Hungry Harvest Comes to TNCS!

Last month, The New Century School joined the Hungry Harvest family, a move that aligns with two very important TNCS values. The first is offering students clean, healthy food for lunch, the second, serving our larger community.

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In case you haven’t heard, Hungry Harvest is the phenomenal local company whose tagline, “Produce with a Purpose,” provides just an inkling of all that this force of social and environmental good really does. Not only do they obtain surplus produce and/or “recover” produce deemed not aesthetically pleasing enough to be sold in stores, which cuts down on food waste considerably, but they also donate 2 pounds of produce to help feed someone in need for every delivery they make. Moreover, they partner with local farms to obtain the “harvests” in another important synergy: The farms’ sustainable practices protect the environment, while being able to sell all of their viable produce (not just the visually perfect stuff) allows the farms to stay in business—and in an environmentally and socially conscious way.

Some Sad Facts

To put this in perspective, in many areas in the United States, but certainly here in Baltimore, which has the astronomic “food insecurity” rate of 23% of the population, we are faced with the tragic irony of wasting literally tons of food each year while people who could have eaten that food instead go hungry. Brace yourself. In July 2016, The Atlantic journalist Adam Chandler wrote:

Americans waste an unfathomable amount of food. In fact . . . roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting ‘one third of all foodstuffs.’ Wasted food is also the single biggest occupant in American landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency has found. . . the great American squandering of produce appears to be a cultural dynamic as well, enabled in large part by a national obsession with the aesthetic quality of food. Fruits and vegetables, in addition to generally being healthful, have a tendency to bruise, brown, wilt, oxidize, ding, or discolor and that is apparently something American shoppers will not abide. ‘Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the U.S. are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards.’

(See more heartbreakingly unfortunate statistics on food waste here: https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm.)

unspecified-1TNCS Goes Hungry! (Harvesting, That Is.)

Fortunately, a very smart person recognized that these two problems could quite neatly solve each other. Quoting from the Hungry Harvest website, “Evan Lutz founded Hungry Harvest in the basement of his University of Maryland dorm room in 2014. He began by packing bags of produce himself and delivering to 30 customers. A few months later, Evan’s idea was validated on [the television show] ‘Shark Tank’ when he struck a deal with Robert Herjavec. Now the Hungry Harvest team is up to 11 and delivering across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.”

Thanks to Head of School Alicia Danyali and Executive Chef Emma Novashinski, TNCS is now part of that delivery route. Said Chef Emma: “Hungry Harvest reclaims food rejected during quality assurance, sells it to subscribers, and uses some of the profit to feed other hungry families. We wanted to be part of this wonderful initiative that uses one problem to solve another.”

Although combination boxes of fruits and veggies are available, TNCS sticks with just fruit through Hungry Harvest. As Chef Emma explained it, seasonal fruit is harder to obtain throughout the year from local suppliers, whereas, in this climate, vegetables of some variety are always growing. So, even if local fruit isn’t always available, such as during winter months, TNCS can get it from Hungry Harvest. And, by ordering only organic through Hungry Harvest, there’s still a nod to sustainable practices. This also allows TNCS to avoid resorting to so-called “conventional fruit,” meaning fruit that might be shipped from a remote region or grown in heavily chemical environments.

“Every Monday, we get four boxes of fruit variety delivered to us, which has allowed us to start serving fruit salads, which the kids are not only really enjoying, but they are also tasting fruits they might have been unfamiliar with, such as pomegranates or persimmons. And, if there’s a fruit in the salad they don’t care for, they can eat the other fruits around it and still get the vitamins and nutrients. Today we had mango, strawberry, and melon, for example.” Last year, Chef Emma more or less had to rotate apples and oranges through the winter months. This year, “we get a crossfade. They get to experience some new things—satsumas, mandarins, pineapples—and they get some old favorites like clementines,” she said. “They are getting more fruit this way, too, which can’t be bad. There’s no peel or pith—it’s already in bite-sized pieces for them.” (By the way, the persimmons were sweetened and cooked down then mixed with Greek yogurt in case you were wondering how on earth Chef Emma got the kids to eat them! Which they did!)

Choose-your-own-adventure options are available, but TNCS lets Hungry Harvest select what fruit will be delivered and provides guidelines for what works, such as no highly perishable items, so single items, etc.

