New Year’s Resolutions TNCS Style

Keeping New Year’s resolutions is notoriously difficult. Some experts advise against making any at all due to the consequent self-loathing that can envelope us once we realize we have failed epically! A new study claims that only 8% of those who make New Year’s resolutions keep them, and those who don’t give up after just 1 week. On the flip side, however, “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” So do we or don’t we make resolutions?!

We absolutely should (we’re actually hardwired to) . . . but with two key differences. Part of the key is not putting so much emphasis on target dates. Without room to slip, fall, and pick yourself back up, a resolution becomes one of those all-or-nothing pipe dreams with a built-in escape hatch—“I just couldn’t do it. Maybe next year.” Failure and recovery is an inherent part of any worthwhile process, so be realistic about that and don’t let slip-ups completely derail you. “Fail better.” The other difference is in setting small, specific goals instead of grand, sweeping changes. Abstractions such as “lose weight” or “stop smoking” are doomed without a plan in place that provides incremental and achievable daily steps. Ultimately, those small steps will yield the desired result.

Thus, the list below comprises a manageable, realistic, yet worthy set of goals that are universally beneficial. Even better, methods to accomplish each individual goal are also given, taking all of the guesswork out of making 2014 a healthy, happy year!

1. Eat a healthier diet, full of fresh vegetables and fruit: Join One Straw Farm CSA (even if it isn’t a stated goal, you’ll likely drop some pounds in the bargain).

The available bounty ranges from onions, peppers, lettuces, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. to herbs—rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, cilantro, parsley, etc.—and fruit, such as raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, and gorgeous varieties of heirloom tomatoes. . . Starting in June and running through November, on a set day of the week, “shareholders” get 8 pieces of 3–6 items, primarily vegetables . . . for about $24 per week.

2. Read more: Spend 20 minutes reading with your kids before bedtime (as well as curl up with your own reading material before lights-out). The benefits are varied and far-reaching . . . and what better way to close out the day?

[A study shows] that math and reading ability at age 7 years are linked with socioeconomic status (SES) in adulthood. Interestingly, although math and reading ability was also significantly associated with intelligence scores, academic motivation, and education duration, the association with later SES was independent of the family’s SES during childhood. Moreover, the researchers were not expecting to find that specifically math and reading ability were more important than general intelligence in determining SES. In other words, what we’re born with and what we’re born into may not be as important as what we learn in second grade. [The] findings emphasize the importance of learned skills. What this boils down to is really good news for students—the return on improving these skills at all levels is huge, from remedial to the most gifted. “Math and reading are two of the most intervention-friendly topics,” [researchers] say. “Practice improves nearly all children.”

3. Hone math skills: Spend 15 minutes playing math games with the kids before bedtime (like the TNCS Facebook page for games you can play at home to dovetail with Ms. Roberts’s work in class). You may be surprised at how these simple exercises improve your own day-to-day efficiency and obviate that smartphone calculator!

STEM is all over the media, and with good reason. STEM subjects are inherently investigative in nature, cultivating self-guided exploration and producing a greater understanding of the physical world. Ms. Roberts says, “STEM is important for everyday life; for example, we use math at the grocery store and at the bank. And science explains how the world works.” Another appeal of early STEM learning is the downstream payoff. Recently, NPR did a Planet Money story about what job fields yield the highest incomes. In “The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors, In 1 Graph,” STEM came out almost scarily far ahead (that discrepancy is another story). The focus of other media coverage is the nation’s big move to catch up to other developed countries, whom the United States currently lags far behind in depth and breadth of STEM education.

4. Get more sleep: Impose a consistent bedtime (for kids’ and parents’ improved overall health).

“Sleep is no less important than food, drink, or safety in the lives of children.” And yet, with our busy lives and comings and goings, we can inadvertently contribute to sleep deprivation in our kids. “With parents working long hours, schedules packed with school, after-school activities, and other lifestyle factors, naps are missed, bedtimes are pushed back, mornings start earlier and nights may be anything but peaceful. Missing naps or going to bed a little late may not seem like a big deal, but it is. It all adds up, with consequences that may last a lifetime.”

