News from the NEF

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.”

NEF Honors 2018-2019 Grant Recipients

On May 20, 2019, NEF held a reception to honor those who were awarded grants during the 2018-2019 school year.  Held at the Eliot School, the ceremony featured remarks by Superintendent Dan Gutekanst and NEF co-presidents Kelly Partridge and Joanna Herrera.  Each grant recipient was provided with a certificate and thanked for their efforts in applying for a grant. 

See coverage of the reception on the Needham Channel.

2018-2019 Grant Recipients

Susan Audibert

Co-Grant Writer: Seema Meloni

“Professional Development in Mindfulness and Resiliency Training“ (Hillside)

 Greg Bayse

Co-Grant Writer: Jean Tower

“Modeling the 21st Century Elementary Media Center” (Mitchell)

 Margaret Berges

“Literacy Lounge” (Eliot)

 Karen Bourn

Co-Grant Writers: Anne Burgholzer, Stephanie Calvo, Kim Hoffman

“The Walking Classroom” (Eliot)

 Liza d’Hemecourt

“Understanding Student Differences Through Film and Speaker Series” (Mitchell)

 Sue Doherty

“Audiobooks and Digital Books to Support Differentiation in the ELA

Classroom” (Pollard)

 Emily Gaberman

“Citizens of Broadmeadow: All Are Welcome” (Broadmeadow)

 Stephanie Hamel

Co-Grant Writer: Liz Silva

“Full STEAM Ahead:  Enhancing Computational Thinking & Spatial Reasoning for All Learners Through Mathematical Play” (Broadmeadow)

 Heather Harris

Co-Grant Writers: Shakur Abdal-Khallaq, Arielle Mossberg

“Making Space” (Needham High)

 Elizabeth Hitron

“Author Visit:  Gloria Respress-Churchwell” (Hillside)

 Elizabeth Hitron

Co-Grant Writer: Jennifer Guardino

“Vox Books—Books That Talk!” (Hillside)

 Carol-Ann Hurley

Co-Grant Writers: Raylene Roberts, Alyson Schenker

“A 21st Century Bookroom” (Hillside)

 Elizabeth Lee

“How Many Elephants?  Engaging Kindergartners and Their Families in Engineering Design Challenges” (Hillside)

 Erin Mack

“Examined Life: Greek Studies in the Schools Fellowship” (High Rock)

 Erin Mack

“Exploring Robotics” (High Rock)

 Laura Magno

“World War Women: The Unsung Heroines of World War II” (Needham High)

 Laura Magno

“Smithsonian American Art Museum Summer Institute 2019” (Needham High)

 Michael Marcojohn

Co-Grant Writer: Kathy Pinkham

“Pollard Low-Ropes Challenge Course” (Pollard)

 Samantha Martyn

“8th Grade Experiential Education: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Equipment” (Pollard)

 Teresa Marx

Co-Grant Writers: Melanie Bunda, Annapurna Vakati, Heather Hotchkiss

“Cognition and Instruction in STEM-Professional Development for 4 Science Teachers” (Needham High)

 Steve Mock

“Differentiated Learning Station” (Pollard)

 Shayan Raza

Co-Grant Writers: Joshua Yankell, Samantha Bookston

“The Sky’s the Limit: Drones at NHS” (Needham High)

 Paige Rowse

“Gregory Katsoulis Author Visit” (Needham High)

 Paige Rowse

“Rubik’s Cube Mosaics” (Needham High)

 Paige Rowse

“Differentiated Learning Spaces” (Needham High)

 Jenn Scheck-Kahn

“Sensory Toolkit” (Eliot)

 Elyssa Schneider

Co-Grant Writer: Patricia McNamara

“Hispanic Literary Expansion” (High Rock)

 Colleen Soldato

Co-Grant Writers: Sarah Burton, Karen Tiberi, Barbara Hayden

“Yoga for Every Learner-Direct Instruction” (Mitchell)

 Colleen Soldato

Co-Grant Writers: Sarah Burton, Karen Tiberi, Barbara Hayden

“Yoga for Every Learner-Educator Training” (Mitchell)

 Elissa Strauss

Co-Grant Writer: Maryellen Shea

“Planet Box” (Pollard)

 LeeAnn Sutton

“Sons of Serendip Residency” (Pollard and Needham High)

 Heather Tryon

“Ukes for Broadmeadow” (Broadmeadow)

 Andrea Vargas

Co-Grant Writer: Jessica Peterson

“Cultural Conversations Through Community Book Studies” (Newman)

 Saundra Watson

“Sensory Pathways” (Broadmeadow)

NEF Awards $31,345 in Spring Grants!

