Grants In Action

A Study of Courage for Mitchell 5th Grade Students

Two Mitchell 5th graders proudly show their work to William Muorwel, a former Lost Boy of Sudan.

 

Eighty students in Mitchell School’s fifth grade classrooms are undertaking a year-long “study in courage” thanks to a $3,500 grant from the NEF.  The goal of the grant, written by Mitchell Assistant Vice Principal Barbara Hayden and the 5th grade teachers, is to introduce 5th graders to inspirational people who have demonstrated courage and resiliency in overcoming obstacles–with a special focus on individuals from diverse cultures and races.  “Thanks to the NEF Grant, our students are learning to face the inevitable difficulties of life. Our hope is that our students will work hard — giving up less often because they will realize what is making them want to give up and address it.” said Hayden.
 
This fall, students participated in a read aloud of the book Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate and then completed a partner project based on the book.  This piece of historical fiction tells the story of a young Sudanese civil war survivor adapting to life in Minnesota. In October, fifth graders were visited by two inspirational speakers, William Muorel and Moses Ajou, both Lost Boys of the Sudan and survivors of the Sudanese civil war. The men shared their struggles, strategies for coping, and their ways of finding joy in life after losing their homes and families.  Said Colleen Soldato, a fifth grade teacher, “The grant has provided a cross-curricular opportunity for students to explore topics such as immigration and what it means to be an American.  This learning was brought to life by the visit from the former Lost Boys, William and Moses.”
 
In the spring, students will read about other courageous people who have faced adversity and overcome obstacles as they conduct partner research and prepare a presentation for their classmates.  The NEF grant funded a library of biographies and autobiographies for this project. Finally, fifth graders will participate in service-learning projects to support the South Sudanese Enrichment Center for Families in Medford and a school for children in South Sudan later this year.
 
So far, the grant has seemed to make a lasting impression, particularly the visit from the two former Lost Boys of Sudan.  As one fifth grader said, “You sent across a message to never give up and be optimistic and follow what you want to do, and work hard for what you want to do!  I will never forget that and never forget this presentation.”

 

Blues Guitar Player Visits Needham High

 

NEF was proud to award the “Blues in the Schools”  grant to Needham High School to fund a visit from Toby Walker (pictured), a Master Blues Artist and member of the NY Blues Hall of Fame.  He provided an engaging presentation to the African American Studies classes that follows the history of blues from slavery, emancipation, and beyond.  He also shared his personal narrative of how he came to acquire his knowledge journeying through the south.  He also worked with guitar classes to teach them how to play blues style music, including rhythms and picking techniques.

See the article that appeared in the Hometown Weekly.

“Own Your Peace” at NHS Sculptures Promote Community and Individual Well-Being

Own Your Peace girls

 

Two senior art classes collaborated with art teacher Wendy Hodge and visiting artist Jodi Colella to design, build, and publicize two temporary school-wide art installations as part of the Own Your Peace-Piece initiative. This initiative was funded in Fall 2015 with an NEF small grant. Members of the school community were invited to write on colorful fabric pieces about how they “own their peace” and to tie what they wrote to two sculptures: “The Bridge,” which is located in the area connecting the old and new school buildings, and “The Cave,” which is located under a staircase and symbolizes the creation of a comfortable space of “protection and safety.”

This project taught students how to organize community art installations and connect them to the high school’s annual Speak Out assembly and the Own Your Peace sculpture outside of the school. As one student said, “This was a beautiful and fun way to share your voice and let it become part of something bigger.”

Check out coverage of this initiative in the Needham Times and Hometown Weekly.

“Authoring Inspiration” at NHS – Young Adult Author Nancy Werlin Inspires Students

Nancy Werlin, Author, at NHS

In February, young adult author Nancy Werlin visited Needham High School to conduct a series of workshops and speaking sessions with students. Nancy Werlin is a New York Times bestselling author whose young adult books cover a wide array of genres, including realistic fiction, suspense, fantasy, and comics. Her book, The Rules of Survival, is a National Book Award finalist.  Locked Inside is an Edgar Award finalist, and The Killer’s Cousin is an Edgar Award winner.

According to NHS Librarian Paige Rowse, “About 175 students attended the events. Ms. Werlin spoke about a number of relevant topics and was able to connect with students. Students were engaged and eager to ask questions – we actually ran out of time during each session because so many students wanted to participate.” One NHS teacher said it was “a great opportunity to ask questions and gain insight and inspiration.” Students “liked how she talked about her whole experience, not just talking about books” and how “she gave great advice about deadlines and goals.”

The visit was funded by a grant from the NEF’s Fall 2015 Small Grants cycle.

See coverage of Ms. Werlin’s visit in the Hometown Weekly.

NEF Announces 2015-2016 Large Grant and Interdisciplinary Learning Funding

Starlab Planetarium

Large Grant Award – STARLAB Coming to Needham

The NEF announced the award of a $15,000 large grant from its 2015-2016 Large Grants cycle at the School Committee meeting on January 26th. The grant supports the purchase of a Basic STARLAB Portable Planetarium System (with weather and solar system units) for use by the Needham Science Center. The STARLAB can be used in gyms and performance centers and can accommodate up to thirty students when inflated.

STARLAB is an exciting way to spark students’ interest in science and increase their scientific literacy. It can be used to make meaningful curriculum connections for students across all grades and can build students’ skills and content knowledge in a way that ensures that students not only “know” science concepts, but also can use their scientific knowledge to investigate the natural world.

More Interdisciplinary Learning at Needham High School

The School Committee accepted two NEF Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative (ILI) grants at its January 26th meeting, totaling $48,019. These grants will help to solidify the broad and lasting impact of the ILI Collaborative Initiative, the collaboration between NHS and the NEF that is most well-known for the creation of the Greater Boston Project, an interdisciplinary class at NHS. The Da Vinci Workshop and several smaller interdisciplinary projects have also been created through this collaboration, now in its fourth year.

The first new grant provides a third year of funding for the “Interdisciplinary Learning Fund.” This fund, administered by both NHS and NEF representatives, was created to support small interdisciplinary units of study. Thus far, six multi-year mini-grants have been awarded.

A new, part-time Interdisciplinary Learning (IL) Specialist position will be created with the funding from the second grant. The IL Specialist will serve as a resource for all of NHS, and will also provide interdisciplinary learning guidance throughout the district.

To date, more than 20 teachers and 550 students at NHS have been impacted by the NEF’s support of interdisciplinary learning initiatives. These new grants will extend that impact to the 2016-17 school year.

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