Check-In with Mr. B: How Is TNCS Science “Faring”?

At The New Century School, STEM subjects are extremely important. Rob Brosius, who we all know as “Mr. B,” handles three of the four subjects that make up that acronym–science, engineering, and technology. In Mr. B’s first year at TNCS, he taught English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies to 3rd- and 4th-graders and Science to 3rd- through 8th-graders. He also had a homeroom. Since then, he has specialized and is now TNCS’s “Science Guy”! (Sorry, Bill Nuy.)

So let’s see what Mr B has been up to in his third year at TNCS!

TNCS Science Program Developments

Right off the bat, Mr. B points out that science is a hands-on subject. “Last year was nice because we had drifted away from the virtual model, and it allowed us to get back into the kind of hands-on centric nature of this program,” he explains. “Over this past year, I helped to amend some of the science curriculum to make sure that anything that I tried to add over the past 2 years was present in our curriculum.”

One big adjustment was to rework the Science Fair.

We’re now calling it the STEM Expo, which Jennifer Lawner helped a lot with—she has provided a great framework for us. This year, we hope that we can continue the trajectory that we started last year, where we encourage students to compete at the regional level at the Morgan State University STEM Fair through their Center for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CEMSE) that happens each March. We’re calling it a STEM Expo because we are trying to negate the competitive nature of it. If students have an interest or a specific desire to do a project that is a little more complicated, we want to make sure that they have the resources and the mentorship that they need to get to that level. Because the Science Fair has been done at school, it has focused my mind in terms of how to rework the other parts of the curriculum as well. Essentially, the first two quarters of the year are supposed to inspire students and build enthusiasm for the STEM Expo. Last year, we had engineering at the beginning of the year, and I encouraged students toward robotics types of projects that required wires, magnets, and an electricity source. This year, we have microbiology and physics, so I’m going to nudge students in those general directions. This way, they have the knowledge base to actually do the research and get the results they want.

Given the microbiology theme, expect some projects inspired by virology and immunology projects! In fact, microbiology projects have happened in the prior year as well, due to the overwhelming nature of the pandemic (see Science Fair 2021 and photos below). “This year, my goal is to make sure that students get a full understanding that there is a larger network outside of themselves. That’s why we really want students to explore the topics they want to know more about. I’ve found before with the Science Fair that students get into a project, and there’s not enough time to complete their project and get to the next level. So this time we want to start early and make sure they are successful,” he said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As part of helping students understand the larger science community out there and that science really impacts all areas of life, Mr. B and students have been taking field trips to see it all in action. These include walking field trips around the neighborhoods near TNCS as well as bigger ones. Earlier this school year, 4th- and 5th-graders hopped on the water taxi and headed to the Under Armour headquarters. Tipped off by a TNCS parent who works there, Mr. B thought students would enjoy seeing the beehives there and their community garden. “With microbiology being so pervasive, it’s easy to connect this topic to things in nature even though the organisms are microscopic. So I wanted to take students somewhere that is an institution that is a huge part of Baltimore City. It’s not just a building, not just a company but part of the community.”

Middle schoolers also got their science-themed field trip late in October, taking a tour of several microbiology labs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At the Molecular Biology lab, University of Maryland students and postdoctoral fellows showed TNCS students the equipment and explained its use in Western Blots, DNA gels, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and so on. At the BSL2 Virus lab, they learned about equipment for working with biosafety level 2 viruses, such as tissue culture hoods, incubators, plaque assays, and microscopes. At the BSL3 Virus lab, looking through a hallway window for safety, students learned about working in the BSL3 lab with SARS-CoV2 and related viruses. Middle Schoolers also visited the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The whole idea is: hey kids, careers in science are not only possible, they’re exciting, engaging, and everywhere!

Mr. B has other plans in the works as well. In keeping with quarter 2’s physics unit, he wants to take students to see physics in action also. He’s considering both the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. (Where do we sign up as chaperones?).

Third quarter is the STEM Expo, and geology will be the last quarter’s topic. Geology definitely invites being outdoors, so Mr. B is thinking about taking students to local parks in North East Baltimore to look at geological records, for example. “Baltimore has a very interesting geological history,” he said. “The soil is inundated with minerals.”

Another rationale behind expanding Science Fair to become the STEM Expo this school year is to allow students to pursue math-related projects, should they choose. Such projects present their own kinds of challenges, like not being as hands-on as more science-y projects would be and requiring no fun materials to work with—just good old pencil and paper. “But I’m trying to provide as many options as possible so students can do what they really want to do,” he said. “We want to both increase their science literacy and to keep their level of confidence high.”

What methodology students adopt to execute their projects will depend on what kind of topic they choose to explore: traditional experiments call for the scientific method, whereas other projects might need an engineering design process approach.

“The science curriculum is very well developed. Since I’ve been at TNCS, I’ve been able to tweak it so that it really works for us,” he said. “I have the ability to adapt the program as I need to meet the students where they are within the parameters we’ve established.”

“When you really start to get into science, you realize, a lot of the things you’re taught are from the past. When you’re learning science, you want to understand what discoveries allowed us to arrive at what is currently cutting edge. You can’t jump into quantum mechanics without first learning basic physics. You can’t understand the true nature of an atom and probability fields without first seeing the simple orbital models. You don’t get the full picture because your mind isn’t ready for it. Cycling back to topics, you can really see what kids gravitated toward and help them really dig into that as well as see what was successful during the 3-year cycle we use at TNCS.”

The 3-year cycle, by the way, goes like this: 1st year: Q1, (macro)biology and genetics; Q2, engineering; Q3, STEM Expo; Q4, astronomy. Year 2 is where we are now, with microbiology, physics, STEM Expo, and geology. Year 3 is, electricity and magnetism, chemistry, STEM Expo, and oceanography. And there’s always room to add additional topics, he explained, as students show interest.

Thank you for helping our students understand that science reaches every corner of our lives, Mr. B!

TNCS March Madness Continues: Mad Scientists!

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.

Fifth-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.

Meet the Teacher: Rob Brosius Joins TNCS Elementary/Middle School!

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?