The Needham Education Foundation announced the recipients of 10 grants totaling $31,345 in its third and last grant cycle of the 2018-19 school year.

Elizabeth Lee, a parent at Hillside, was awarded a grant for engineering backpacks for kindergarteners that will include materials, books and instructions for students and parents to complete a critical thinking and building project. Thanks to a grant by first grade teacher Susan Audibert, 20 teachers will take part in an 8-week mindfulness course and then bring mindfulness techniques into their classrooms. Carol-Ann Hurley, literacy specialist, was awarded a grant to fund the creation of an innovative school-wide bookroom that will allow teachers to easily access individual, small group and whole-class texts by subject area.

Mitchell’s Media Center will undergo a redesign with a grant written by principal Greg Bayse. The new Media Center will house traditional and digital media, a STEAM learning center and spaces for collaborative student and adult work. Mitchell parent Liza d’Hemecourt received a grant to fund a screening of the documentary, “Far From the Tree,” which discusses the challenges of parenting and educating students with differences in areas including gender identity, physical ability, cognition, race and ethnicity.

Newman Assistant Principal Andrea Vargas received a grant to fund a Teaching Tolerance Workshop: Facilitating Difficult Conversations for a group of administrators, teachers and specialists, as well as copies of the book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” with a goal of deepening understanding of equity in education.

High Rock will have an expanded collection of Spanish-language and Latino-experience literature thanks to grant writer Elyssa Schneider, a Spanish teacher. Erin Mack, instructional technology teacher, received a grant to fund the purchase of robotics equipment so that teachers may determine which robot/coding would best work in their classrooms.

Sue Doherty, library media teacher at Pollard, received a grant to fund audiobooks to meet the needs of special education, general education and ELL students.

Needham High School history teacher Laura Magno received funding so she can attend the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Summer Institute and learn how to leverage their resources for the teaching of American history.

Talking Books

The “talking books” have been a big hit at Hillside! Students in K-5 have been enjoying the collection of 82 Vox books, which are hardcover books containing a small MP3 player on the inside cover. Simply pushing the play button allows students to listen to a high quality narration of their favorite stories. They require no batteries and can last up to four months without a charge.
Kindergarten and first grade teachers have checked these out to use as listening centers in the classroom. Newly enrolled ELL students have been enjoying them outside the library as well.

One exciting effect of the Vox books is that they ignite interest in the regular print collection. Students often want to check out the regular print copy of the book they have just listened to. The Vox books have expanded interest in new topics that students may otherwise have overlooked. The Vox books also increase student independence. Everyone who listens to a Vox book can fully access a text even if they are not yet reading. Students are able to comprehend and retell a story after listening to it.

Grant writer Elizabeth Hitron, Hillside School Librarian, said, “As a librarian, it has been so heartening to see students engage so deeply with a new material that does not involve a screen! High quality narration and high quality literature are so captivating for a young audience. I love when the students walk into the library and ask, “Can we listen to the talking books today?”

2019 Spelling Bee

Congratulations to the Needham School Committee for taking the top prize at the 2019 Spelling Bee and to the Broadmeadow “Smaht Spellahs” for winning the elementary round!

On Sunday, March 10th the Needham community came together to test their spelling prowess at the 28th Annual NEF Spelling Bee. Over 40 teams participated, including elementary, middle and high school students, teachers, parents, members of Needham community organizations, and local business people.

The afternoon kicked off with Kathy Curran, member of WCVB’s 5 Investigates, helping students film a Wake-Up Call for Channel 5’s EyeOpener (watch the video, here). The NHS a cappella group Making Music Matter then performed the National Anthem beautifully to kick off the Bee. Throughout the ensuing five rounds of spelling, celebrity pronouncers Kathy Curran, Superintendent Dan Gutekanst, and David Wade, co-anchor of WBZ-TV News, kept the event lively and fun.

