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.

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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!

March Madness at TNCS: In Like a Tiger, Out in a Blaze of Glory!

At The New Century School, a lot happens all year long . . .  especially in the month of March!

Year of the Tiger Lunar New Year Celebration

March blew in like a “tiger” with a new take on Lunar New Year celebrations. On March 2nd, Mandarin Chinese teacher Li Laoshi gave students and families a visit to “Chinatown,” with actual vendor stalls set up in the TNCS auditorium and hosts to help us navigate the lanes!

Li Laoshi was very proud of her students, who worked very hard on their Lunar New Year projects. “We did an amazing job in presenting Chinese culture of 12 animal zodiacs, Kung fu, traditional clothes, crafts, pandas, and Chinese food in 2 days of celebrations,” she said. The shops and stalls were not only fun to visit and sample the wares, they had a very important purpose: fundraising for the middle schoolers’ fast-approaching capstone trip to Puerto Rico! “Our students also feel very proud that they can support the 7th and 8th-graders’ service trips,” continued Li Laoshi. “It was really exciting and enjoyable!”

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Science Fair 2022

Next up was the annual Science Fair, hosted by TNCS science teacher Mr. Brosius. Presentations were broken out by division, with 4th- through 8th-graders presenting on March 14th and 15th, 2nd- and 3rd-graders presenting March 16th and 17th, and kindergartners and 1st-graders the following week.

For much of Quarter 3, prepped for their projects, assembling materials, creating lists of methods, and collecting data. Projects could either follow the scientific method or veer into engineering and design territory. Mr. B. was on hand to oversee and advise: “A few projects required some amendments in order to increase their testability, but the students enjoyed their work in science class,” he said.

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Although the Science Fair ended, the STEM fun did not! Mr. B first sent a thank you out to families: “Thank you to all who viewed science fair presentations last week. It means a lot to the students. They have worked diligently this past quarter and should be proud of their efforts.”

Then he sent an update that students continued working on improving the quality of their data collection and analysis. “This past week, 4th through 8th graders have engaged in measurement activities that help them to better develop these skills, while younger students have primarily continued working on their individual projects. The 2nd- and 3rd-grade students also briefly used a petri dish computer simulation to further discuss data collection and analysis,” he explained. In the coming week, he said, “we will review all steps of the scientific method and engineering design process when we resume the peer review process.” The peer review process is new this year and replicates how scientists perform their studies in real life.

Firetruck Day!

TNCS preschoolers got in on the March Madness fun, too, with an extra special visit by Baltimore City firefighters on March 25th.

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And with that, March at TNCS ended in a blaze of glory!

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.

TNCS March Madness: Science Fair 2019!

A lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March—no brackets needed—but perhaps no event is more anticipated than the annual Science Fair. This year’s projects by TNCS 4th- through 8th-graders were hand’s down the best yet, remarkable for their creativity and all-around innovation.

So, can a human kill a megalodon underwater?

These March-Mad Scientists were clearly inspired by their inventive hypotheses and pursued answers to their problems with tenacity and vim! TNCS Science teacher Nameeta Sharma deemed “the budding scientists with their proud presentations” a success and thanked families for taking out time to attend the event on March 13th.

An important part of Science Fair at TNCS is that students must present their projects to any interested party who approaches. They must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the science underpinning the project as well as the process that got them to their conclusions—the Scientific Method.

Parents and family members were invited to join as well as Kindergarteners and TNCS faculty and administrators! Head of School Shara Khon Duncan said, “I loved the enthusiasm with which the students shared their projects with their parents and visitors. You could tell that they were proud of their work!” Mrs. Sharma also remarked on the enthusiasm she saw in her students.

As the ice melted, the balls bounced, the mixtures mixed, in addition to following the tenets of the Scientific Method, students also had to evaluate their work to determine how they could eliminate any confounders next time around.

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Fan Favorites

Of course all students worked diligently on their projects (and, thanks, TNCS—all work was done during school hours so they had no excuse not to!), but some projects stood out, whether for the idea itself, the artful presentation, or the enthusiasm of the budding scientist. Mrs. Sharma, who invoked Neil Degrasse Tyson, saying “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” as the spirit of this year’s Science Fair, found these lines of inquiry to be quite interesting:

  1. Does the rate of electrolysis increase with table salt or baking soda?
  2. What is the specific heat of different liquids?
  3. Which salt works best in melting snow (or ice)?
  4. Which compound/salt would work well in an ice pack?
  5. Which basketball (indoor or outdoor) bounces highest?
  6. How does anxiety affect memory at different ages?
  7. Does age of children affect the bacteria found in their hands?
  8. Does music help in the growth of plants?
  9. Does activated charcoal help in water filtration?
  10. Which soap extracts the most DNA from a strawberry and a tomato?
  11. Which vinegar dissolves eggshell fastest?

Topics ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biology to psychology, ecology, and economics, to robotics and engineering. Immersed presents the visual highlights here, in alphabetical order.

