Environmental sustainability is a key message at TNCS, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo! Last school year, then TNCS Parent Council member and now TNCS PC Director Tilly Gurman heard about the school recycling challenge and thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join.
Trex School Recycling Challenge
You can get the scoop on what qualifies as recyclable here (as well as in an explanatory video below) and where to drop off your materials here. We’ll explain more about the need-to-know info of the school challenge itself in details outlined throughout this post, and you can get just about everything you need to know in this handy presentation from the TNCS Parent Council Special Events Committee.
But first let’s explore that “extra pinch of fun”!
What Was That About a Competition?
And now on to the really good stuff! In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom!
This year, the Special Events committee of the TNCS Parent Council is running a Name the Blue Crabs Challenge! In a “crab shell,” here’s how it goes:
“You’ve seen the crabs in action. What would you name them? Share your ideas [in Google Classroom]! The class with the highest total of recycling in December gets to name the crabs and keep them in their classroom for the month of January!”
Friday, January 8th, is the last day to log your weights and and drop off your Trex Recycling items at the various sites for for the naming contest. (Note, that the overall challenge runs through April 15th.)
To keep TNCS students invested in the process, videos of the crab duo’s journey to TNCS were posted in Google Classroom.
As if all this isn’t great enough, for the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win special prizes from Trex such as our very own park bench made from Trex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.
So What Is the Challenge?
TNCS will compete in the Trex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and take them to specific drop-off locations to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. Trex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).
💚♻️ Trex Recycling Challenge How-To Guide
Collect your plastics (bread/newspapers wrappers, bubble wrap, etc.); see below.
Note: Even after Earth Day and the Trex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to our partner locations.
At The New Century School, parent involvement is one of the key’s to the school’s success. As part of and in support of the larger TNCS community, parents contribute their time and energy in meaningful ways each year. As a way to galvanize all of this good effort toward meeting specific goals, the TNCS Parent Council was established during the 2016–2016 school year.
Five years on, the organization is going strong and continuing to hone its mission. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, TNCS has remained open, and the Parent Council did not miss a beat. That’s due in no small part to the leadership of new Parent Council President, Tilly Gurman.
Ms. Gurman has organized members and operations on a variety of virtual platforms, and meeting attendance has grown now that participants can join from anywhere. TNCS Class Parents are required attendees and report meeting proceedings back to the other families in their child’s homeroom, but any member of the TNCS community may attend, and this even counts toward their requisite volunteer hours. (Have you attended a PC meeting and forgotten to log your hours? Log them here or sign into Blackbaud.)
Mission and Goals
The stated mission of the TNCS Parent Council is to: “Cultivate and sustain community at The New Century School across students, parents, teachers, staff, and the larger community” by:
fostering communication between all TNCS constituencies
providing support to the teachers and administration
assisting with fundraising initiatives that will further foster community
coordinating school events that connect people across TNCS
engaging with the larger Baltimore community
To accomplish these worthy objectives, the PC assembled a group of committees, including Community Engagement, Special Events, Antiracism/Social Justice, and Fundraising—more on those in a bit.
Parent Council 2020–2021
First, let’s dive a little deeper into Ms. Gurman’s vision for the 2020–2021 Parent Council:
I’ve been involved in the Parent Council since we started at TNCS 5 years ago, and until the class parents were involved, there were only three or four of us. So I wanted to find ways to grow participation and engagement as well as make it more inclusive. At the same time, it’s important to temper expectations because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we shouldn’t make too many demands of parents who are potentially already overwhelmed.
She explains that she came to be president as rather a natural consequence of having always been a part of it as well as having experienced the preprimary, primary, and elementary divisions at TNCS as her children have progressed through. When TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan approached her about taking over the PC helm, she weighed the decision carefully against all of her other life obligations but ultimately found it to be the right choice. “I’ve had the experience on the parent side through much of the life cycle of the school so far, and we plan to stay for the foreseeable future so we feel a commitment to the community. It’s such a supportive community, and somehow I’d like to contribute to building on that and strengthening it for even once we’re no longer in the school,” she said.
One thing that is remarkable about this year is the emphasis on human connection. Perhaps we’ve all had less of that since the shutdown, and the PC is one place to enjoy a bit of camaraderie—Ms. Gurman sees to that, starting each meeting with a “temperature check”, which has nothing to do with a thermometer (for once) but is more of a gauge of participants’ state of mind, as well as an ice-breaker activity or two. At the November 11th meeting, she also reminded attendees to be self-compassionate:
We’ll be reporting out about what’s going on in the different committees, but I want to get across the idea that we are at a time when things are likely to change and evolve, especially if another shutdown happens. Let’s be kind and gentle to ourselves, so when this happens, we’re here together as a community. When we’re thinking about the different activities that we’re going to be planning, let’s always link it back to how can the activities that we’re doing bring us closer together as a community, and help us be there for our kids, too.