In the preliminary rounds, the Broadmeadow 5th grade students were the winners in the elementary school round, correctly spelling the word “knowledgeable.” The Broadmeadow and Hillside PTC teams battled for 18 words until Broadmeadow won on “querimonious.” The High Rock team (6th graders) out-dueled 7th grade, 8th grade, and high school teams with the word “gaufrette.” In the Championship round, the Needham School Committee took the big prize after correctly spelling “kakistocracy,” which means “government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.”

See coverage of the Bee on the Needham Channel.

NEF Awards Eight Winter Grants Totaling $26,015

The Needham Education Foundation awarded eight grants totaling $26,015 in its winter grant cycle.

Planet Box – Pollard
Grant Writer: Elissa Strauss
Two small aquaponics systems.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Equipment – Pollard
Grant Writer: R. Samantha Martyn
Equipment and materials to enhance the 8th Grade Experiential Education course.

Pollard Low-Ropes Challenge Course – Pollard
Grant Writer: Michael Marcojohn
Funding to build an outdoor low-ropes challenge course at Pollard, to be used as a primary teaching space for the grade 7 experiential education classes.

Differentiated Learning Station – Pollard
Grant Writer: Steve Mock
Furniture and materials to create a learning center for students within a Social Studies classroom.

Sensory Pathways – Broadmeadow
Grant Writer: Saundra Watson
Two sensory paths for students to use throughout the school day when they need a movement break.

Author Visit: Gloria Respress-Churchwell – Hillside – $2,000
Grant Writer: Elizabeth Hitron
A visit from Newton author Gloria Respress-Churchwell, who has a new picture book coming out in the Fall of 2019 entitled Follow Chester!

Literacy Lounge – Eliot
Grant Writer: Margaret Berges
Furniture to create a home-like environment for students to receive literacy support and instruction in the literacy specialist’s office.

Sensory Toolkit – Eliot
Grant Writer: Jenn Scheck-Kahn
An assortment of therapy aids, which will be made available to students attending all after-school PTC activities.

NEF Awards $67,553 in Fall Grants

The NEF awarded 16 grants totaling $67,553 in the fall grants cycle. Awarded grants include: an author visit from Gregory Katsoulis at Needham High School, ukuleles for Broadmeadow’s music department, professional development for nine teachers, and 82 Vox audio/print book combinations for Hillside. Other grants awarded:

  • A large grant to fund a library redesign project at Needham High School that will focus on collaborative space for group projects.
  • Funding for visually-based math puzzles and games for grades 3 through 5 at Broadmeadow.
  • A program to bring yoga and mindfulness tools and instruction to all current 5th graders at Mitchell.
  • A residency at Pollard and Needham High School for Sons of Serendip, a nationally recognized, crossover ensemble.
  • 34 WalkKit devices for 5th graders at the Eliot School, which will allow kids to listen to educational podcasts while taking walks.

Fourth Grade Flexible Seating

The fourth grade team at Mitchell had experimented with flexible seating a little bit last year but wanted to really give students the opportunity to have more choice in their learning. We needed more seating and work area options for students. In addition to giving students choice, we also wanted to create a stronger sense of community within each classroom. Flexible seating requires students to share materials and work spaces. We were also thinking about modern work spaces and offices when choosing their materials. We thought that fourth grade would be a great time to implement flexible seating and are pleased that the NEF grant we received is allowing that to happen.
Currently, our students are loving the ability to have choice in their learning! Most students are able to appropriately use each of the workspace options. We are collaborating to help students adjust to this new way of learning. Students have also discovered that they may need a different space depending on the activity or lesson. For example, most students have realized that a tabletop surface works best for writing workshop. Flexible seating allows students to get up and move or move while sitting, so movement breaks are happening continuously throughout the day. We have also found that students are on task most of the time and are enjoying each other’s company and working together.
In the future, we would like to expand on the workspace and seating options in our classrooms. We would also love to share what we have done with other teachers, so that more students can have the opportunity to take on more ownership of their learning.