News from the NEF

NEF Funds Four Spring Grants Totaling $22,301

At the Needham School Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of four grants totaling $22,301 in the spring grant cycle. A multi-school grant will fund a 30-unit Virtual Reality Expeditions kit to be shared across all five elementary schools which will allow teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips.

Awarded grants also include:

  • 32 African drums will be used for strings students at Pollard to work on rhythm, timing, listening skills, and group dynamics. They will also be utilized in 7th and 8th grade classes for a unit on drumming technique and the history of West African drumming.
  • A set of medium blocks at Sunita Williams will be used for indoor recess, STEAM projects, buddy activities, and more by K-5 students.
  • With the help from student groups and teachers, a four-tiered indoor Terraponic grow rack will allow everyone at the High School to watch the process of plants growing from seed to plate. The grow rack will reside in the cafeteria where the produce will be served to students.

NEF Announces 2012 Spring Grant Recipients

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of its 2012 Spring small grants cycle at a recent meeting of the Needham School Committee. Thirteen grants totaling almost $50,000 were awarded to Needham public schools — supporting academics, the arts, innovative classroom environments, disability awareness and social wellness. At the elementary school level, these include author visits, re-enactments of pivotal historical events, an artist-in-residence and expansion of disabilities awareness programs launched last fall.

Middle schoolers will benefit from a farm-based special education program and two unique events for Community Week, an initiative to promote tolerance of differences within our community. High school students will benefit from the creation of a Fine and Performing Arts presentation space and continue to experience The 5th Quarter, a safe, substance-free place for teens to socialize
with friends after evening sporting events.

The full list of grants include:

  1. Grace Lin: Multicultural Author and Illustrator – Broadmeadow
    Geisel Honor and Newbery Honor recipient Grace Lin visits K-5 students to enhance the reading and writing curricula. Known for her authentic voice as a first generation Chinese-American, this multicultural author makes the immigration unit come alive.
  2. Bringing History to Hillside: Revolutionary War Encampment – Hillside
    The Rehoboth Minute Company: 13th Continental Regiment sets up a Revolutionary War camp on the school field. Grades 3, 4 and 5 tour the encampment, joining costumed revolutionary re-enactors as they live and teach history.
  3. Building a Strong Foundation for Literacy – Hillside
    Author Leo Landry serves as author-in-residence for kindergarten students in this pilot program to provide an early foundation for literacy. The interactive relationship between a “real” author and the children enhances the literacy curriculum.
  4. One Meeting, Full of Friendship: Japanese Tea Ceremony – Hillside
    Kate Finnegan, a teacher at the Kaji Aso Studios and Tea Ceremony practitioner, demonstrates the tea ceremony for 2nd graders. This cross-cultural experience supports the social studies curriculum and encourages connections with the coming season and friendship values.
  5. Read to Succeed Ignite What You Write – Mitchell
    This initiative aims to shape positive reading and writing behaviors, bringing in authors that inspire students to develop a love of reading. Through interactive workshops, authors Suzy Becker, Suzanne Bloom and Mark Peter Hughes share their experiences as writers and give tips for approaching a blank page.
  6. Mosaic Mural Mania – Mitchell
    An artist-in-residence works with K-5 students to design and create a mosaic mural to become a public art piece for the school community. The mural will be mounted on moveable boards that can be transferred to a new location when Mitchell is renovated in the next five years.
  7. Stand Up For Learning – Newman
    Stand Up for Learning encourages an innovative classroom environment that allows students to work while standing. The grant funds 15 Stand Up Desks, ergonomic workstations where students have more freedom of movement and find it easier to stay focused on learning.
  8. Bill Harley Program and Concert – Newman and Broadmeadow
    Grammy-award winning storyteller/songwriter Bill Harley comes to Newman and Broadmeadow for student assemblies and evening family concerts. Mr. Harley tells stories about the experience of childhood and emphasizes the importance of community and traditional values.
  9. Disability Awareness: Travis Roy – Newman, Mitchell and Broadmeadow
    Motivational speaker Travis Roy kicks off the 2012-2013 Disability Awareness Programs at Newman, Mitchell and Broadmeadow. Mr. Roy’s message of setting positive goals and believing in oneself regardless of challenges, mirrors Disability Awareness themes. Mr. Roy’s speaking engagements at Hillside and Eliot Disability Awareness programs have been very successful.
  10. Needham Community Farm – Pollard Bridges Program – Pollard
    The Needham Community Farm (NCF) collaborates with the Pollard Middle School to create a farm-based special education program for 7th and 8th graders participating in the Bridges Program. The students visit the farm for hands-on, social and emotional learning opportunities. This grant funds curriculum development.
  11. Community Week: Inclusion and (dis)Ability Awareness Nights – High Rock and Pollard
    This grant funds the opening and closing events of the first ever Community Week, 5 nights of events to promote tolerance of differences within our community. The opening event is a screening a the Emmy-nominated film Including Samuel. Motivational speaker, Travis Roy, closes Community Week.
  12. The 5th Quarter – High School
    5th Quarter provides a safe, substance-free place for Needham High School teens to socialize with friends after evening sporting events. The funding helps provide food and beverages at these social events.
  13. Fine and Performing Arts Critique Theater – High School
    This grant provides self-healing tack boards to transform a hallway at the High School into a critique theater and presentation space. This art class resource helps students learn about methods of critique and problem solving using visual language. The public space also aids in educating the student body and faculty about the process of art making.

Making Space

This Fall 2018 grant funded a collaborative, school-wide art installation that visibly and functionally represents the mission to promote equity within Needham High School. The creation and installation of this structure will allow students and staff to explore important topics and have challenging conversations about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, language, socioeconomic strata, immigration status, etc.

The NEF is very proud to have funded this grant at Needham High School to help students and staff continue their work on equity and inclusion.

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.