Since The Lingo Leap‘s 2012 launch, the more-than-just-a-kiddie gym has made some significant changes and refinements. Now under the supervision of The New Century School‘s Sharon DaCosta, TLL is becoming the go-to studio for the 2- to 10-year-old set. TLL is unique in integrating movement with learning as well as learning about movement. Neuronal synapses fire more readily to juice up the brain when the rest of the body is also active. This is one reason why treadmill desks are catching on for adults—they get to move around instead of being sedentary at work and reap all of the exercise-associated benefits, but they also find that they think better and are more productive. The mind–body connection isn’t just for yogis and yoginis. (For more on the related science, check out an older post on TLL: Exercising that Mind–Body Connection.)
Says Ms. DaCosta, “Our goal is to create classes that no other aftercare or other facility offers. So, we do things like language immersion movement classes to expose kids to another language.” Not all classes are immersion or language related, however. Drama, Ballet, Hip-hop, Together with Tots, and Team-building classes, for example, have also attracted a solid following. The roster remains flexible; classes are offered based on market demands. Specialty classes like French Yoga, which isn’t currently on the schedule, might return if the interest is there. Ms. DaCosta conducts surveys and does other marketing outreach to find out just what parents want to see available.
Finding the right target market is one of her primary means to keep TLL thriving. “Getting the word out there,” says Ms. DaCosta, whose background is in marketing, “is extremely important. We have such fantastic offerings, but many community parents still aren’t aware.” Currently, TLL draws heavily from the TNCS aftercare student body, but Ms. DaCosta sees TLL as having a much broader reach and providing a much-needed service to the larger Baltimore community. Working in collaboration with Emily Feinberg, TNCS Aftercare Director and TLL Events Manager, the two have developed a very special set of services. “There’s a lot of overlap between our roles,” says Ms. Feinberg, “but basically I try to integrate TNCS’s aftercare program with TLL to give parents lots of intriguing aftercare options.” In other words, students can spend some of their after-school hours in one of TLL’s specialty classes. TNCS and TLL are closely affiliated but function as separate entities.
Finding great instructors is another one of Ms. DaCosta’s tasks in her official capacity as Activity Coordinator. She searches extensively to find just the right fit, and the instructors she has brought on board have elevated the classes to new levels of excitement and energy. Drama instructor Rebecca Kenton is one, and is new to TLL this year. She is an experienced drama teacher committed to learning, creativity, and curiosity. “I think of my teaching career as an adventure,” she says. “Over the past 16 years, I have taught Drama to children ranging in age from 5–18 with the Pumpkin Theatre, Drama Learning Center, The Painting Workshop, and Friends School of Baltimore.” TLL is thrilled to welcome someone with such chops! Young performers in her class will develop their confidence and concentration through a range of improvisational and story-telling exercises. “I’m looking forward to discovering drama with the tiny (yet tenacious) thespians of [TLL] and meeting all of you,” she says. Her Discovering Drama class, which began January 31st and meets at 3:30 for 2- and 3-year-olds and at 4:15 for 4- to 6-year-olds, will conclude with an informal showcase on Friday, April 4th.
Cuban native Danay Rodriguez is another high-caliber instructor, already familiar to TLL and about to assume expanded duties overlapping with TNCS. She teaches the very popular Together with Tots class on Saturday mornings and is now additionally going to be in charge of the overall Spanish Creative Movement program. A one-time Clinical Psychologist and counselor as well as a Developmental Psychology teacher at The University of Havana, Señorita Rodriquez will lead the 2- and 3-year-old and the 4- to 6-year-old groups in this immersion-style introduction to movement class.
The current full schedule and class description can be found on TLL’s website. But exciting extracurricular movement classes aren’t all that TLL has to offer. During the schoolday, it functions as TNCS’s gymnasium and boasts such features as authentic Gerstung equipment, which “[encourages] children to use their own innate curiosity to stimulate movement,” and the Imagination Playground, a “play system that encourages unstructured, child-directed ‘free play.’” (Read more about the super-awesome Imagination Playground here.) Ms. DaCosta says that despite recent changes, TLL has stayed true to its original mission of integrating movement and learning and that this philosophy is something that everyone (TLL and TNCS staff) has a hand in implementing. “Mr. Gerstung himself actually came to TLL and trained all of us in August on how to use his specially designed equipment,” she says. “We know the purpose of each piece of equipment and what goals we can accomplish with each one.” Pre-primary and primary students have gym classes with their regular-class assistant teachers, who instruct them in Spanish or Mandarin. Elementary students have a more targeted physical education class taught by kids’ strength and agility trainer Emily Socolinsky.
Date Nights at TLL are another offering that have really caught on and are all-around brilliant. Drop the kids off at TLL at 5:30 pm (or later) and have a night out on the town, utterly guilt-free! Parents get some probably much-needed “we time,” while the kids are having an equally great time. They get to socialize with other kids, participate in group games, eat a nutritious dinner, and put the long schoolweek behind them in a melée of play. It’s the kids’ version of TGIF! New this year, hours are extended to 9 pm, to give parents more choices for their evening out. Date Nights occur on a standing schedule, monthly, every third Friday. Sign up in advance here!
Camps are another great service TLL provides. Whether it’s an extended school vacation that parents need coverage for, or a single school holiday, TLL offers an enriching, lively experience for kids. It’s the perfect balance—kids get a break from school, but they don’t have to take a break from movement and learning! Sign up for Spring Break camp here.
Finally, Ms. DaCosta is working with Sanctuary Bodyworks to develop parallel programs in which parents can go work out at the boutique studio upstairs from TLL, while kids are attending movement classes downstairs. The two facilities have offered Salsa Nights so far, for adults (not necessarily couples nor even pairs) to dance (or learn to) and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine (olé!), while the kids are happily occupied in their own Friday night fun. Ms. DaCosta says she goes to extreme lengths to get the word out about such events and hopes for increased participation. “I want parents to know how much I want to please everybody. I sit here and think and think and think,” she says, “about how to make TLL the best place to bring their kids.”