5. Be more altruistic: Donate to local and international charities through TNCS’s food, clothing, and dime drives.

Howsoever you decide to share your wealth, remember that you will actually derive personal benefit from your selflessness—a beautiful paradox! Being altruistic is a  recognized happiness inducer!

6. Be more environmentally conscious: Join Clean Currents (bonus—you’ll actually save money on your power bill).

The most obvious benefit to wind energy is its environmental friendliness. “Windustry” ameliorates climate change by not only providing a non-polluting source of energy but also by displacing the greenhouse gas emissions that have already polluted the atmosphere from conventional power. But there are other tremendous advantages, too. By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, for instance, clean energy also makes us less vulnerable as a nation to the vagaries of the international oil market . . . and to the associated security risks. Moreover, ever-renewable wind is a cash cow for farmers. Wind farming almost effortlessly generates considerable income without taking up land needed for crops as well as creating jobs and boosting the economy.

7. Learn a foreign language: Practice Words of the Week with the kids, and read the monthly classroom newsletters. Words of the Week are posted each Monday on both The New Century School website (during active school semesters) and on TNCS’s Facebook page (with pronunciations). Stay tuned for a blog post this month dedicated to other ways you can learn Mandarin and Spanish along with your kids at home!

8. Get more exercise: Take a class at Sanctuary Bodyworks while the kids are downstairs at The Lingo Leap. People who exercise are not only in better physical shape, they are also more cognitively and emotionally fit.

Exercise dramatically enhances circulation to the brain and encourages synaptic growth, thereby priming the brain for improved function—providing the “spark,” in other words. Improvements in function include both mental health as well as cognitive ability.

9. Make mornings less stressful:  Sign up the kids for the Garden Tuck Shop lunch program. As if you don’t have enough to do in the mornings—why not let somebody else provide your child with a wholesome, nutrition-packed homemade hot lunch? Even better many ingredients come from TNCS’s on-premise greenhouse, and all others are locally sourced.

You grow in the same environment as your food, so you have a divine connection. Your children and your plants are growing under the same sun and being touched by the same wind, seeing the same clouds and the same moon. The plants growing in your environment have withstood those particular elements. They are perfectly engineered by nature to be exactly what you physically need, right now.

10. Volunteer!: Complete your volunteer hours. Another way to connect with your community is to give something back to it.

Volunteering at TNCS is not a burden; it’s a pleasure—no, an opportunity, a gift even. It’s a chance to be deeply involved in your children’s day-to-day school lives, to connect with them on their turf, and to see and experience what’s going on in their lives from their points of view, all while providing a service to the school. There’s nothing so reassuring in parenting than to get proof that your child is happy and flourishing even when you aren’t there.

So go ahead—pick one (or several) and reap the fruits of your labor. Just don’t get discouraged by bumps in the road. We’ve got all year!

Open House at TNCS

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

Our very own Robin Munro, TNCS Admissions Director

The first Open House of The New Century School‘s 2013–2014 school year got a magnificent turnout of both prospective and current families. Why attend a TNCS Open House? Admissions Director Robin Munro says:

“The easiest way for parents wanting to learn more about the Elementary, Primary, and Pre-primary programs is to attend a weekday Open House. The Head of School, Ms. Danyali, offers a presentation that provides parents a thorough overview of the school. There will also be parents of current students on hand to answer questions and ample opportunity to observe students in their classrooms. If parents like the school, I suggest that they return for a small group tour where they can bring their children for a classroom visit. We also offer a Saturday Open House, which is a perfect event for the entire family. All of our lead teachers invite children into their classrooms to explore and ask questions. Current TNCS parents should also attend to observe their own child in the classroom and to learn about the other programs. As a delicious bonus, all Open House events are catered by our very own Chef Emma and her Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop!”

