Valentine’s Day at TNCS is about Caring for Our Community!

For upcoming Valentine’s Day 2021, students at The New Century School are making a “wholehearted” push to spread some love to the Baltimore community. Compassion and service are two core values at TNCS and, along with respect and courage, are part of the day-to-day “invisible” curriculum. Finding new ways to demonstrate these values has been an ongoing goal of the 2020–2021 school year. This winter, students in all divisions have come together and overcome the practical challenges of partial remote learning to put these values to work in meaningful ways. TNCS students are showing our community within and beyond the campus walls what’s in their hearts.

Due to the changes this pandemic year has brought, service initiatives have largely come from the TNCS Parent Council and its committees, with the support of Señora Duncan and the TNCS administration. Continuing to emphasize service has been important to the TNCS community, who understand why this kind of engagement is so beneficial to children’s social, academic, and emotional development. And, according to research by Edutopia, “A schoolwide focus on cultivating traits like self-discipline, courage, and perseverance helps students meet high expectations.” This focus also stretches beyond the classroom, preparing students to contribute to the world as adults.

Hygiene Kits for Beans and Bread

So, classrooms in all divisions are collaborating on hygiene kits for Baltimore’s homeless population to provide basic supplies that are heartbreakingly out of reach for some. The timing is critical. Not only is it nice to show some love during “heart month,” but after the end-of-year holidays pass and the new year has begun, charitable donations taper off, which sadly coincides with the time of year those in need most require support and warmth.

Explore the Issue

Larger themes underlie this initiative as well, and the PC Community Engagement committee member and TNCS mom Mary Kay Page, who organized it and has kept it running so smoothly, was careful to make sure those themes became part of the process:

It’s important to me that service projects further compassion and empathy. I believe one way to accomplish that is to more deeply understand the people and the issues you support. To that end, I wanted to help ensure this was a service-learning opportunity by providing some resources for both the service and the learning aspects.

Ms. Page also credits her contact at Beans and Bread, Evan Gough, Senior Volunteer Coordinator for his help along the way.

An age-appropriate video was included with the resources distributed among the TNCS community that demonstrates economic inequality with Legos. “Brookings Fellow Richard Reeves shows the chances that the poorest fifth of Americans have to rise to the top, based on their race, the marital status of their mothers, and their level of education.”

In addition, a Fact Sheet for Kindergarteners through 2nd-graders is another way to start meaningful conversations with children and de-stigmatize homelessness, which is vital now more so than ever with the pandemic-related economic catastrophe affecting so many.

For older students, a game called PlaySpent simulates the choices that go into how to make ends meet after losing a job (“It’s just stuff until you don’t have it”).

Stories about local people provide a powerful reality check about how the pandemic has wrought such havoc in the lives of our neighbors.

Other informative resources were also included for adults, such as links to National Coalition for the Homeless and Homelessness in Baltimore | Healthcare for the Homeless.

Assemble the Kits

Kit collection was originally supposed to end on February 12th for distribution around Valentine’s Day, but the initiative is gaining momentum, and the original goal of 150 total kits for men, women, and children lovingly assembled by TNCS students seems well within reach with another few days tacked on. The initiative will now run through Friday, February 19th.

With clear instructions provided in English and Spanish, TNCS students and their families got to work.

Here’s how TNCS Parent Council Director Tilly Gurman describes her experience with her two children:

[My son] and I watched the video with the legos to talk about poverty in the United States. Then, I worked with [him] to help calculate how many of each item we would need, before we went to the store. I then took [my son] with me to the store, and he helped me count the number of the items we needed. I picked a store where I could get all the items I needed in one place, in order to save time. The next day, [my son], [my daughter] and I worked together to create the bags. We made it a fun activity for everyone.

Other TNCS moms also got impressively strategic with their approaches. Haleigh Forbes plans to donate 54 kits in the coming days. How did she manage to assemble a full third of TNCS’s overall goal?

We went out and bought the stuff for 10 kits at the Dollar Store, and I thought why not crowd sourse this! It was just such an easy and inexpensive way to help someone meet their basic needs. So we raised $430 from posting it on Instagram, and I bought all the items and packaged them all up.

I’ve also encouraged everyone to make 3 and always have them in your car so you can give them out while driving.

Ms. Forbes suggestion of having three in the car to distribute while driving is a great one and is what many TNCS classrooms encouraged families to do last year. This allows students to see first hand the difference their efforts can make in someone’s day.

(Note the socks, which are one of the most needed and least frequently donated items for individuals experiencing homelessness.)

At the inception of the TNCS Hygiene Kit Drive, 150 kits was acknowledged as quite an ambitious goal. With the way the TNCS community has joined forces since then, that goal is on track to be surpassed by dozens, translating to helping that many more individuals maintain some dignity in the face of extreme hardship. What a testament to and an embodiment of the values we share 💚💛🤍.


Although February is a big month for showing that you care—in fact, on the heels of Valentine’s Day comes Random Acts of Kindness Day on Monday, February 17th—it’s not the only time this year that the TNCS community has come together to show love to those who need food or clothing or even just a pick-me-up. Throughout the year, families and students have showered teachers with tokens of appreciation, and food and clothing drives got the most donations ever this year.

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

Chinese Proverb

Valentine’s Day at TNCS is about Spreading Love to the Community!

For Valentine’s Day 2020, students at The New Century School made a “wholehearted” push to spread some love. Compassion and service are two core values at TNCS and, along with respect and courage, are part of the day-to-day “invisible” curriculum. Nevertheless, this winter, students in all divisions have come together to put those values in practice in meaningful ways. From service-learning initiatives led by Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali, to student-led charitable collections, to extracurricular activities focusing on kindness, these kids are showing our community within and beyond the campus walls what’s in their hearts.

