TNCS Elementary and Middle School Information Night 2017

What we learn with pleasure we never forget. – Alfred Mercier, 19th century writer and physician

 

tncs-elementary-middle-school-information-night-2017On November 30th, The New Century School hosted it’s annual “info night”—an event that provides prospective families with an opportunity to get a glimpse of TNCS’s elementary and middle school curricula. TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali presented a brief overview of TNCS, from history to language learning, school philosophy, and a peek inside classroom operations.

In 2006, the school was established with five students in a one-room schoolhouse in Patterson Park. The owners of this school are two like-minded Moms that wanted language immersion as a priority for their own children, so they got some other parents together and thought it would be a great idea to start this school. Here we are, 11 years later with 215 students! We start at 2 years old and go through 7th grade. Our main objective is to attract people who are interested in language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin. We also practice Montessori principles, and I want to talk a little bit about how that overflows into our elementary/middle school program and what things we take from the Montessori preschool into to that program, especially for those families who are currently enrolled in our preschool.

First, some practical points: We have more than 50 staff members, and we offer before care all the way through to after care program. We open at 7:30 am and close at 6:00 pm, wth the school day running from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Back to the benefits of multilinguism, what sticks out in my mind as most important and why I like to work in language-immersion environments is that it offers you many ways to problem solve. When you’ve had that language background, your brain will work in a more elastic way—it helps cultivate executive function skills as well as aspects of what I call the ‘invisible curriculum,’ like tolerance. We learn about the world around us through language learning.

If you’re currently in our preschool program, you’ll see that some things stay the same, including our overall approach to whole-child development through differentiated instruction as well as student-driven learning. A typical elementary/middle class size in this school is no larger than 16 or 17 students. We keep it small so that we can meet everybody’s needs in the classroom, regardless of level. Our classroom management system, the Daily 5 (or 3 or 4) Rotation, ensures that every student is getting one-on-one contact with the teacher, collaboration with others in small groups, and time to work independently. Students are given specific parameters to work within that allow them to understand what their responsibilities are. Technology and computer time is also a component of the daily classroom rotation cycle.

Teachers work in pairs or groups of four, depending on grade. Each child has a homeroom class where they are designated to start and end the day as well as to engage in various subjects. Then students have a block of time with, for example, the teacher who handles ELA and Math or Global Studies. Throughout the day, they transition to other core subjects as well as receive daily targeted language instruction for 30 to 45 minutes. In addition, they get a focused subject area in Mandarin and Spanish, such as Global Studies. In this format, language really starts to emerge.

We also have a very strong arts program. K through 8th-grade have two music classes with Music Director Martellies Warren each week. They also have two art classes and two physical education classes every week. Currently we partner with Coppermine.

Our greenhouse and chicken coops, when operational, give children the chance to cultivate plants and livestock, and we also offer a vegetarian, locally sourced lunch. Finally, we offer the Ozone Snack Bar, a student lounge where older kids can relax, socialize, and enjoy a healthy snack at select times.

IMG_2605After Mrs. Danyali spoke, each teacher briefly described his or her classroom approach and particular subject area. Following these teacher presentations, audience members asked specific questions of the presenters.

Info Night is a great way to get an initial introduction to TNCS. Additional highlights of this event can be found in Elementary and Middle School Info Night 2017, a helpful powerpoint presentation. However, to really get to know the school and discover the wonder that takes place in classrooms here every day, attend an Admissions Friday or Open House event and witness the magic first hand. Subsequently, your child will spend a shadow day with other TNCS students and experience what it’s like to actually enjoy learning.

TNCS Celebrates Chinese New Year!

The Chinese Lunar New Year is always a big event at The New Century School, a time to reflect on all that has happened during the prior year, connect with family and friends, and eat delicious foods, all to start the new year off in a positive way. This year is Year of The Fire Monkey, and it starts Monday, February 8th. To gear up for this special occasion, TNCS elementary students attended a presentation on China On Friday morning.