Another current that runs through this year’s PC is the sheer enthusiasm about the PC. An average of more than two dozen people are attending each meeting and that’s among a pool of fewer than 200 families. Moreover, participants are willing and eager to get to work on planning and implementing the various PC initiatives. Ms. Gurman attributes this to multiple factors: explicit outreach about joining the PC; the already-mentioned convenience of virtual meetings; the increased access to the school’s innerworkings; and, of course, the altruism inherent in the TNCS community driving members to want to make a difference. “It does feel like this year people are more actively volunteering to lead the various activities,” she said.
In the near future, she’d like to have committee-specific objectives and operating procedures drafted that tie in to the overall PC mission so that there’s an infrastructure to support and sustain what she hopes will continue to be robust attendance for years to come.
And with that, let’s see what those committees we keep mentioning are all about!
Parent Council Committees
Would you like to join one of the amazing, purpose-led, and very fruitful TNCS Parent Council Committees? No matter what your strength, there’s a place for you! See the nifty planning calendar at this link for tentative dates and check you Blackbaud official school calendar for confirmed happenings. Email email@example.com or add your name to the list here to join!
Antiracism/Social Justice Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS parents, Jay Golon (who describes the trio as a “happy triumvirate”) Daris Johnson, and Allison Binder, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Curate a list of children’s books and television shows promoting diversity for the TNCS community
At their first meeting, Mr. Golon explains that they talked about antiracism in general and what it might look like to be antiracist families concerned about social justice at TNCS. “Early in the life of the committee,” he said, “we’d like to conduct a family climate survey about how welcome and included folks feel at at TNCS and then use that to plan some other things. We also talked about creating a resource for all families from preprimary up through middle school of books, movies, and media of any kind focused on anti antiracism and social justice.”
That’s just to start, and Mr. Golon says, “If you weren’t able to join us the first time around, it will be very easy for you to slide right in the second time, so please please join us!”
Community Engagement Committee
Chaired by TNCS mom Amy Hastings, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Coordinate low-risk activities supporting local non-profits (e.g., preparing bagged breakfasts/lunches for local day shelters, coat and clothing drives for sister school Wolfe St. Academy)
Coordinate Adopt-a-Family for the holidays (through Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance)
Coordinate a clean-up of Patterson Park for Earth Day
“Our goal is to identify ways for TNCS families to engage the community that surrounds the school,” explained Ms. Hastings. “This committee will strive to support local organizations and uphold TNCS values.”
The Coat Drive for TNCS’s sister school Wolfe St. Academy is happening now—please share the warmth with our neighbors in need by donating new and gently used coats, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, socks, etc. for children and adults of all ages! See our ongoing Facebook event (through December 11th) here.
And stay tuned for an announcement about the upcoming Adopt-a-Family! Note that this is a chance to do double community engagement—make your purchases from local businesses, like aMuse Toys in Fell’s Point, to support them while helping out a family in need!
Special Events Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Debbie Casanova and Isabel Kuoh, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Generate participation for this year’s TREX challenge (recycling competition with schools across the country) and facilitate culminating Earth Day celebration activity
Orchestrate teacher appreciation efforts
Coordinate other possible events (e.g., Pancakes & Pajamas, bilingual kids’ concert with 123 Andrés)
Ms. Casanova’s teacher appreciation efforts went into effect right away, as she set up a round robin–style Sign-Up Genius for parents to choose a week to shower teachers with gratitude—they have kept our children happy, healthy, and learning all of these long pandemic months, and that has not been easy. Especially when many have to teach both live and virtually!
Describing their first meeting as a committee, Ms. Casanova says:
We spent a lot of our time talking about concrete events that are coming up but also giving some thought to how do we stay connected, how do we create community, and how do we do it in such a way that virtual families feel just as involved as on campus families. We also talked a little bit about how we have to have a few events ready to go in case the school does shut down and we all go virtual, just so we can all maintain some sort of connection and community that’s going to become even more important.
(Or, if you want the Cliff Notes, just start collecting the items shown below and email firstname.lastname@example.org with your tallied weight, then drop the plastics off at Harris Teeter, Safeway, Home Depot, or other locations! Check that location is still participating during COVID-19 restrictions.)
We’ll have lots more info on this year’s TNCS Trex Recycling Challenge and how it will roll out, but in the meantime, start collecting that bubble wrap!
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Lauren Davino and Sarah Andrews, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
Facilitate dining out at designated local restaurants with a percentage going to TNCS
Coordinate silent auction of select items from local businesses
This can-do committee has already pulled off one successful fundraising dinner with TNCS parent–owned The Land of Kush, who so generously allocated some of each TNCS-generated sale on November 11th back to TNCS. See the results for yourself!
Thank you, Naijha Wright-Brown and Gregory Brown!
Another super easy way to earn funds for TNCS is to sign up for educational rewards with Harris Teeter. With their Together in Education program, TNCS earns a percentage of each purchase when TNCS families link their VIC cards and shop Harris Teeter brands using TNCS Code 3528. (Caveat: You must re-link your card each year; it does not automatically update.)