Main Presentation

Today’s Open House began with a short introduction by Ms. Munro after which Ms. Danyali gave her three-part presentation. Attendees were given take-home information packets as well. Highlights of Ms. Danyali’s talk are broken down into synopses of each program:

Pre-primary: For children ages 2–3 years, the pre-primary classroom offers full immersion in either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. The children are instructed only in the theme language. This phase of education at TNCS focuses on the children’s social and emotional development. “We want them to begin learning and demonstrating some independence while being able to interact well with others, too,” said Ms. Danyali.

Primary: For children ages 3–5 years, the mixed-age primary classroom offers a more traditional Montessori approach. The lead teacher is trained in Montessori instruction and guides students in correct use of Montessori materials. Language is still a fundamental part of each day, however. Assistants in the primary classrooms are native speakers of either Spanish or Mandarin and come from a variety of countries and cultures. At TNCS, the assistants give specific lessons (e.g., Practical Life and Cultural Studies) in their native language. In other words, students learn a Practical Life skill while simultaneously developing their foreign language skills. The benefits of mixed ages are numerous and include instilling pride and confidence in the older children who serve as leaders for their younger counterparts, developing socially by being able to cooperate with peers as well as children older and younger, and enjoying a sense of nurturing or being nurtured. Kindergarten is included in the primary program; Ks from each primary classroom join together in the afternoons (while the younger children are napping) for some more advanced work.

Daily 5: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work

Daily 5: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work

Elementary: For children in grades “pre-first” through fifth (and adding a grade each year), the elementary classroom emphasizes critical thinking and unit-based discovery. They incorporate the Daily 5, a literacy curriculum that helps students develop the daily habits of reading, writing, and working independently. They read Junior Great Books to encourage critical thinking and deeper understanding. Singapore Math workbooks and SuccessMaker computer software round out the STEM subjects.

Ms. Danyali next spoke passionately about what sets TNCS apart from other private schools. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some perennial favorites.

Head of School, Ms. Danyali gave an overview of TNCS programs for today's Open House.

Head of School, Ms. Danyali gave an overview of TNCS programs for today’s Open House.

What Really Sets TNCS Apart

  • Sustainability: TNCS has initiated Recycling Teams; uses green, non-toxic 7th Generation cleaning and paper products exclusively; and is 100% wind powered by Clean Currents!
  • Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop Program: Run by Executive Chef/Master Gardener Emma Novashinski, this program provides an organic, locally sourced, homemade lunch to participants as part of TNCS’s emphasis on healthful foods for kids. For all TNCS students, the on-premise greenhouse offers chances to explore plant growth from the seed up. Students plant, tend, and harvest produce as well as cook and eat it.
  • The Lingo Leap: The gymnasium/auditorium houses Gerstung equipment and the Imagination playground as well as a stage for our two school-wide annual performances. TLL is also available to host really great kids’ birthday parties!
  • Volunteering: Each TNCS family contributes a minimum of 8 volunteer hours to the school per year. TNCS believes that parents can be better involved in their children’s lives at school this way as well as meet other TNCS families. The volunteer coordinator makes it easy to match your particular skill set to specific volunteer tasks.
  • Lecture Series: New this year, TNCS will be inaugurating this initiative with Dr. Bonnie Zucker on November 13th, 9 am–10 am. Come hear Dr. Zucker’s presentation on how to raise Anxiety-Free Kids.
  • Extended Campus: Because TNCS believes strongly in community, we want students to become very familiar with the school’s environs. They take walks to nearby parks, the post office, or to special Fell’s Point happenings. In learning about their broader community, they will better participate in and contribute to it.
  • Multilingualism: Learning foreign languages increases brain elasticity, executive function, and critical-thinking capacity. How you learn a language is key. Research shows time and again that rote learning is far less effective than immersion. Throughout each phase of TNCS education, full or partial immersion is implemented.
  • Differentiation: Each child is an individual, with strengths, preferences, and traits particular to him or her. TNCS is unique in being able to individualize instruction to each child. “We can accommodate whatever level your children need in terms of education. We will meet them were they are,” says Ms. Danyali. This is possible both because of mixed-age classes and small class sizes.
  • Immersed: TNCS publishes this blog weekly to keep you informed about school events, initiatives, and relevant topics. we invite your participation and feedback!
  • Specials: TNCS emphasizes The Arts. Our art, music, and movement classes are truly special and cultivate your child’s creativity and humanity.
  • Staff: TNCS staff are truly dedicated, loving people. Our children are nurtured—cherished, even—as they are guided through their school day, learning, absorbing, and discovering the while.

