The Needham Education (NEF) has awarded $26,550 in grant funding for eight enrichment programs that will be implemented across the Needham Public School district starting in fall 2011. Collectively, the grants benefit Needham public school students from kindergarten through high school and enrich learning, social/emotional growth and cultural awareness in a variety of innovative ways.

“Innovation is at the core of the NEF mission,” says NEF co-president, Pamela Rosin. “It’s what makes our programs so effective, because they support educators in their efforts to achieve district learning objectives in ways that make a lasting impact on students.”

Grants Support School District Values
Two of the grants awarded this spring address the district’s focus on science and technology. The first provides funding for an experiential outdoor science and discovery center that Newman Elementary School KASE and Early Childhood Center students will use while at their temporary space at Pollard Middle School. Approximately 225 students will benefit from the program, which includes a plan to transfer the materials to Newman after it’s renovated.

Another science-focused grant funds the building of greenhouses by Eliot Elementary School fifth graders, who will draw on their knowledge of simple machines. The greenhouses will be used by Eliot first graders to plant seedlings, reinforcing their education in plant growth and scientific observation. To support district-wide objectives in social responsibility, the students will donate the crops they harvest to the Needham Food Pantry and offer them for use in the Eliot cafeteria.

Other grants tie into the schools’ efforts to promote disability awareness including a grant funding performances at four elementary schools of a band of musicians with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. A second provides funding to help students with disabilities in the undergraduate STRIVE program and post-graduate Transition program use technology to aid their transition from high school to the broader community. Piloted during the 2010-2011 academic year with 5 students, the program will be extended to 15 students during the 2011-2012 school year.

In addition, art as a form of self-expression will all be explored at Mitchell Elementary School with funds to support art instructors from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Another grant funds a digital document camera at Hillside School, giving teachers the flexibility to simultaneously display work from different students in real time such as multiple approaches to a math program or varying writing techniques.

Making Community Connections
As Needham continues its 300th anniversary celebrations, a grant targeting all Needham third graders takes students through the history of Needham with a book written from the perspective of a 10-year-old. Funds for professional development and teacher guides are included, in addition to an author event at the Needham Public Library for all third grade students. Following the huge success of a fall 2010 pilot to help youth behave safely and more responsibly, the “Fifth Quarter” grant will fund social opportunities that enable Needham High School students to have fun in a safe, positive environment. A community-wide partnership driven by concerned adults, the program will provide free food, music and games at post-athletic-event gatherings.

Hundreds of Grants Awarded Since 1990
During the 2010-2011 academic year, the NEF has awarded 28 grants totaling $115,253. The NEF funds programs that fall outside expected public funding and promote innovation and excellence for Needham public school students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Since 1990, the NEF has funded more than 385 grants worth more than $1.34 million.