Virtual TNCS: A School and Its Student Body Continue to Thrive!

On Friday, March 13, 2020, The New Century School shuttered its campus at the end of the school day, closing down along with the rest of Maryland schools, then U.S. schools, then all nonessential businesses, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This necessity to try to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the virus disrupted normal life for just about everyone on Earth. With cooperation, collaboration, and community-spiritedness, we’ll get through this. In the meantime, people are adjusting to how to live full lives while staying at home.

For our children, this is especially imperative. Their education and development must continue, but how? Parents across the globe face this dilemma. What, if any, are the expectations and academic requirements for students while school is out? What is the threshold for how much school they can miss before they start to lose ground they might not be able to regain?

TNCS is a success story in this otherwise quagmire of uncertainty. TNCS admin and faculty had already begun working feverishly behind the scenes to prepare for what would become known as “distance learning.” By Sunday, March 15th, a team of student volunteers had been appointed to help transition all TNCS students to a virtual learning environment. In other words, classes would continue, just like every other day, but TNCS students would “attend” from home, meeting up online. On Monday, March 16th, the student volunteers sent messages and made phone calls to the parents of the younger students on their lists to get them set up in Google Classroom, an online platform to “organize assignments, boost collaboration, and foster better communication.” Meanwhile, staff were being trained on the new platform and designing and adapting curricula. By Tuesday, March 17th, nearly 100% of TNCS students were up and running (yes, even preschoolers!), and parents received a very welcome message: “TNCS Virtual School begins tomorrow!” (Read the message in its entirety here.)

TNCS Virtual School

And so began what has been an utterly remarkable experience for TNCS students. As periods of closure extend longer and longer, and social distancing grows wider and wider, these children have not skipped a beat in their education. Classes are synchronous, meaning that students can interact with each other and the teacher, not just with a screen. Using ingenious combinations of Google Hangouts and Zoom, teachers have kept students in their classes connected and engaged. Right from the start, students had a regular school day, signing on at 8:30 and progressing through their class schedule—including language classes and even art and music in addition to core academics—until “dismissal” at 3:30.

At the close of Day 1, March 18th, parents received another encouraging message from the TNCS Virtual School Team:

It was a great start for many, and not-so-perfect for some. There were many wonderful moments worth celebrating—students interacting with one another, connecting with teachers, and dedicating themselves to learning a new routine. Your support of the school in interactions with your children has created a strong foundation and we deeply appreciate it as we embark on this learning journey . . . Grit has a stronger effect on success than IQ and many other factors. Let’s cultivate our students’ grit. Let’s cultivate our own grit and use this experience to become stronger and more capable than ever.

In the days and weeks to come, TNCS Virtual School will emphasize:

  1. Continuing academic growth/readiness for next school year
  2. Supporting student social and emotional and well-being
  3. Showing Virtual School in action

Remember that Immersed promised you adorable photos of TNCS students last week? Well, let’s get to it!

TNCS Virtual Preschool

Here are the littlest learners “showing some TNCS e-learning spirit,” as Señora Salas puts it. Among lots of other great activities below, find her “Arts and crafts of the day: Oruga (caterpillar).”

Another sample preschool activity is as follows:

“En La Casa” (At Home): Matching “Colores” (Colors)
Materials:

  • Pom poms assorted colors
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Shower mats/shower pads/soap suction pads
  • Kitchen bowls/containers
  • Kitchen utensils (spoons, measuring spoons, etc.)
  • Trays/place mats
  • Tongs/tweezers (optional, for a more challenging activity)

At school, each activity is arranged from left to right, as children work on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. These activities are also placed on a tray or a place mat to create a sense of order, making it inviting and interesting to our “amigos”!

Speaking of hand–eye coordination, what about physical activity? Covered!

Virtual Montessori!

TNCS Montessori teachers nurture order, coordination, concentration, and independence in their students . . . from the computer! Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture areas of the “classroom” are all intact!

Sample Schedule

  • 9:00 Story or Yoga
  • 10:30 Food Preparation, Making a cucumber sandwich
  • 1:15 Chapter Book
  • 2:00 Math, Bead Stair Lesson
  • 2:30 Language, Rhyming Work

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Virtual Service Learning

Yep, we got that, too. Here’s one example of how a TNCS student is giving back while social distancing. She made bookmarks to encourage children with reduced literacy to hang in there and keep reading.

