News from the NEF

History at Play

This February, all eighth grade students at Pollard Middle School experienced the immersive living history performance of “A Revolution of Her Own! The Life of Deborah Sampson.” Judith Kalaora, founder of History at Play, wrote, directed, and performed the piece. This particular performance was selected in collaboration with the League of Women Voters in Needham to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which officially granted women the right to vote.

The intimate setting allowed students to be involved not only in watching, but also in interacting with the performer as Deborah Sampson. After the performance, students engaged in discussions about the messaging of gender roles in Revolutionary times and connected to the complexity of identity and gender in the current day. Many students found the performance powerful in its representation of a strong female character and appreciated being exposed to a different medium of history (i.e., a living history/oral history mode).

Teachers noted that the performance highlighted and breathed life into the voice of women from the Revolutionary War period, a voice that has been challenging to include. They also noted that students paid close attention and were engaged in the entire performance and subsequent discussions.

The Role of Women in History

Jen Deaderick, author and Equal Rights Amendment activist, came and spoke to high school students in February during the ‘NHS One Day’ workshops – focusing on the theme of community. Jen discussed the history of the women’s rights movement and its impact, as well as the community of women forged in the process. In addition, she read excerpts from her book, She the People, and answered questions from the students. Her appearance was made possible through a grant from the NEF.

Hispanic Literacy Expansion

Students at High Rock have benefited from the expansion of Spanish-language and Latino-experience literature at the High Rock library. With funds from a Spring 2019 NEF grant, Spanish language learners can read authentic language materials targeted to their language level. In addition, the grant has provided grade level literature for native Spanish speakers.

Assistant Principal Maggie Charron commented, “Our goal for the Spanish program is to foster biliteracy,” and the literature collection afforded by this grant contributes to this goal. She continues to say, “Being biliterate can increase multicultural understanding, ….. and can increase a student’s ability to communicate with others.”

2020 Spelling Bee Cancelled

Given the Town of Needham Public Health and Superintendent’s announcements that all public events be cancelled, the NEF Spelling Bee this Sunday March 15th will not take place. While we are disappointed that we can’t all come together as a community for this fun and friendly competition, we are grateful for the tremendous amount of support from our sponsors and participants. The generosity of our community allows us to continue funding innovative programs in our Needham Public Schools.

NEF Funds 10 Winter Grants Totaling $34,296

At the Needham School Committee on Tuesday, the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of 10 grants totaling $34,296 in the winter grant cycle. A large grant will allow 35 middle and high school teachers to participate in a three-day Project-Based Learning (PBL) workshop, where they will design a project to implement in their own classroom and learn skills and strategies to design and implement additional PBL activities in the future. PBL is at the forefront of educational methods that teaches many of the skills linked to the district’s recently-developed Portrait of a Needham Graduate competencies. 

Awarded grants also include:

  • Charles Coe, an African-American professional poet, author, and teacher, will spend a week helping 7th grade students use poetry as a lens for their own life experiences, and teaching them the importance of creative expression.
  • Mitchell students in grades 1 through 5 will benefit from visually-based math puzzles that support a deeper understanding of concepts for all students, including ELL and other high-needs learners. 
  • ImprovBoston will bring their program “Lessons of Improv: The 4 Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking)” to Pollard, allowing 7th grade students to take the stage alongside the cast in an environment of supported risk-taking. 
  • To promote enhanced concentration through body stimulation, Balance Ball Chairs will be added to 7th and 8th grade Language-based special education classrooms. 
  • Master Lego Model Builder Ian Coffrey will introduce Kindergarten students at Broadmeadow to the basics of design, planning, and project management to create large structural towers using mobile Lego makerspace kits.
  • Logitech Crayons will be available to High Rock students as a tool for art and technology integration in all curriculum areas, expanding the ways they can learn and create, and providing accessibility to students who experience physical or sensory barriers to traditional art learning. 
  • Six creative calming stations with puzzles, project kits, and games will be installed throughout Broadmeadow for children needing a break from class due to stress or the need for self-regulation. The selected materials are creative, meditative, or cooperative, and will bring about a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy when completed by a student.
  • One High Rock teacher, a member of the school’s Equity Steering Committee, will participate in Cornell’s four-course online Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program, which will provide training to support more inclusive practices to benefit both students and staff at the school.
  • An accessible three-wheeled bike will be available for students for whom a two-wheeled bike either is not safe or inaccessible in order to participate in the third grade “bike rodeo” at all five elementary schools.