Again, the list goes on and on . . . TNCS is a very special place.

Q&A and Classroom Observation

The Open House presentation ended with a Q&A series during which parents asked a lot of great questions about school particulars. A particularly incisive one asked of the currently enrolled families was, “What’s it like to have bilingual kids if you don’t speak the language?” Answers ranged from getting additional support from apps to learn with the child to the child intuitively understanding the correct context for speaking in Spanish or Chinese (i.e., to another speaker of that language). TNCS is also making more opportunities available to parents to learn these languages. The Word of the Week appears on TNCS’s home page, and an upcoming blog post will offer tips for practice at home from our two resident language curriculum experts Senora Capriles and Xie Laoshi.

Finally, parents were free to roam about the school and observe students in classrooms in real time, which is where TNCS really shines.

If you missed this first Open House, not to worry! Two more are offered in November and a third in January. Visit the website to register, because, as Ms. Munro says, Open Houses are the best way to learn more about TNCS’s programs—first hand!

Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge: TNCS Update

It’s a good week for clean energy. It started off with President Obama pledging renewed attention to clean energy in his State of the Union address:

“Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future . . . We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it . . . And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

Then we heard that the ozone hole has shrunk to a record low. And, the week is closing with The New Century School’s own continued commitment a little closer to home. In TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge, we detailed Clean Currents’ initiative to spread the green with GNEC. Having switched both TNCS and The Lingo Leap to 100% wind and solar power, they are now helping local families also switch over. GNEC brings 100% renewable, sustainable energy into your home. Plus, for every family who makes the switch, Clean Currents donates $30 to TNCS for their use in a school initiative of their choice and, with just 20 enrollments, Clean Currents will donate an additional $500 to TNCS!

What is that school initiative? Alicia Cooper-Danyali, TNCS Head of School, says, “The donation from Clean Currents for each family that signs up for Wind Power will be used toward a sound and lighting system for Building North.” Exciting news indeed!

So, How Are We Doing???

Well, today, February 15th is the exact midpoint of the GNEC, which began January 15th and runs through March 15th. So far, 5 households have made the switch. That’s great progress, but we can do better—for our families, our school, and our environment.

To make this process even easier, Clean Currents’ representative Emily Conrad is attending TNCS’s potluck tonight, where you can sign up on the spot. “There are only 4 weeks left in TNCS’s Green Neighborhood Challenge!” says Mrs. Cooper-Danyali. “Clean Currents will be at the potluck to answer any questions you might have and help you sign up for wind power at home. Please remember to bring your electricity bill or BGE Electric Choice ID (10 digit # on the top left of the 2nd page of your bill).”
Did you know that you can calculate your household’s carbon footprint with this online tool? You might be surprised by the amount of greenhouse gases you generate. One big step you can take to reduce this footprint is by converting your household to clean, renewable energy.

TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge

Exciting events are already afoot at The New Century School in 2013, a mere 2 weeks into the year! As reported last November, it’s time to kick off TNCS’s Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge (GNEC), sponsored by TNCS’s new green energy supplier, Clean Currents. By the way, Clean Currents was the December 2012 recipient of the Green America’s People & Planet award for their clean energy innovations and community-minded business operations—Congratulations Clean Currents!

yard sign proclaiming sustainable energy use

Join the Green Energy Neighborhood Challenge and clean up your home’s energy source!

Profiled in this blog in Blown Away with Wind Energy, Clean Currents is a local, independent green energy company, supplying TNCS and other commercial customers with wind and solar power options. In fact, TNCS and the Lingo Leap have been running on 100% wind power since October. Now, it’s time to bring it on home. Starting Monday, January 14th and running through Friday, March 15th, TNCS is partnering with Clean Currents during the Green Neighborhood Challenge to bring clean energy to you.