Given by a TNCS parent volunteer, the presentation was intended to not only celebrate Chinese culture and customs, but also to invite the elementary attendees to compare and contrast what primary and secondary education looks like in China to their own experiences here as U.S. students. Please excuse generalizations (of both schooling styles), which were made simply for the purposes of the exercise and not to pass judgment on either.

Although at first glance, Chinese and U.S. schools looked pretty similar to the audience, with lots of smiling faces and a happy sort of hubbub going on around campus, the differences became more evident once inside the classroom. Discipline and respect are highly prized in the Chinese classroom, meaning that kids are not permitted to fidget and must sit quietly—on their hands, in point of fact—until called on by the teacher. TNCS students, by contrast, are given the license to sit, stand, or recline where and how they wish at many points during the day so long as they demonstrate that they can handle this freedom and attend to their scholastic pursuits.

Advantages and disadvantages are evident in both approaches. TNCS students get to relax a little as well as not have to constantly fight their very natural instincts to move around, but the Chinese way allows up to 50 students per class to attend to a lesson without potential distractions from surrounding students.

Another point that TNCS students were asked to consider involved what are called “specials” at TNCS and include The Arts and physical education. In China, students are asked to replicate crafts and artwork from a model as well as exercise in perfect unison, and they are held to a very high standard of performance. This can mean that they are not given much opportunity to be creative or exhibit individuality in a given school day, although the skills they master are certainly impressive. U.S. students, by contrast, are frequently encouraged to find their unique identity and then express the heck out of it. However, they may not develop technical mastery of what inspires them at as young an age as do their Chinese counterparts. So, again, one approach might work for some, another for others.

The outcomes of these different approaches are, in some ways, “worlds apart.” While it’s certainly true that Chinese students command a large body of information and demonstrate their capacity for retention at test time, some of their teachers commented on their inability to think for themselves in non-academic environments. Many Western students experience nearly the exact opposite, following their individual paths of inquiry wherever they might lead and employing critical thinking and creative problem-solving to get them down the road. However, the United States ranks far below China (and 20 or so other countries) in measurable scholastic skills like math. This might matter a lot to some, less so to others, but once more the point is in exploring the two styles. Ultimately, it’s probably true that neither educational approach is perfectly ideal across all settings or contexts.

Nevertheless, TNCS students enjoyed teasing out both the differences and the parallels, and it was gratifying to see them imagining themselves in the shoes of a Chinese student. Their observations were insightful and even sometimes incisive. It’s a good bet that many of them would like to visit China for themselves in the near future.

In the meantime, they can content themselves with the video below of the slides presented today in addition to turning their thoughts to the approaching lunar new year, which Li Laoshi and Yangyang Laoshi are sure to help them celebrate with a bang! We hope that this Monkey Year brings you and yours health and happiness!

Meet the Newest Addition to TNCS’s Administration!

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Welcome to TNCS, Ms. Sanchies!

This summer, The New Century School welcomes Dominique Sanchies to the vibrant and dedicated administrative team. Ms. Sanchies will adopt a somewhat new-for-2015 “combination role”—she will take over as Admissions Director (the position recently vacated by Robin Munro as she returns to the Biology classroom) as well as becoming Assistant Head of School to support current Head of School Alicia Danyali.

Ms. Sanchies and her husband moved to Baltimore in March from Portland, Maine, a move she expected to be a bit of an upheaval. Instead, she says, “We love it here. In fact, Fell’s Point is a lot like Portland, which in turn is a lot like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is Fell’s Point’s sister city.” Good to know! So far, they are glad to see the cobblestones, which remind them of home, but are still acclimating to the notorious Baltimore accent (“hon”). Also, hailing from the “Pine Tree State” as she does, she notes that we have a lot more deciduous trees, whereas Maine features largely coniferous varieties.

She arrives at TNCS with quite a diverse background, experiences that will serve her well in her new multifaceted position. Her degree is in Communications, earned at the University of Southern Maine. After graduating from college, she first worked in the television industry as Affiliate Relations Manager for Resort Sports Network (RSN), an independent cable sports network now known as Outside Television. In addition to traveling all over the country and getting the chance to “ski in some really wonderful places” she negotiated contracts between RSN and their more than 30 affiliate networks in all of the key U.S. destination skiing and golf resorts.

