As we keep saying, a lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March, but perhaps no event is more anticipated than the annual Science Fair. This year’s presentation of projects by TNCS 3rd- through 8th-graders had to be done a little differently since we can’t gather en masse yet, but the projects themselves were no less remarkable for their creativity and all-around innovation.
The Science Fair is important, explains elementary and middle school science teacher Rob Brosius, because, “It’s challenging and rewarding. [Doing science experiments] teaches you how to approach any problem with a solution-oriented perspective.” Students made their presentations via Zoom, which Mr. Brosius painstakingly stitched together. This way, TNCS parents will be able to view all student projects and presentations at their leisure. Another benefit stemmed from this new approach—TNCS students were more relaxed as they presented and were able to really explain their experiments in a deeper way. You can sense their (well-earned) pride. They demonstrate a thorough understanding of the science underpinning the project as well as the process that got them to their conclusions—the Scientific Method.
Mr. B. said:
I am making sure that all students can present their research even if they have not completed their data collection and analysis. We have highlighted the importance of each step of the scientific method in relation to personal and group projects. I have tried to communicate the idea that even if your project does not prove your hypothesis, it can still be considered a valuable experiment.
When compiling all of the videos took longer than expected, Mr. B. made a preview video as well as a couple other Science Fair–related videos to keep parents in a state of eager anticipation.
Now, let’s get to the real deal!
Third and Fourth Grade Projects
These March-Mad Scientists were clearly inspired by their inventive hypotheses and pursued answers to their problems with tenacity and vim! Mr. B. says that he was very impressed with the 3rd- and 4th-grade projects.
The stand-out in this group was a project on Mask Effectiveness—very topical!
Sixth through Eighth-Grade Projects
The stand-out in this group was the project on Water Filtration.
As the independent and dependent variables varied, and the hypotheses were proved or disproved, in addition to following the tenets of study design, students also had to evaluate their work to determine how they could eliminate any confounders next time around.
As you can see, topics ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology to psychology, ecology, and economics, to robotics and engineering. These students are clearly mad for science, thanks in no small part to Mr. B.’s enthusiasm and commitment to the subject!
We leave you with these two words: Elephant. Toothpaste.
A brand-new school year brings changes, including welcoming new members to The New Century School community. It’s no exaggeration to say that this year brought more changes than normal, but it’s also true that TNCS has made sure these changes are the good kind.
Enter Robert Brosius, who teaches English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies to 3rd- and 4th-graders and Science to 3rd- through 8th-graders.
Meet Rob Brosius!
Mr. Brosius hails from Queens in New York City, from a storied neighborhood called Middle Village, which he describes as originally being built on a swamp that was later drained and turned into park areas. He came to Baltimore in 2008 to attend Loyola University then moved here permanently in 2012 after graduation. “I enjoy being in Baltimore more than being in New York,” he says. “Although New York has its flair and chaos, Baltimore allows me to slow down and process what’s going on around me. It’s a more community-oriented town.”
At Loyola, Mr. Brosius studied Biology and was a pre-med student for a while (he changed course a bit to go into more of the research side of things). He also minored in Chemistry as well as Italian Studies. This “Renaissance Man” is, in fact, half Italian (and German) and spent 4 months living in Rome in a Study Abroad program. He says his reason for pursuing this experience was to connect with his family roots and—of course—the food. “Who can argue with basil and tomato sauce?” he joked.
Road to Teaching
“My path to becoming an educator was interesting to say the least,” said Mr. Brosius. His first experience was at Loyola helping to set up and stock the teaching labs there and supervising and advising 15 work/study students. (He also liked taking care of the lab plants and animals.)
He then worked at TALMAR Horticultural Therapy Center, with TALMAR being an acronym for Therapeutic Alternatives Maryland. Their mission is to “. . . offer an innovative, therapeutic environment in which to provide work skills development, and vocational, educational and recreational programming in horticulture and agriculture.” Mr. Brosius explains that grant-funded TALMAR started out as primarily a greenhouse-oriented florist and then got more into horticultural therapy over the years. He taught farming techniques to high-schoolers and college students but was primarily involved in managing vegetable, flower, and egg production. When TALMAR pivoted to programming for adult military veterans, Mr. Brosius realized he preferred working with younger students. “The adults were great, but I felt like I could use my talents more effectively with kids.”
From there, he sought a formal teaching job and wound up with a position at The Wilkes School, where he taught Math for 4 years to 2nd- through 5th-graders and earned his 90-hour teaching certificate along the way. He also helped out with the aftercare program, leading a Dungeons and Dragons–style club and exploring basic game theory. During the summer of 2019, he also ran a program for the Rosemont Community Interfaith Coalition, which he describes as both a very challenging job and one of his greatest learning experiences. “It was difficult to engage 50 kids ranging in age from 4 to 13 all at the same time,” he says. “But it made me really evaluate what education is and how to balance their academic and physical education. I figured out a lot of my classroom management style from that experience.” Some tools he brought to TNCS include call and repeat exercises. “You make a basic rhythm or beat, and you set the expectation that if you produce a beat, such as by clapping, the student will return that beat to you,” he explained. Another trick he picked up was moving groups of students safely from place to place, something that will come in handy on TNCS’s urban campus. “These skills are invaluable in the teacher’s toolbelt!” he said.
After his summer directorship ended, he returned to Wilkes, but COVID-19 came along, and, sadly, the school was forced to close. His boss, though, kindly introduced him to TNCS, after attending an independent schools professional development program and meeting TNCS Co-Executive Directors there.
Welcome to TNCS, Rob!
And that’s how it happened! Mr. Brosius joined TNCS in the summer to help out first with facilities upkeep and then running an art and science camp. “And now we’re moving and grooving!” he said. “I even taught tai chi to my classes today!”
Mr. Brosius can claim a very special first at TNCS—his classes take place on stage, even his 3rd/4th homeroom. He has seven in-person students and another eight participating virtually in his homeroom. He’s very comfortable with the small class size, being something Wilkes had in common with TNCS. He likes to be able to individualize instruction.
“The year is going great,” said Mr. Brosius. “The students are following the social distancing protocols, and the technological aspect has been pretty smooth for the most part. At first there were some difficulties, but I’ve learned to switch between different cameras and when to mute, so that’s going extremely well now.” He also appreciates the curriculum and how organized everything has been. Some aspects remain unknown, such as how to adjust when the weather turns cold. For now, students are comfortable eating lunch outside and otherwise getting lots of outdoor time. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” he says. “I have a lot of confidence in this group of kids. They’re very bright and can rise to the challenge. Some luck wouldn’t hurt, either.”
Form and Function Junction
As mentioned, Mr. Brosius’s specialty is science. As science teacher, his mantra is, “environment equals form; form equals function.” He elaborates:
In any particular environment, you’re most likely going to find things that are suited for that environment, which creates the form. Then the form helps determine what the function is—although it really works both ways. But through the evolutionary process, plants and animals and other organisms exist in the way they do because they were brought up in the environment and evolve in the environment they are best suited for. For the most part, you can learn a lot about an organism’s function based on what it looks like.
His approach in the classroom is not only underpinned by science, it’s also lively and fun. “I try to incorporate music a lot and sing songs. Sometimes I play the piano, and the kids get a kick out of that.”
Is it starting to sound like Mr. Brosius is particularly well-suited for the TNCS environment? “I love teaching. It’s just one of those things that comes naturally to me,” he said. Form equals function, indeed.
Psst—some virtual extracurricular offerings might be forthcoming from his general direction. . . don’t tell the kids, but he might sneak some math and science concepts in. #CouldYouBeOurHealer?