Before we jump in to all of the great acts of loving kindness TNCS students engaged in, let’s look at why this kind of engagement is so beneficial to their social, academic, and emotional development. According to research by Edutopia, “A schoolwide focus on cultivating traits like self-discipline, courage, and perseverance helps students meet high expectations.” This focus also stretches beyond the classroom, preparing students to contribute to the world as adults.

So many great things were happening all over the school, so the following account progresses in sort of let-the-love-flow-from-the-ground-up order!

Preprimary Service Initiatives

The preprimary division of 2- and 3-year-olds has been doing their part for the NexTrex challenge and have already filled a box—which is pretty impressive for this age group. Ms. Danyali is careful to restrict their service initiatives to what will be meaningful to them. So, they practice kindness in the classroom among one another and participate in those schoolwide initiatives like NexTrex that they can understand.

Primary and Lower Elementary Service Initiatives

The primary through 4th-grade classrooms (primary, K/1, 2/3, and 3/4) have collaborated on comfort kits for Baltimore’s homeless population. They realized that after the end-of-year holidays pass and the new year has begun, charitable donations taper off, which sadly coincides with the time of year those in need most require support and warmth. “We felt really strongly that we want to keep the giving going,” said Ms. Danyali. So, she reached out to Baltimore Rescue Mission and Karis Home (exclusively for women), who will take and disperse the kits TNCS students lovingly assembled. “We have an overflowing box of hygiene items, which is so great. It started kind of slowly and then really caught on. I’m amazed by the abundance our community has donated” said Ms. Danyali. The hygiene kits will be distributed at the organizations’ mobile shower unit.

Although the collection was originally supposed to end on Valentine’s Day, the  TNCS community has expressed interest in extending it, and Ms. Danyali is receptive to that idea.

In the coming weeks, K/1 will visit the Ronald McDonald House to prepare lunches for the residents/families getting treatment in March/April. Immersed will follow up on this important initiative!

Lower and Upper Elementary Service Initiatives

BluWater Baltimore is another partner organization with an upcoming service project. TNCS 2nd- through 4th-graders will stencil storm drains around the Fell’s Point neighborhood to remind passersby that what goes into those drains has a direct conduit to out precious local waterways. TNCS students have done this in the past as part of a science unit, but this time, their stencils will be in both English and Spanish! “We want to remind people in a pleasant way to not throw trash down the storm drains,” said Ms. Danyali, “because the repercussions are huge long term.” Visit Blue Water’s Storm Drain Art page to learn more.

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Another possible project with Blue Water Baltimore is to design and paint two rain barrels, one to keep and one to raffle off. Again, this is something TNCS has done in the past, but it was such a huge hit among the community that revisiting it a few years on with a different group of students seems like a no-brainer. (Visit Blue Water’s Harvest Rainwater page to learn more.) “It will be a nice feature to have at school with spring coming and the greenhouse reopening,” said Ms. Danyali. Raffle tickets will be on sale at TNCS Parent Council’s annual upcoming Earth Day celebration, and a portion of proceeds will fund additional student enrichment initiatives, while some funds will go back to support Blue Water Baltimore.

In the 5th- /6th-grade classroom, students have become more and more aware of homelessness in Baltimore. Ms. Danyali partnered with Live with Purpose to have students assemble Kindness Kits, which are similar to the Comfort Kits made by the younger students, except that these are intended to be distributed by students and families. The kits include basic essential items and toiletries that participants are encouraged to give out as they drive or walk around and encounter someone experiencing homelessness. This resonated so deeply with students that many asked if they could enhance the kits by adding special items not already included in what Live with Purpose provided. “That’s really where I wanted them to go with this,” said Ms. Danyali. “We also talked about homeless statistics—there are more than 3,500 people living on the streets in Baltimore on any given night, totaling more than 30,000 per year, and an even larger number seeking a return to a home—but we did not go into the roots of these problems. That’s overwhelming. But we talked about the potential impact of  everyone doing this little bit, given the degree of need. It created a really great discussion.” Discussion questions included:

  • What are some thoughts you have when you encounter someone who is asking for help on the street?
  • If you were no longer able to live in your current home, where would you go?
  • What are some injustices that you see in the world?
  • How can you commit to intervening to address these injustices this year?

(Note the socks, which are one of the most needed and least frequently donated items for individuals experiencing homelessness.)

New for Q3 2020 at TNCS, is the ECA Project Kindness for 3rd- through 8th-graders, led by Upper Elementary and Middle School ELA and Global Studies instructor, Daphnée Hope. On Thursday, February 13th, the “PKers” took it upon themselves to scour the multipurpose room and then decorate it with positive messages.

Middle School Service Initiatives

In the 7th- and 8th-grade classroom, Ms. Hope has incorporated mediation and yoga as stress relievers. “I’m very excited about this,” said Ms. Danyali, “because they are developing tools for better listening to each other without judgment, feedback, or anything else—just listening. That cohort already has a nice community feel, but they got a lot of out of this and showed even more kindness toward each other as a result.” That  will certainly translate into day-to-day social intelligence.

They’ll also soon be going back to the William S. Baer School for their Baer-a-Thon, and Immersed will keep you posted on that.


February is a big month for showing that you care. On the heels of Valentine’s Day comes Random Acts of Kindness Day on Monday, February 17th. Show your love!