After 6 years with RSN, she became an account executive for a local Portland network where she fortuitously encountered a former colleague who was starting up her own local production company. Ms. Sanchies was hired as Director of Sales for Bohler Productions, a lifestyle television network with multiple Emmy-award-winning shows to their credit. “We sold nontraditional television media to area businesses,” she said, for such shows as Maine Home and Design and The Best of Portland. “Instead of traditional commercials, we sold 90-second spots that told the story of the business.” What emerged was basically a showcase of the best area spots for dining, shopping, lodging, etc., which was a very effective approach to advertising, a testament to Ms. Sanchies’ ability to innovate.

“From there,” she says, “I went corporate!” She became a Senior Analyst with the Fortune 500 insurance company UNUM, adjudicating claims in the long-term disability department, which she says was a surprisingly nice experience. “I had been accustomed to working for small companies, so to go to a major organization where I was pretty much just a number taught me the value of accountability and giving really clear expectations to not only myself but also to the people I was mentoring and managing. So, it brought a lot of formality that was kind of new to me but that I grew to love.”

The experience showed her that the right systems can be actually liberating rather than confining. Here at TNCS, she hopes to help the team implement a similar structure with upcoming initiatives and future school planning, “so that we work smarter, not harder to realize our new goals” she said.

While certainly dynamic, Ms. Sanchies’ résumé is nevertheless unified by a common thread. “I’ve been a relationship manager the whole time. If I were to distill selling media, for example, or working as a long-term care analyst, it all still comes down to relating to people,” she said. It’s this capacity for civil collaboration that will make her the ideal fit for her new position at TNCS, in which she will interact with teachers, other staff members, families, and, of course, students from ages 2 to 12.

Oh, and by the way, she’s multilingual—yet another plus! She grew up in a bilingual French/English household with most of her relatives from Québec, Canada speaking only French. She also picked up some Spanish along the way as she put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland. Her role was initially to find host families and teachers for her group of 22 Spanish students, but she ultimately traveled to Madrid, Spain to teach English as a second language there.

As if this impressive portfolio wasn’t enough, she is also a musician and has spent time as a part-time preschool music instructor—yet another boon for music-loving TNCS students! She describes the music in her two albums as “Cheryl Crow meets Dave Matthews.”

So what are her initial impressions of TNCS? “It’s summertime, so I haven’t gotten to meet all of the teachers—let alone the students—but what I’ve seen during the summer session is a charming place with lovely little people and a really dedicated staff,” she said. “So far so good!” She thinks the multilingual approach is “brilliant” and speaks from firsthand experience. Scientific research (see Immersed‘s Resources and Links pages) demonstrates that TNCS students are at the perfect age to learn languages because their nimble young brains are so nimble. “It also wards off dementia in old age and is really good exercise for the brain,” she said. (This phenomenon is known as “cognitive reserve”; read Ellen Bialystok and team’s fascinating research here.)

Pine TreeIn closing, Ms. Sanchies says she is “looking forward to meeting all of the students and families and really getting into her new role. And from what I’ve seen so far, the staff is invested on such a deep level.” Of course, there’s aways a bit of trepidation associated with taking on an entirely new endeavor, so perhaps to make Ms. Sanchies feel more at home, TNCS could debut a “Pine Tree Classroom” for the 2015–2016 school year. That would make a lovely addition to TNCS’s growing arboretum of Lemon Tree, Apple Tree, Pear Tree, Gingko, Oak, etc. classrooms :)!

TNCS Elementary Skypes with Students from other Countries!

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Señora Hodapp and her upper elementary Spanish class hold their first Skype call with the Colegio Margaret Mead in Peru.