Surely the question on everybody’s minds by now is, “So what about the quality?” In Chef Emma’s experience so far, the produce has been completely edible and delicious, rejected only for visual imperfections such as shape or markings. It’s not soft or mushy, as might be the misconception.

But wait—there are even more great benefits deriving from this partnership! In an online chat, Hungry Harvest Customer Experience Hero & Academic Coordinator Katie Landry explained:

Our school pickup sites operate a really unique program called Produce in a SNAP that allows families in need to use their SNAP/EBT (Food Stamps). We currently partner with Baltimore City Public and Charter schools to subsidize our produce and they can use SNAP/EBT at these sites! Learn more about these sites by following the link below.

Hungry for More?

If you are interested in signing up for a harvest for your family, visit https://shop.hungryharvest.net/summary.php?go=products to see the goods. It couldn’t be easier to do, and you’ll not only be making a social impact and contributing to environmental sustainability, you’ll also have your family’s fruits and veggies conveniently delivered to your door! The online signup experience is a breeze, and super-friendly company representatives like Katie are available to answer any questions in an instant. (And they address you as a hero, so that’s added fun :).)

Pro Tip: Typing “Emma Novashinski” in the referral box earns you a discount as well as one for TNCS! Go reap your harvest!

TNCS Continues Annual Service to the Community with Project Linus

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Please drop off new or gently used coat donations to TNCS by December 12, 2016 in TNCS’s reception area.

The run up to the holiday season is always a special time at The New Century School because it’s an opportunity to show our support to our local community and beyond. In the month of November, TNCS has undertaken two outreach initiatives to benefit our neighbors in need, first with the 6th annual healthy food drive for Beans & Bread (through St. Vincent de Paul) in conjunction with United Way of Central Maryland, and second with the coat drive for CASA de Maryland, a nonprofit that works with low-income Latino immigrant families. Please note that this latter initiative is ongoing through December 12, 2016, and a donation box is located in TNCS’s reception area.

img_0089This year, though, is special for a new effort. On November 18th, as part of their Service learning, TNCS upper elementary and middle school students teamed up with Project Linus, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide homemade blankets to sick and hospitalized children in need—to “provide security through blankets” and “spread blanket hugs nationwide.” Head of School Alicia Danyali and Parent Council Head Sakina Ligon both have experience with Project Linus and felt it was a great fit for TNCS.

Ms. Ligon explained in an email to parents that “volunteerism teaches basic character foundations to children, and having them help other children teaches them that people in need are really just like them. Studies have shown that serving as volunteers promotes healthy lifestyle and choices, enhances development, teaches life skills, promotes citizenship, improves the community, and encourages a lifelong service ethic in children ages 5 to 14 years. The value of volunteering teaches your children the importance of donating their time, a core value at TNCS.”

img_0084On the day TNCS students became “blanketeers,” a school tour group happened to be coming through and were duly impressed by the service-learning-in-action they witnessed. Baltimore City/Baltimore County Chapter Coordinator Fay Husted instructed the 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-graders on how to produce the blankets. Mrs. Hutchens was a teacher and principal in Baltimore City schools for 37 years and now devotes her time to Project Linus.

Said Mrs. Husted:

Project Linus us a national organization with chapters all over the country. Being a chapter coordinator means being very organized because hundreds of people make blankets for me—individuals as well as school, church, and senior groups. We accept quilts and fleece, knitted, and crocheted blankets. When we get the blankets to our storage facility, a group of about 10 ladies help me sew in handmade Project Linus labels. Once we get the labels in the blankets, I bag them, and my husband and I deliver them all over Baltimore City—mostly to hospitals, but also to Ronald McDonald House, Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House at Johns Hopkins, House of Ruth, shelters, and some camps. We deliver between 200 and 250 blankets a month.

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Fay Husted

Project Linus was established in Parker, Colorado on December 24, 1995 and has delivered more than 6 million blankets nationwide to grateful kids in the going-on 21 years since. “Project Linus is a wonderful organization. A non-profit is considered good if 13% or less of their donations are used for administrative purposes. Less than 7% of ours are,” explained Mrs. Husted, “because everybody is a volunteer.” Other than some monthly and annual maintenance fees, such as for the right to use Charles Schultz’s thumb-sucking, blanket-carrying, sage-beyond-his-years character as their mascot, they operate with very little overhead.