What is the Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge?

GNEC is Clean Current’s community engagement program. Since 2008, more than 150 Maryland and D.C. communities, schools, groups, and environmental non-profits have participated in GNEC, and, in 2013, Clean Currents is expanding into PA. The program provides both education about why sustainable energy is so important and the support for actually switching to wind power, all while raising money for local green projects. In other words, it brings 100% renewable, sustainable energy into your home. Plus, for every family who makes the switch, Clean Currents donates $30 to TNCS for their use in a school environmental initiative of their choice.

Benefits Galore

Sounds too good to be true, right? It isn’t. Sounds like a lot of effort, expensive, and time-consuming? It’s none of those either. By enrolling in TNCS’s GNEC online, families will see a line item on the power bill they are already accustomed to receiving each month. This line item is not an additional charge, it just means that the money you are putting toward energy suppy is going exclusively to fund wind power production (not power sourced from dirty and carbon-intensive fossil fuels). The charge is right around the same cost (give or take a few tenths of a cent, depending on the particular service) as, for instance, Baltimore Gas & Electric’s current charges. Even better, while BGE and other power companies’ rates fluctuate with the market and also throughout the day (i.e., peak-hour usage costs more than off–peak-hour usage), Clean Currents’ energy rates are fixed; rates are quoted in 12- and 24-month increments. The online enrollment process takes no more than a few minutes, and, once that’s complete, Clean Currents takes over. Your energy bill will reflect the changes within one or two meter readings. There’s nothing to install, and there are no hidden or additional fees.

And, again, TNCS gets $30 for every household who makes the switch! Note: this opportunity is not limited to TNCS-enrolled families. Anyone who wants clean, green energy can join the GNEC . . . but do please mention TNCS on the enrollment form!

Says Emily Conrad, Clean Currents Community Outreach Coordinator, “Our hope is that the Green Neighborhood Challenge will provide an excellent platform to bring The New Century School community together and empower both the students and their families to positively and quantifiably contribute to the school and the planet.”

Emily Conrad Community Outreach Coordinator for Clean Currents

Emily Conrad, Clean Currents’ Community Outreach Coordinator

5 Quick, Easy Steps to Joining the GNEC

Having trouble believing that such dramatic benefits can come from next to no effort? Read on.

Step 1: Go to http://www.cleancurrents.com/ (or click here).

Step 2: Click the orange circle on the right of the page that says, “sign up NOW”.

Step 3: Enter your zip code and click “VIEW RATES”.

wind turbines at Pennsylvania wind far,

This Pennsylvania wind farm is Clean Currents’ supplier.

Step 4: Choose from one of five listed plans that include 1) 12-month or 24-month options, 2) neighborhood or national (via Renewable Energy Certificates—RECs; watch the video) wind suppliers (see map of Clean Currents’ wind farms) that are both Green e-Energy Certified, and 3) 50% or 100% wind power and then click “Enroll now”.

Step 5: Complete the very brief electronic form, accept the terms, click “Submit”, and congratulate yourself for reducing your family’s carbon footprint in an immediate and quantifiable way!

Seriously—it’s that simple!

Do note that on the form you will be asked to “Please provide further details and your Green Neighborhood Challenge name, if applicable”; this is where you fill in “The New Century School” so TNCS gets credit for participating in GNEC. Another field on the form asks for your Electronic I.D., which is not the same as your account number, and can be found at the top left on the second page of your bill. A final note about the form concerns whether you are currently under contract with another supplier. Unless you have voluntarily opted for a supplier other than the utility company (in Baltimore City’s case, BGE), you are not currently under contract (BGE doesn’t count). If you are under separate contract, however, you may want to wait until your renewable window comes around before signing up with Clean Currents to avoid an early termination fee.

So come on everybody, make the choice between 1/14/13 and 3/15/13 to GO GREEN by accepting the Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge! You won’t regret it, and . . . it’s a “breeze.”

As always, kindly let us know your thoughts about this post in the comments section—we love to hear from you! Plus, stay tuned to see TNCS’s measurable process in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Baltimore!