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She also wrote a letter to TNCS Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali:

Hi Ms. Danyali,

Hope you are doing OK. My family and I are keeping busy at home, and schoolwork is a large part of that. My parents are happy that I am still learning.
To answer your questions:
1) I love that books help me to learn.
2) Books help me build my curiosity by learning how to spell new words and by learning about new ideas.
3) Reading is important because it makes you smarter and helps you grow.
4) When I learned to read, it helped me to spell.
5) I hope the student feels joyful.

Thank you for this project!
Best,
Vivian (written with Mom’s help)

Other service initiatives in all divisions can be found here.

From here on, we’ll dispense with the descriptions and just let you feast your eyes.

Virtual Science Class

Virtual Global Studies

Virtual Language Classes

Virtual Math Class


Virtual Art Class

Miscellaneous Elementary & Middle School


As school systems around the country are facing the reality that they will have to devise online schooling, with many, including Maryland’s, hoping to start in April, TNCS students will enter Week 3 of their brave, new education next week. They will have gotten through the adjustment phase, untangled the technical snafus, settled into their routines. And let’s not minimize those challenges. This transition has been overwhelming to varying degrees for all of us. (Read Guest Blog to see how one stalwart TNCS 8th-grader is helping us through it.) But we can be reassured by at least one aspect of this unprecedented circumstance—our children are flourishing, just like usual, thanks to The New Century School.

Also a big thank you to parents who so graciously allowed us to see what TNCS Virtual School looks like at their house. With yesterday’s announcement that MD schools will be closed through April 24th and possibly longer, TNCS Virtual School is a blessing and a marvel—even the next generation is getting in on the act!

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Student Guest Blog: Advice to Students and Parents Transitioning to Online School during COVID-19

images.jpgThis is a very special blog post, dear readers. It’s Immersed‘s 350th post, to begin with, which amounts to quite a repository of all the wonderful goings-on at The New Century School over the years. Felicidades and gōngxǐ (恭喜) are most certainly in order!

Then there’s the fact that this is the first Immersed post to publish since COVID-19 broke out in the United States with a vengeance, forcing us to institute social distancing, then more or less shelter in place where possible. With TNCS closed, however, Immersed nevertheless sallies forth!

And that brings us to the third reason this post is so very extra special—it was contributed by guest blogger Kathryn Hardaway! Ms. Hardaway is an 8th-grader at TNCS (and our first student contributor!) and has attended since the school opened its doors. If anyone knows TNCS, it’s her, so, without further ado, here are her words of advice for getting through with grace and making the most of this time.img_2960-copy-e1569699875507

Keep a Schedule

One of the things that has helped keep me on task during this whole crazy outbreak has been a daily schedule. It helps builds structure in a day and keeps everyone on task. If your kid needs supervision while on class-chats, you both will know when it’s time to go on, or if they’re learning a new subject in math, you both will know when it’s time for help. Try and make your schedule together, at the start of the day. If it helps to add specific times on certain activities, go ahead and mark it up.

Keep It Simple

The best thing you can do for your kid in a time like this is keep it simple. It’s okay if they can’t do everything they would normally do each day. Give them a little break, allow them to have free time, and, kids, same goes for you. Your parents are working harder than you know, so stay on task and don’t be too hard on them. Try meditating!

Get Outside

I consider going outside for at least a half hour each day to have been my saving grace. After spending a long day inside, with my eyes glued to a computer screen, it’s really important to get outside while you still can. It can help a lot if you feel confined or have cabin fever. Just taking a walk or a run helps you stay active and just getting those bits of fresh air are really important when you’re quarantined. Maybe even taking your mathbook outside and doing some work out there would be beneficial. Or build a fort!

Find Healthy Hobbies

Having a healthy hobby is something I’ve found really fun. If your child has an unhealthy habit, replace it with a brand new healthy hobby. Encourage them to spend time doing it. Whether it’s trying to do 20 pull-ups, or writing a book, it’s something to keep yourself busy with. If you’re bored, try and do something new. Read a new book series or set a new goal. Pick something that you genuinely enjoy doing so you’re motivated to keep on going with it.

Be Kind

Remember to always be kind. Everyone is having their own struggles right now, so don’t be too hard on anyone. Parents, remember to keep structure, but also don’t be too harsh if your kid makes a mistake. This is a stressful time for everyone, so try and ask people what’s going on; see if you can chat about things that are bothering you so you can try and fix them. Give constructive feedback, but don’t be too harsh. Kids please, please remember how hard your parents work each and every day. They’re having to adjust to this new lifestyle too. Try to be independent, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, or even offer to chip in a little more than usual. All the little things mean more than you can know.

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Next week, see more of the online school Ms. Hardaway refers to . . . plus lots of adorable photos of TNCS students happily at work!