From dozens of available patterns, Mrs. Husted chose Fringed Fleece Blanket that can be made very quickly for TNCS students. Here’s how they did it!

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img_0106Said Mrs. Danyali, “the students are going to write notes of encouragement to go along with the blankets they make.” One fifth grader commented that she was very glad to participate in a project that would help kids in need. Another, with obvious sincerity, said he wanted to make his blanket as good as he possibly could.

With leftover material, students can make additional items like headbands during Teacher’s Choice time.

For past years’ initiatives, such as primary classrooms collecting dimes to purchase and donate livestock through Heifer International, see Lessons in Gratitude at TNCS, Lessons in Thanksgiving at TNCS, and TNCS Holiday Outreach Programs.

TNCS Middle School: Opening the Window of Awakening

As we approach the end of 2015, our thoughts naturally turn to what lies ahead in the coming year. For The New Century School, one thrilling near-future event looms very large: the opening of the TNCS middle school in fall 2016.

One of the more unfortunate American societal trends is that middle school–age kids are in a slump. Forgotten in the interstices between elementary school and high school, these kids are victims of what has been termed the “lost years.” Multiple factors contribute to this problem, but a key issue is that kids are still maturing yet are confronted with the many pressures and challenges of young adulthood. Many do not yet have the tools they need to face down these challenges and become confused and overwhelmed, which all too often leads to poor decision-making with potentially life-altering consequences, such as teen pregnancy or drug abuse. Another unfortunate consequence is that kids show less interest in learning, with correspondingly lower academic performance.

The good news is, these problems are preventable, and TNCS is leading the charge to revolutionize middle school education. Rather than view the middle school years as inevitably unproductive, TNCS sees them as a Window of Awakening—flipping the entrenched notion that kids at this age are a lost cause on its head. Middle school becomes an opportunity, not a wasteland. A juncture, not a dead zone.

So how will TNCS make middle school a positive experience for students? Of course, the scholastic piece will maintain continuity with TNCS’s core identity as a progressive, inquiry-based learning institution that emphasizes global citizenship and community spirit. TNCS administration is in talks with a middle school curriculum expert to ensure that the curriculum will be rigorous and engaging, meets or exceeds state standards, and is relevant and therefore meaningful for students ages 10–14 years. Mixed-age classrooms, individualized instruction, and language acquisition will remain vital components in effecting this specialized middle school curriculum.

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The real difference will be in embracing the oft-squandered opportunity that these years present to keep them invested in their learning. It’s an opportunity to really set them up for success in high school and beyond with the explicit practical skills they will need. These include physical and mental organizational skills (e.g., keeping track of materials; time management) and developing the habits of successful students (to study smarter, not harder). And, more than that, it’s an opportunity to guide them in their search for their identity to who they really are—to help them actualize their innate potential and goodness.

Akin to the preschool years in some ways, during the middle school years, kids need parents more, not less. Despite their kids’ outward physical growth and the biological changes that seem to propel them to adulthood, parents retain more influence over kids at this age than they might realize. Although kids test out rebellion and throw up opposition every chance they get, these might be requests for attention and help. They are navigating a huge new world, and sometimes they want their hands held along the way.

TNCS is a small, close-knit school. Many among the student body have known each other since toddlerhood. While many preteens and teens are crumbling under peer pressure, pressure to conform, and the pressure to make good choices about huge decisions with their as-yet limited knowledge and experience, TNCS middle school students will benefit from being a part of this protective community where they will be free take things at their own pace.

At the same time, an integral school value is the courage to take risks—not to be confused with condoning risky behavior. This risk-taking is about creativity. Problem-solving, conflict resolution, trying new things, innovating . . . all of these are hallmarks of happy, successful, self-possessed individuals. TNCS middle school will create frameworks for possibility, in the words of The Art of Possibility, a groundbreaking book comprising 12 practices for bringing creativity into any endeavor.

True to TNCS’s mission, fostering compassion and its logical consequence, altruism, the middle school will broaden and deepen the mentorships begun in the younger divisions such as elementary students reading to the pre-primary and primary students. Here, these mentorships might take the form of actual instruction, which will benefit both groups, the younger  kids by the content of the instruction and the older kids by the act of instructing. The “Learning Pyramid” posits that we retain 90% of what we learn when we teach it to someone else. Leadership skills will be further cultivated through proposed formation of a student government.

