News from the NEF

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.

Low-Ropes Challenge Course at Pollard

Funded by a large grant from the NEF, the Low-Ropes Challenge Course at Pollard features seven elements presenting meaningful physical and mental challenges to help students develop social and emotional skills.

Grant writer, Michael Marcojohn is excited to see this grant come to life. He wrote, “I have always had the dream to build a course and provide students with the same positive experience I once had. I cannot wait to provide students with such a different and unique experience. Students have been asking me since the first day of school about when they will be allowed to enjoy the course.”

On October 3, Pollard teachers were trained and certified on the low-ropes course. Students at Pollard will now be able to use the course to help create an inclusive and cooperative team atmosphere.

Sensory Pathways at Broadmeadow

The NEF funded two Sensory Pathways that were installed this month at Broadmeadow and they have already made a huge impact on the students and teachers, who were instantly mesmerized. These Sensory Pathways have given students opportunities to get their movement out.

The paths are located in the first-grade wing for the kindergarten, first and second graders to use, as well as on the ground level near the occupational therapy room. Each path is designed to change a child’s body position as he/she completes the course, focusing on academic visuals while moving the body in a specific order. By jumping, bouncing, bending, pushing, and breathing, students release their energy and sensory build-ups that impacts their ability to best utilize their brains.

Although teachers were initially worried about sending students to the paths independently, after a class lesson, they gave it a try. Teachers were pleasantly surprised at how responsible students were being when they asked to go on a sensory break. Broadmeadow families have enjoyed the videos shared by Principal Gaberman shared the videos in the school’s bulletin. Grant writer, Saundra Watson noted, “It has been amazing to see so many students reading the directions and following the movements and others following along by creating their own movements.”

Take a sneak peak at how Needham students are moving their bodies and putting the pathways to good use. Thank you to grant writer Saundra Watson for making this innovative grant come to life.

NEF Announces It Has Donated Over $3 Million to Needham Public Schools

At its 2nd annual Grant Awards Reception held on Monday, May 20 at the John Eliot School, Joanna Herrera, Co-President of the Needham Education Foundation (NEF), announced that the NEF just reached a landmark $3 million given in support of the Needham Public Schools. The $3 million has funded over 715 grants written by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members through the NEF’s grant program.

The NEF raises funds and awards grants to promote innovation and excellence in education for Needham public school students. It seeks out and supports programs that are beyond normal and expected public funding, including leading-edge projects in math and science, languages and the arts, emerging technologies, social development, and more. Community members may submit grant proposals throughout the year. The NEF also collaborates on a larger scale with the Needham Public Schools Department.  For example, the foundation provided seed money for the Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative at Needham High School.

The NEF was founded in 1990 by a group of alumni from Needham High School who were celebrating their 50th class reunion. They parlayed a class gift of just $3,000 into a foundation that has now awarded more than $3 million in grant money.

“The Needham Education Foundation has been our partner in educational innovation and student learning. Not only does the NEF provide resources, they offer expertise, guidance, and perspective as they assist educators in the development of creative and exciting funding proposals. We are fortunate to live, learn, and work in a community with a partner like the NEF that values its children,” said Daniel Gutekanst, Superintendent of Needham Public Schools in a recent blog post. To view more of his blog post, click here.

The Grant Awards Reception was attended by State Representative Denise Garlick, members of the Select Board and School Committee, and Bruce Johnstone–a founding member of the NEF.  The event recognized the teachers, administrators, parents and one student who had received grants during the 2018-19 school year. The grants awarded included engineering backpacks for kindergartners, a documentary screening about the challenges of educating students with differences, professional development opportunities, Spanish-language and Latino-experience literature, robotics equipment, and much more.

View coverage of the reception by the Needham Channel.

Rubik’s Cubes at Needham High School

The NHS Library is pleased to add 225 Rubik’s cubes to the collection this year thanks to a Fall 2018 grant from the Needham Education Foundation. This purchase was an instant hit with cubers and non-cubers alike as the Rubik’s Cube Club immediately set to creating the first mosaic. They chose to build the portrait of Caesar Chavez, solving each individual cube to a specific design and stacking the cubes together to form the final mosaic. In a few afternoons, their masterpiece was complete and displayed prominently in the library. This new piece of art sparked a number of discussions as students and staff realized how it had been created.
 
We have since created a number of smaller mosaics which were started by math teachers and completed by individual students visiting the library. Another exciting opportunity provided by these cubes is to design our own mosaic, fostering technology, art, and design skills in the process. This is one of the many ways in which this program can grow in coming years and connect to many different students. In addition to the opportunity to design and build mosaics, Rubik’s Cubes themselves can provide a fun avenue to explore mathematical concepts such as geometry, algorithms, factorals, and exponents. Teachers are welcome to check out a class set of cubes for hands-on learning opportunities, which is easy thanks to the 25-cube boxes designed and built in the Da Vinci Workshop. These boxes were designed not only to contain a class set of cubes, but also to display a small, finished mosaic or portion of a larger mosaic.
 
Grant writer Paige Rowse commented “It is incredible to see all the different people and departments involved in just this one grant! We look forward to seeing more students and staff explore this innovative opportunity.”