Pedometers for Movement, Math, and More!

This Fall 2019 grant was awarded at Broadmeadow to incorporate pedometers into the school day for all 2nd graders. Students will use the data from the pedometers for understanding math and distance concepts.

Exploring Robotics

Through a Spring 2019 NEF Grant, several robots were ordered for teachers and students at High Rock to explore in order to determine how they could fit into future curriculum. In the fall, a Robot Exploration Day was held for all staff at High Rock and technology specialists from across the district. Many ideas surfaced that day, including the integration of the robots into math, science, music, and social/emotional learning curriculum. Students were introduced to the robots in small groups.

After lots of exploration by teachers, administrators, and students, the Sphero Bolt and Root were determined to be most useful in the Middle School classroom. 

The Sphero Bolt is easily connected to the coding curriculum at High Rock and teachers noted that they can see it being used in the math curriculum (angles and graphing) and the science curriculum (waves, graphing, and sensing). The Sphero also comes with pre-made lessons connecting the Social Studies units on Egypt and Hieroglyphics to coding!

The Root is an all-around robot that works nicely with the coding curriculum, but can be used in other areas such as music, art, science, and even ELA. This robot offers 3 levels of coding, making it useful for both beginners and advanced users. 

The existing robots will continue to impact students in small groups and after school, and will be available to be checked out by technology specialists at other schools. At High Rock, they plan to recommend the district purchase a class set of the Sphero Bolt, and to begin integration of the robots into the curriculum starting in the fall.

Grant recipient Erin Mack noted, “Teachers were inspired to think outside of the box while exploring these robots and I can’t wait to see what they can do once a class set is purchased.” During the exploration day a teacher reflected, “I liked the fact that it could be controlled manually or by coding and could be used to create artwork.

NEF Honored at Staples Connect Grand Opening

Last week, members of the NEF, Needham Select Board, and Newton-Needham Chamber helped celebrate the (re)opening of Staples Connect on Highland Ave, which will offer new meeting and co-working space and expanded services to the Needham community.

The NEF was honored to receive a generous donation from Staples which will help us continue to fund innovative and impactful programs in the Needham Public Schools. Thank you, Staples!

Find out more in this recent Needham Times article!

NEF Funds 12 Fall Grants Totaling $50,102

At the Needham School Committee meeting last night, the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of 12 grants totaling $50,102 in the fall grant cycle. Two of the grants provide for professional development in STEAM and visual arts, impacting instruction and curriculum across all five elementary schools. A large grant at the High School will fund an artist-in-residency program “Your Voice Matters. What’s Your Story?” to foster community and facilitate conversations around empathy and equity. 

Awarded grants also include:

  • Four performances for the Pollard 8th grade of “A Revolution of Her Own!” — the story of Deborah Sampson, the first woman to enlist, fight, and be honorably discharged from the American Military. 
  • A visit with graphic novel author of “She the People,” Jen Deaderick to host a series of workshops at the Needham High School’s One Day program. 
  • Cooking For Kids, a weekly cooking activity for students learning life skills in substantially separate early learning classrooms at Sunita Williams. 
  • Sensory Pathways at Eliot and Mitchell, which will allow students to take movement breaks using academic visuals to release energy and sensory build up.. 
  • The addition to Broadmeadow, Eliot and Newman libraries of Vox Books — hardcover books with an integrated audio recording to help emergent and reluctant readers. 
  • Pedometers for each second grade classroom at Broadmeadow to reinforce math concepts such as graphing and place value, and to better understand real-life distances in geography units.
  • Mindfulness workshops for students and teachers in each cluster classroom at High Rock. 
  • Professional development for all K-5 math coaches and grade 6-12 math teachers with Sunil Singh, co-author of “Math Recess,” a book which emphasizes learning mathematics through play and as a means to provide equity to all students. 

Far From The Tree – Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Funded by a small grant from the NEF last spring, the Far From a Tree screening was held on November 6th at Mitchell Elementary School. There was a great turn out for the event and attendees found the panel discussion thoughtful and informative.

The panelists included Tracy McKay, Liza d’Hemecourt, Laurie Davis and Sarah Burton.