They will reach out to the larger community as well with targeted “service learning.” In the words of the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, service learning is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” The possibilities for specific programs are endless, but partnering with Habitat for Humanity is one example of ways TNCS middle school students might participate. Maryland, by the way, was the first state to require service-learning hours as a condition of graduation from high school. (Click here to read some of the many academic, personal, and social student benefits of community engagement.)

Field trips will also take on a service-oriented hue. The upper elementary students are already taking excursions with teachers Kiley Stasch and Dan McGonigal that are connected to their in-class study. By applying what they have learned to the real world, they are then invited to reflect on their experience to reinforce the link between their service and their learning. Given their status as ever-maturing young people, these trips may take them farther afield than where they have so far gone, in keeping with TNCS’s global vision.

Why a middle school? TNCS Co-Founder/Executive Director said it best: “At the end of the day, what we want for our kids is for them to be happy with who they are and what they are doing.” And that’s what TNCS middle school will be all about.

Happy Holidays, TNCS Community! See you next year!

 

TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

Recently, The New Century School elementary students participated in their annual STEM Fair, and each division (K/1st and upper and lower elementary) tackled a problem related to water. The upper elementary students, in particular, focused on the Chesapeake Bay and what steps can be taken to reduce pollution in the bay and protect its natural flora and fauna (read TNCS STEM Fair 2015 Makes a Huge Splash! for more).

Last week was Climate Education Week, with Earth Day being the week’s main attraction. Earth Day 2015 was the 35th annual and a very big deal, globally . . . and locally! To reinforce the concepts his students had begun exploring during STEM Fair preparations, TNCS’s STEM teacher Dan McDonigal revisited the problem of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay for a clever and very rewarding Earth Day project: Operation Storm Drain Beautification!

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Blue Water Baltimore offers community-led solutions to clean up Baltimore’s waters.

The idea for the project came to him from Blue Water Baltimore, an advocacy group dedicated to using community-based restoration to achieve clean water in Baltimore watersheds. One way is by stenciling storm drains to educate the community and raise awareness about the improper disposal of household garbage, overflowing street corner trash cans, and litter on sidewalks and in gutters and storm drains. Because storm drains are entryways to our bodies of water, including the Chesapeake Bay, when it rains, trash and pollutants in the streets are carried into the storm drains and directly to our waters.

So, Mr. McDonigal attended one of Blue Water Baltimore’s stenciling workshops, applied for and obtained the necessary materials to paint two nearby storm drains, and celebrated Earth Day 2015 by making a difference in our wonderful Fell’s Point community! His students were thoroughly engaged in this project, which demonstrates its inherent worthiness. Really, what’s not to love about an activity that applies scientific concepts studied thus far, helps the environment, teaches responsible community involvement, integrates art, and gets the kids outside?

However, TNCS students were not the only group to appreciate this endeavor—Ann St. residents stopped by periodically to see what was happening and were thrilled to receive this community gift. Well done, indeed, TNCS upper elementary! And a huge thanks to Mr. McDonigal for this initiative!

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TNCS’s Go-Green-for-Earth-Day Raffle!

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TNCS supports and uses green energy!

One of The New Century School‘s core values is a commitment to environmental sustainability, and TNCS demonstrates this commitment in a variety of ways. From serving lunch from homegrown or locally sourced produce, to running recycling campaigns, to powering the school buildings with green energy, TNCS strives to keep its carbon footprint as low as possible for the good of the planet.

In honor of Earth Day 2015, which is Wednesday, April 22nd, TNCS is inviting you to join in and go green, too! As detailed in TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose, TNCS sources electricity through green-energy company Viridian, who has helped avoid more than 4 billion pounds in carbon emissions to date. By enrolling with Viridian, you not only opt to affordably supply your home with green energy, but you also earn cash rewards for TNCS without lifting a finger. There is no cost to change your energy provider to Viridian, and all you need is your current utility bill to quickly and easily make the switch.

You Win, TNCS Wins, Earth Wins!

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Why enroll for green energy with Viridian? Reduce your carbon footprint, show your support for socially responsible companies, and raise funds for TNCS!