Anemometry

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Anxiety’s Effects on Memory

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Athletic Shoe Rankings

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Balls and Polymers

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Ball Distance

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Battle of the Sexes

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Behavior Change in Rats

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Boiling Point

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Bounce, Balls, Bounce

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Building a Better Bridge

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Cleaning Solution

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Cold Pack Safety

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DNA Extraction

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Dog Calling

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Egg Teeth (a.k.a. The Three Little Eggs)

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Eggshell Dissolution

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Electrolysis

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Environmentally-Friendly Cars

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Filtration System

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Fire-Proof Cup

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Flower Songs

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Gender Illusions

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Growing Pains

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Hot Snacks

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Human versus Megalodon

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Ice Melt: Liquids

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Ice Melt: Salt

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TNCS March Madness 2018!

A lot happens at The New Century School in the month of March—no brackets needed.

Here is your rundown of all the exciting academic events that TNCS students have been participating in!

Spelling Bee!

On March 7th, TNCS held its first annual spelling bee competition, that was open to 3rd-, 4th-, 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-graders, and participation was optional. The bee was divided into two cohorts: 3rd- through 5th-graders competing in one division and 6th- and 7th-graders in the second. will participate in a separate group. Organized by TNCS’s English Language Arts specialist, Ilia Madrazo, the bee was a fun and challenging competition, and TNCS students were thoroughly absorbed.

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Three prize categories were up for grabs: The first-place winner would be presented with a $10 gift card for the Ozone Café, second place a $5 gift card, and the third-place winner would get a well-earned “high five” from the panel of esteemed judges. Students were given word lists well in advance to practice from, but participants were also asked to spell words they had not previewed.

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The competition was stiff, and spelling went into far more rounds than the judges had been anticipating—a testament to how assiduously TNCS students prepared. Although each student was trying his or her hardest, the camaraderie among contestants was beautiful to see: Each speller got a high-five for successfully spelling a word or a kind word of support if a word took him or her down.

An example of a Round One word:

An example of a Round Two word:

. . . And so it went . . .

And then there were five (in the 3rd to 5th cohort)—all boys!

IMG_0123.JPGAfter about seven or so rounds, three students remained standing, and it was quite a cliff-hanger!

Ultimately, two students tied for first in the 3rd to 5th cohort, making five total winners, pictured below. Although sharing the actual word lists online is prohibited by copyright, we can tell you that the two tied for first in the 3rd to 5th cohort went through 12 total rounds, both ultimately choking on the word, “outrageous,” fittingly!

Here’s what the winners had to say about their achievements:

Said Mrs. Danyali: “There was so much pride and courage in the room as each participant did their very best. Great job to all!”

Women Heroes!

The day after the Spelling Bee, another first occurred—the TNCS Women Heroes Assembly, in honor of International Women’s Day. Elementary and Middle School girls gathered in the gymnasium for a circle with Head of School Alicia Danyali to talk about historical women figures who helped further women’s causes, what it was like to be a woman before women had certain rights, and to imagine their own futures and what they plan to contribute to the world.

Math Kangaroo!

Next up in this chock-full month was the second annual Math Kangaroo for Grades 1 through 7!

Stay tuned for more about how TNCS students fared this year against their national and international peers—the results are still pending. In the meantime, check out last year’s competition: Math Kangaroo 2017!

Science Fair!

IMG_0262Always a big deal at TNCS, the 2018 Science Fair was an unqualified success, as the slide show below attests! From engineering and mechanics to chemistry, physics, and biology to even the social sciences, TNCS kindergarten through 7th-graders conducted their experiments and then presented to parent audiences throughout the third week of March.

 

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Science guru Jon Wallace said, “When [TNCS students] enter high school, I think they are going to be ready to deal with high school sciences. The big drive this year was representing data. That’s something they are going to have to be very good at because when they get to 9th-grade biology, for example, they will be graphing data, whether it be a line graph, a bar graph, or whatever, and putting data into data tables, then interpreting that data.”

The top project for Mr. Wallace was Curly Hair versus Straight Hair: Light Absorption, which he found very interesting and unique. It’s a thoughtful question that even has evolutionary overtones—which type of hair allows for greater ultraviolet light penetration and is therefore less protective? “Mr. Wallace also appreciated the very engineering-oriented The Influence of Spoilers on the Downforce of Cars. “I feel like [that student] learned a whole lot about fluids through research about wing design. It’s neat to see kids get so into it.”

“I feel like overall we have gained something in being able to represent data. That was the main outcome I was looking for this year, in addition to following the Scientific Method, of course,” he said.

Project Linus!

Finally, On March 19th, just before the epic snowstorm of Spring 2018 hit and Spring Break ensued, TNCS 3rd- and 4th-graders completed a service learning project as part of the TNCS core value of Service. Other TNCS divisions will also be completing service projects as the second half of the academic year winds out.

For the second year running, 3rd- and 4th-graders spent an hour with Baltimore City/Baltimore County Chapter Coordinator Fay Husted, “Ms. Fay,” from Project Linus to learn how to make blankets for sick and hospitalized children in need. See details from last year’s project, TNCS’s first time with Project Linus and Ms. Fay, here: TNCS Continues Annual Service to the Community with Project Linus. This project is annually organized by the TNCS Parent Council, headed up by Sakina Ligon.

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The group was so motivated by the blanket-making that they ended up taking Mrs. Sharma’s Teacher’s Choice period to complete them that very day! See the beautiful results for yourself!

So there you have it. March blew in like a lion, and TNCS students roared with achievement, learning, spelling, calculating, doing, and helping!