More fundraising dinners are in the works throughout the school year as well as a first ever TNCS silent auction! (Let them know if you’d like to make a donation to the Silent Auction, which will be curated in Arts and Culture, Sports, Spa, and other packages.)
In closing, the 2020–2021 TNCS Parent Council “gives parents agency to feel like they have a role in what their kids’ school experience is going to be like this year,” said Ms. Gurman. With so many uncertainties, it feels good to be hands-on in and possibly even what goes on in their day-to-day lives.
Parent Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas also offers encouragement: “Even if you can’t join monthly meetings but want to share your gifts and get involved, please contact us. Many hands make for light work.”
Environmental sustainability is a key message at The New Century School, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo!
That’s why, when TNCS Parent Council member Tilly Gurman heard about the NexTrex school challenge, she immediately thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join and brought her idea to the committee and to TNCS administration in November. “I thought, what a great opportunity to combine our Earth Day activities with this challenge,” said Ms. Gurman. “Whether or not we win, it’s just also getting people involved and doing more recycling and thinking about all of the waste we generate. It bugs me that in my own household we generate all this waste that I know can’t be recycled, and it kills me to just put it in the trashcan every time. I do everything I can to avoid those ziplock kind of bags, but at least now they can be recycled with this challenge. I can now actually do something about all that stuff.”
We’ll explain more about the company and how it works, but first, let’s explore the details of the school challenge itself and get the need-to-know info up front.
What Is the Challenge?
TNCS will compete in the NexTrex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and bring them to TNCS to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. NexTrex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).
This is probably a good spot to clarify what qualifies as recyclable for this program. Basically, it’s down to #2s and #4s. Also, download a handout here.
So, bring plastic packaging materials to add to the pile at TNCS—got it.Then what? TNCS students are all in and will take it from there. Each classroom has a collection bin and has implemented an individual system for next steps. But, basically, once that initial bin is full, they weigh it and combine it with other classrooms’ loads in one of three NexTrex bins set up around the school. TNCS Facilities Manager Mike Horvath, who is overseeing the operation to ensure compliance with the NexTrex rules, then takes the combined load to Harris Teeter on a monthly basis for an official weigh-in and tallying.
To back up for a second, the enthusiasm with which TNCS students embraced this challenge is critical to its success. Children are especially sensitive to environmental issues, perhaps in part due to their still very intimate relationship with the outdoors. When they get wind of a way to protect it, every adult in their sphere is suddenly on notice! This is exactly why the NexTrex school challenge works, explains Ms. Gurman:
In my research on behavior change, we know that when children ask for acute action from their parents at home, they encourage that specific behavior change. We can put up all the posters we want around the school, but your kids at home saying, ‘Are you really going to throw that away, mom?’, will probably more effectively get your attention. When they get excited about a thing, they really push it. When I told my 2nd-grader that we were starting this at TNCS, he started looking at every piece of trash to identify whether it might be a 2 or a 4!
So, get the kids excited and check every single item that goes in the trash (kidding)—got it. Then what? Well, it is a competition, as mentioned. In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom! (Preprimary classes will combine as one class.)
For the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win very special prizes from NexTrex such as our very own park bench made from NexTrex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.
For the TNCS class-to-class contest, prizes are to be announced. Go teams!
In the meantime, every TNCS student gets a NexTrex magnet that’s not only fun (because it’s a magnet!) but also acts as a visual cue to remind us to recycle. Winners of both contest tiers will be announced on or around Earth Day!
And Now, About NexTrex
According to its website, the Virginia-based Trex Company, ” . . . [makes] Trex® eco-friendly composite decks from an innovative blend of 95% reclaimed wood and plastic film—that’s almost the whole thing. On top of that, [they use] some of the most earth-friendly manufacturing processes in the country, reclaiming factory waste and eliminating the use of harmful chemicals. Trex offers consumers a truly environmentally responsible choice.”
How Does Plastic Film Packaging Become Decking or Furniture?
Plastic film is near-ubiquitous in manufacturing for the convenience it offers in packaging and transporting of products that make their way to us consumers, but it’s certainly no good for the environment. Converting it to usable NexTrex materials (which are 95% recycled) significantly lessens the environmental impact.
To Earth Day, and Beyond!
“My hope is that this kind of becomes a yearly thing,” said Ms. Gurman. Indeed! Even if we don’t win this year, a huge buzz has been generated, and we can hit the ground running on November 15, 2020. We can even start collecting before the next challenge officially kicks off! Either way, many pounds of would-be non-recyclable material has been diverted from landfills to do some good in and for the world. That’s a big win for Planet Earth and its resident Earthlings!
Note: Even after Earth Day and the NexTrex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to a partner location. In Maryland, these include Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Giants, Harris Teeter, Kohl’s, Martins, Redner’s Markets, Safeway, Target, and Weis.