Many of you have probably been considering signing up with Viridian, but, for one reason or another, just haven’t gotten around to it. Well, now’s the time! To sweeten the deal, TNCS and Viridian are jointly hosting a raffle for enrollees to be held at the April 24th Potluck. Just for enrolling, you receive a TNCS tee shirt, and you will also be entered in a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card, donated by Viridian.

How do you enroll? It’s so easy to do, and you have three convenient options to choose from!

1. Register online at: www.viridian.com/newcenturyschool. (Helpful tips include: Use Internet Explorer or Firefox rather than Safari, which is glitchy, and if you are opting for electricity only rather than electricity and gas, make sure to select “Not at this time” for gas on the Step 1 page.)

2. Call Viridian Customer Care at (866) 663-2508 (be sure to mention TNCS!).

3. Bring your current electric bill to the Potluck on April 24th, where TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali will be manning a sign-up table to switch you to Viridian on the spot.

And, regardless of how, when, or where you enroll, as long as you bring proof of registration to the Potluck, you will receive your TNCS tee and be entered in the raffle.

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Viridian FAQs.

If you need more information, please download this informative brochure of FAQs and other details, visit the website above, or contact Viridian at the number above.

This Earth Day—the 45th annual—is going to be a very special one, and some are calling 2015 the the most exciting year in environmental history. With the slogan “It’s Our Turn To Lead,” the Earth Day network is galvanizing countries globally to participate in this great enterprise. Choosing green energy is how we can contribute our voice and our support. With the coming week being Climate Education Week, we can also teach our future citizens the importance of behaving responsibly toward the environment—in fact, Thursday is Renewable Energy Day!

Other resources for your information include Affordable_Energy and Why Go Solar Now?.

Lessons in Thanksgiving at TNCS

This beautiful cornucopia spilled over with all the kids' favorite healthy snacks!

This beautiful cornucopia spilled over with all the kids’ favorite healthy snacks!

Holidays at The New Century School are special not just because of the unique, meaningful ways TNCS celebrates, but also because the school seizes the chance to give back to the surrounding community and beyond. After a Fall semester full of fundraising initiatives and community outreach, TNCS spent the last school-day in November by sharing a Thanksgiving/Cultural Feast to share our collective gratitude as well as taste delicious dishes from around the world. The Feast was the perfect culmination of the first two Units of Inquiry for the 2014–2015 school year: Community Building and People/Families Around the World.

Parents were asked to contribute a dish representing their culture to their child’s class feast. As has become the norm, TNCS parents really brought it. The following slideshow represents just a “taste” of the schoolwide event, but is more than enough to make your mouths water, viewers!

 

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What hard work was the antecedent to this lovely reward? Lots and lots of it.

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Neighbors and families came out in force—there wasn’t a crumb remaining after the 30-minute sale!

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Mrs. DuPrau and her proud 1st- and 2nd-graders.

TNCS elementary kids held the school’s first-ever bake sale and donated their proceeds to help raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. The bake sale was an astronomical success due to both the tempting goodies up for sale and to the savvy promotional campaign that preceded the event (students designed their own posters and signage). Mrs. DuPrau’s homeroom class was proud to contribute more than $300 to Habitat.

Another local beneficiary was the Help Rebuild Thames Street Park Playground initiative right here in Fell’s Point. TNCS students use this playground regularly, so Head of School Alicia Danyali ran a school-wide fundraiser through Mixed Bag Designs and gave all of the proceeds—more than $1,700—to the playground renovations! Well done, TNCS community!

As for the past 2 years, TNCS once again hosted a very successful food drive for to St. Vincent de Paul’s Beans & Bread program, “a comprehensive day resource program that offers a complete range of supportive services designed to help [Baltimore] individuals attain stabilization and self-sufficiency.”

True to form, the TNCS community is finding other ways to demonstrate their inherent altruism. Such creative and inspiring acts include enrolling in the sustainable energy program provided by Viridian, which helps the planet and earns fund for TNCS. Haven’t enrolled yet? Read more: TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose!

And, elementary students are once more partnering with Councilman Jim Kraft’s office to do some good around Southeast Baltimore. See what they are jointly cooking up: TNCS and Councilman Kraft: Outreach for Our Shared Community.

TNCS provides students with regular opportunities to share their resources and goodwill, and our little humanitarians will learn very important life lessons as a result of this important practice in gratitude. So thank you, TNCS!

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!