This spring, The New Century School elementary students began an exciting new multilingual endeavor—connecting with other students and schools around the world via Skype! This program is the fruit of the joint efforts of TNCS Director of External Programming Catalina Dansberger Duque and the school’s Language Directors Jennifer Hodapp and Xie Laoshi. Ms. Dansberger Duque credits the germ of the idea to TNCS Co-Founders/Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner, however, saying, “I believe it is part of their mission to connect TNCS with world culture and create authentic experiences for the students.”

Other cross-cultural exchanges are also potentially in the works, such as with summer camps with both Spanish and China through groups like Each Futures, who TNCS has worked with in prior years to bring Chinese students to the school. “They have also had individual student exchanges from Spain and China that were very rewarding for everyone,” said Ms. Dansberger Duque. To augment these efforts, Ms. Dansberger Duque has been developing a program for visiting Chinese students to attend TNCS for 2 weeks, with classroom time and tours of nearby historic points of interest, with the help of TNCS Chinese intern Monica Li.
The next step was to expand such efforts to Latin America. Ms. Dansberger Duque and Ms. Li came up with the idea for a series of Skype chats as a way to launch their bigger programs. These could take the form of class to class, teacher to teacher, family to family, etc. “The idea behind the chats is to provide options for schools to build a relationship with us that would instill trust and inspire families to come visit us and vice versa,” said Ms. Dansberger Duque. As it is turning out, though, the Skype chats are in and of themselves an enormously beneficial way to make languages and cultures come alive for TNCS students.

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Intercambio internacional—everyone was all smiles for this fun and rewarding class!

As a native of Bogotà, Colombia, Ms. Dansberger Duque has a deep understanding of Latin American culture and was able to prospect 14 schools across Central and South America and the Caribbean that were both Montessori based and/or multilingual as well as interested in building a relationship with TNCS. “The first school I found was the Montessori British School in Bogotà, Colombia. They teach Spanish, French, English, and Mandarin. They already have an established exchange program with China and are interested in setting one up with us. The Colegio Margaret Mead in Peru, while having maybe the least amount of technology resources compared to some of the other schools I contacted, was the first one to come through and commit to a specific date and time to do a classroom chat,” she said.
As mentioned, Colegio Margaret Mead was the first school TNCS students connected with, and the unqualified success of this chat will pave the way for regular exchanges of this kind. On Thursday, April 30th, TNCS 3rd- and 4th-graders gathered to find out all about their new Peruvian friends. They were each prepared with written questions and took turns in front of the screen, as did the students on the other end.
Señora Hodapp facilitated and also provided the sometimes necessary encouragement when a student got stuck. “Our students were shy but also very excited!” she reported. “We will also start an in-class pen pal program with the Margaret Mead School.”

One especially rich moment was when the Peruvian students asked TNCS students in Spanish how to say “hello” in Mandarin. Think about that for a moment, because it’s tremendously impressive that TNCS students can field a question in one non-native language about a separate non-native language altogether.

But, as the ever-diplomatic Ms. Dansberger Duque reminds us, this endeavor has much larger implications than just the cognitive acrobatics necessary to manage more than one language:
I think this program is important for TNCS students because it is through meeting people of other cultures that people build bridges. By promoting an international language and cultural community students become accustomed to a world view of inclusion and diversity as the norm. While it obviously has long-term personal, academic, and professional benefits in a world market, in my opinion, its most important quality is that it dissolves the idea of foreign and creates a sense of unity and appreciation in the diversity that exists in the world. It helps to mold our young ones into understanding world citizens. That is something difficult to come by from secondhand experiences like textbooks and movies.
The next chat will take place Tuesday, June 2nd with a class from the British Montessori School in Bogotà. The native Spanish-speaking students are also fluent in Mandarin and English, so all three languages will be spoken during this call, with an emphasis on Mandarin. Ms. Dansberger Duque says, “There are schools in Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Grand Cayman, and Bolivia that have also expressed interest. The school in Grand Cayman, Montessori by the Sea, has opened their summer camp experience to our students.” TNCS is fortunate to offer these extraordinary programs thanks to the ongoing hard work of our TNCS ambassadors!