In the News

Interview with Co-Presidents

Sarah Winig and Kelly Partridge both joined the board of the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) three years ago and have since become co-presidents of the organization.

The NEF raises funds and awards grants to the public schools for programs and equipment that falls outside of public funding.

The NEF was founded in 1990 by Needham High alumni, who built a sustaining fund that helps the foundation today, though it still raises money each year. The grants have paid for all kinds of school programs, such as the DaVinci Engineering Lab, interdisciplinary projects and small grants to pay for authors or performers to come speak to the kids. Winig and Partridge sat down with The Needham Times to discuss the work they have done with the NEF. Read the full interview.

High Rock Creation Lab

Last spring the NEF approved a small grant written by Erin Mack, High Rock’s Technology Integration Specialist (see above), to transform the technology lab into a Creation Lab.  We had a chance to sit in on a class in the Creation Lab in March, where everything that Ms. Mack envisioned in her grant application has come to life in her classroom. Where there were once rows of computers facing a whiteboard, there are now lively work spaces defined with colorful rugs, furniture and dividers.  During our visit, some students were recording in front of a green screen with plans of dropping in backgrounds suitable to their project.  At one grouping of computers, two students were creating a poster together, while another group lay on the floor filming a stop motion film using their iPads, an iPad stand, and a whiteboard. Erin never sat down while we were there – she moved from group to group and answered questions, gave instructions and ideas, and challenged students to think of new ways to accomplish their tasks. In her grant application, Erin wrote, “Imagine a room where teachers can be the facilitator and students have the autonomy to create, collaborate, and learn at different paces, showcasing their learning in various ways. The possibilities for differentiation and creativity are extensive.”   Kudos to Erin on a well-conceived grant and accomplishing her vision with the High Rock Creation Lab.  

Reaction from staff and students has been very positive, too!

“(I liked) the options available for students to have a choice in their final project for my course. There were designated spaces for kids to work in small groups or individually. All materials were available to help them be successful.” – HR Teacher

“I liked that you could be super creative with the stop motion.”- HR Student

NEF Awards Over $30,000 in Spring Grants

Press Release-Spring Small Grant Awards (1)

NEF Awards Over $30,000 in Grants to Needham Public Schools

Needham Education Foundation Awards $31,416 in Spring Grants
April 26, 2017 – The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced
the recipients of 7 grants totaling $31,415 in the spring small grants
cycle at the Needham School Committee meeting last night. The grants
included one express grant and one multi-school grant benefitting all
five elementary schools.
Awarded grants include:
• A multi-school grant to fund the purchase of Sphero SPRK Power
Packs for each elementary school. These robotic balls utilize a
visual block-based program and make learning the basic
principles of programming approachable and fun.
• Funds for materials and technology that will enrich the
curriculum of Engineering Design 101, a new course being offered
at Needham High
• An author visit with non-fiction writer Jerry Pallotta, who will
conduct presentations for students at Hillside to help increase
excitement for non-fiction reading and writing
• The purchase of 40 Wacom Intuos Drawing Tablets which will
enable students at the High School to explore advanced digital
illustration using the same tools that many professional digital
artists currently use.
• A visit by Robin Pease, a Native American storyteller, who will
educate Eliot students on Native American mythology and history
through song, language, dance and games
• An Express Grant that replicates grants provided to the Mitchell,
Hillside, Eliot, and Newman Elementary Schools to provide more
culturally diverse classroom libraries at Broadmeadow
Elementary School
• Funds to develop a curriculum at Mitchell which aims to empower
fifth graders with the skills needed to practice everyday courage
and resilience
The NEF is an independent, community-based, not-for-profit
organization that raises funds for the enrichment of public school
children in Needham. Since 1990, the NEF has funded more than 645
grants, totaling over $2.75 million, to promote innovation and
excellence in education. To learn more about the Needham Education
Foundation and how you can support it, please visit
For more information contact:
Gina Bliss, Communications
Needham Education Foundation

Kindergarten Math Backpacks

A student and her sibling using materials found within the math backpacks


In Spring 2016, NEF funded a $12,000 multi-school grant for math backpacks in every kindergarten classroom across all five elementary schools. With three backpacks per classroom, students take home math-related activities they can do with their families. 

Elaine McKenna, grant writer and Hillside/Eliot math coach explains the program, “The kindergarten math backpacks are a great home school connection where the students are completing math activities, playing math games, and are introduced to math literature. The math concepts are aligned with Massachusetts State Frameworks but are introduced and practiced in a fun and engaging way.”

Backpacks contain a journal for students to record their experience with the backpack, which includes books, interactive games and manipulatives. Teachersreport that their students are enthusiastic about the program, “The kids really enjoy using the math backpacks. They come to school excited to tell me that they played the games with their families.” And in the words of several students, 

  • “I love all the games!” 
  • “I learned how to count by tens.”
  • “The books are my favorite!”
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