NHS Innovation Night Celebrates 5-Year, $550,000 Partnership
with NEF

Student projects showcase growing emphasis on interdisciplinary learning
May 15, 2017 – On Wednesday, May 10, Needham High School (NHS) hosted
Interdisciplinary Innovation Night, showcasing the work of over 700 high school
students enrolled in 32 interdisciplinary classes and units of study. The evening
also celebrated the conclusion of a successful 5-year partnership and collaboration
between NHS and Needham Education Foundation (NEF), in which NEF invested
more than $550,000 to launch interdisciplinary units of study at the high school.
Established in 2012, the partnership between NHS and NEF began with the creation
of the Greater Boston Project (GBP), a class that integrates social studies, English
and mathematics, and in which students use technology to build 21st century
learning skills. The partnership grew to fund the Da Vinci Workshop, a lab space
for hands-on learning and technological creativity; a two-year dedicated part-time
Interdisciplinary Learning (IL) Specialist position at NHS; and four years of a
“mini-grant” fund, which seeded many of the interdisciplinary units of study on
display at Innovation Night.
While the high school’s formal collaboration with NEF is ending, the partnership
established a model for interdisciplinary teaching and learning that will continue to
grow both at Needham High School and throughout the district. The NEF will
continue to support innovative interdisciplinary programs through its annual small
and large grant programs.
“The funding by the NEF has allowed us to grow these programs at a much faster
rate than the school would have made on its own,” said Jimmy Odierna, IL Specialist
at NHS and one of three founding teachers of the GBP. “It is amazing to see the vast
quantity, quality, and diverse types of work happening in the school. There is a lot of
pride from both the faculty and students around the success we see tonight. These
students are gaining skills and experiences that will better prepare them for the
world ahead.”
Odierna organized the Interdisciplinary Innovation Night, which showcased the
growing body of student work integrating history, engineering, art, and robotics,
among other disciplines. These projects included:
– Memory and Memorials Project – 10th grade history students utilize the Da
Vinci Workshop and art studio to design and build memorials to key
moments in history.
– Kinetic Sculpture – Students in robotics and sculpture classes collaborate to
build kinetic sculpture pieces.
– Integrated Environmental Science – Through field study, students
research local ecosystems and build functioning wind turbines out of
everyday materials.
“The success of our collaboration cannot be reduced to numbers, but the numbers
do give you an idea of how this big idea has grown ever larger,” said Jennifer Quinn,
co-President of NEF in her opening remarks. “One two-block interdisciplinary class,
11 interdisciplinary units of study, 36 teachers now teaching interdisciplinary
classes or units, over 100 teachers participating in professional development, more
than 1,000 students impacted. And we are very excited that those numbers will
continue to grow.”
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 640 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:
Tina McHugh, Communications
Needham Education Foundation