more people.” Her presentation, “Talking to Children about Race and Racism,” was designed to help us parents understand our own orientation toward these subjects to better, more productively engage with our children. This starts from the ground up. “Parents are a critical part of helping our children develop healthy racial identities and learn how to stand up for—and build—more racial justice in the world,” she explained. “We can model being open and honest, acknowledging and repairing mistakes, leveraging our privilege for equity, and sharing resources and power. Research suggests that children learn more about racial justice from what we do, not what we say. Our children are watching everything we do—the best way to teach them is to be our best selves.”

After opening remarks by Sra. Duncan, Ms. Molina took the (virtual) stage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The event was exceptionally well attended (thank you, zoom!), and Ms. Molina’s presentation generated some very robust audience engagement. It was clear that parents were ready to talk about this. They were also overflowing with gratitude for Ms. Molina’s eye-opening talk and for Sra. Duncan’s efforts to make the event happen.

Ms. Molina is obviously committed to her work, and the world will be a better place for it (Molina Consulting’s fitting tagline is “Training to Change the World). “The most important part for me was connecting to my purpose,” she says. “Who am I and what I am here to do? Serving as a mediator, facilitator, and trainer helps me get closer to my purpose of building connection and community among people and supporting people to live full, free, and whole lives.” In addition, she gets more family time, which many of us are also experiencing. “I’m thankful that I get to work at home with my children. It’s a joy to help them with their homework, sneak in a favorite episode, or make cookies after lunch. It’s certainly difficult to balance on some days, but overall, I am loving the extra time we have together.”

What TNCS Students Had to Say

And let’s not forget, all that extra “together time” translates to time spent modeling an open, honest, and compassionate way to be in this world. Something is paying off, if these student presentations that followed Ms. Molina’s talk are any indication. At the behest of ELA teacher Jalynn Harris, students could read a Black History Month–themed poem (some in tanka form) they recently wrote for class or present research on a world-changing Black figure (or both in the case of one enterprising 8th grader!).

The evening ended in just about the most perfect way possible, with a beautiful rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing by high school students in Tallahassee, Florida. The audience was moved beyond description and came away brimming with thoughts and feelings about the event that could very well lead to important changes.

Resources from “Talking to Children about Race and Racism”:

TNCS Rings in Year of the Ox with Lunar New Year Game Night!

Last year might have marked The New Century School‘s first-ever Lunar New Year Event, but, not to be outdone, this year’s event on Thursday, February 11th was the first-ever virtual Lunar New Year Event and the first-ever Game Night!

Hosted by TNCS Chinese teachers Wei Li and Pei Ge, the evening was full of fun and games and was exceptionally well intended by students in divisions K–8th-grade as well as their families. Señora Duncan provided opening and closing remarks.

It’s safe to say that no one left disappointed. Whether Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig, everyone in the audience enjoyed the competition and the chance to experience some Chinese culture.

The night chosen had very special significance as well: Lunar New Year’s Eve is traditionally the night when families gather and dine together. Togetherness was very much a part of this evening, as individual families joined in on the zoom where they merged with the larger TNCS family. We hope Li Laoshi and Ge Laoshi felt the abundant love locally, even if they couldn’t be in China with their immediate families.

The format of the evening was divided into timed sets of trivia, classified by division. The only rules were: 1. Brush up on your Chinese culture knowledge beforehand and 2. Wear red!

Oh, and have two devices handy—one to view the Kahoot screen and another to submit your answers.

Here are some special moments from the lively and very well put-together trivia game. Some answer choices (for students) were even in Chinese, meaning that players had to put their ability to read Chinese to work!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first-, second-, and third-place winners in each of four groups (K, 1/2, 3–8, parents) will be awarded special prizes in the form of Year of the Ox decorations. The winners from first place to third place in Kindergarten are Nathan, Karim, and Clara, and, in the 1st- and 2nd-grade groups, Ariel, Adam, and Bay. The photos below show the winners from the Parents’ and 3rd- through 8th-grade groups.

After the event, the compliments poured in, congratulating and thanking the TNCS Chinese team for their wonderful efforts at bringing us all together to honor each other and bring good luck to the year ahead. Here is a smattering of the many testimonials:Read more about Year of the Ox (and other members of the Chinese zodiac) here!

新年快乐 / 新年快樂!

Xīnnián kuàile!