Grants In Action

“Own Your Peace” at NHS Promote Community and Individual Well-Being

Own Your Peace girls

Two senior art classes collaborated with art teacher Wendy Hodge and visiting artist Jodi Colella to design, build, and publicize two temporary school-wide art installations as part of the Own Your Peace-Piece initiative. This initiative was funded in Fall 2015 with an NEF small grant. Members of the school community were invited to write on colorful fabric pieces about how they “own their peace” and to tie what they wrote to two sculptures: “The Bridge,” which is located in the area connecting the old and new school buildings, and “The Cave,” which is located under a staircase and symbolizes the creation of a comfortable space of “protection and safety.”

This project taught students how to organize community art installations and connect them to the high school’s annual Speak Out assembly and the Own Your Peace sculpture outside of the school. As one student said, “This was a beautiful and fun way to share your voice and let it become part of something bigger.”

Check out coverage of this initiative in the Needham Times and Hometown Weekly.

Film Screening of “Most Likely to Succeed”

Most Likely to Succeed Panel Photo

“Most Likely to Succeed” has been heralded as the “best film ever done on the topic of school.” This film talks about a project-based approach to teaching and learning.

For most of the last century, entry-level jobs were plentiful, and college was an affordable path to a fulfilling career. That world no longer exists. The feature-length documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education, revealing the growing shortcomings of our school model in todayʼs innovative world. The film has been named “among the best edu-documentaries ever produced” by Education Week, and called a “smart and engaging look at education in the 21st century” by The Hollywood Reporter. Most Likely To Succeed, a film by award-winning documentarian Greg Whiteley, was an official selection of the 2015 Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals.

In collaboration with all seven Needham PTCs, the NEF offered a free screening and panel discussion of the award-winning documentary on Thursday, March 24th at Newman Elementary School.

The panel included:

  • Daniel E. Gutekanst, Superintendent of Needham Public Schools
  • Robert Martello, Professor of the History of Science and Technology, Olin College, Needham, MA
  • Mark Somerville, Special Advisor to the Provost, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Olin College, Needham, MA
  • Daniel Warren, Sample & Recruitment Manager at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University; Former Grade 5 Teacher at Newman Elementary School in Needham, MA

Excerpt from The Needham Times:

“Faced with a college admissions-obsessed, achievement-driven student body, Needham educators and parents began a discussion last week about whether they should – or even can – reinvent education in Needham.

Some 500 concerned parents gathered with educators for a screening of “Most Likely to Succeed,” followed by a panel discussion. According to the provocative, recent documentary, a college degree no longer guarantees a good entry-level job, because those jobs do not exist anymore. But most parents want their children to go to college – the best possible college – anyway. Subsequently, the high school curriculum is focused on AP classes and standardized test preparation to get kids into these colleges. This is a big, vexing problem, which calls on educators, administrators and parents to re-imagine U.S. education practices so that they might better prepare students for life in the 21st century.” Continue reading coverage of the event in The Needham Times.

Learn more about the film at http://www.mltsfilm.org/

“Authoring Inspiration” at NHS – Young Adult Author Nancy Werlin Inspires Students

Nancy Werlin, Author, at NHS

In February, young adult author Nancy Werlin visited Needham High School to conduct a series of workshops and speaking sessions with students. Nancy Werlin is a New York Times bestselling author whose young adult books cover a wide array of genres, including realistic fiction, suspense, fantasy, and comics. Her book, The Rules of Survival, is a National Book Award finalist.  Locked Inside is an Edgar Award finalist, and The Killer’s Cousin is an Edgar Award winner.

According to NHS Librarian Paige Rowse, “About 175 students attended the events. Ms. Werlin spoke about a number of relevant topics and was able to connect with students. Students were engaged and eager to ask questions – we actually ran out of time during each session because so many students wanted to participate.” One NHS teacher said it was “a great opportunity to ask questions and gain insight and inspiration.” Students “liked how she talked about her whole experience, not just talking about books” and how “she gave great advice about deadlines and goals.”

The visit was funded by a grant from the NEF’s Fall 2015 Small Grants cycle.

See coverage of Ms. Werlin’s visit in the Hometown Weekly.

NEF Announces 2015-2016 Large Grant and Interdisciplinary Learning Funding

Starlab Planetarium

Large Grant Award – STARLAB Coming to Needham

The NEF announced the award of a $15,000 large grant from its 2015-2016 Large Grants cycle at the School Committee meeting on January 26th. The grant supports the purchase of a Basic STARLAB Portable Planetarium System (with weather and solar system units) for use by the Needham Science Center. The STARLAB can be used in gyms and performance centers and can accommodate up to thirty students when inflated.

STARLAB is an exciting way to spark students’ interest in science and increase their scientific literacy. It can be used to make meaningful curriculum connections for students across all grades and can build students’ skills and content knowledge in a way that ensures that students not only “know” science concepts, but also can use their scientific knowledge to investigate the natural world.

More Interdisciplinary Learning at Needham High School

The School Committee accepted two NEF Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative (ILI) grants at its January 26th meeting, totaling $48,019. These grants will help to solidify the broad and lasting impact of the ILI Collaborative Initiative, the collaboration between NHS and the NEF that is most well-known for the creation of the Greater Boston Project, an interdisciplinary class at NHS. The Da Vinci Workshop and several smaller interdisciplinary projects have also been created through this collaboration, now in its fourth year.

The first new grant provides a third year of funding for the “Interdisciplinary Learning Fund.” This fund, administered by both NHS and NEF representatives, was created to support small interdisciplinary units of study. Thus far, six multi-year mini-grants have been awarded.

A new, part-time Interdisciplinary Learning (IL) Specialist position will be created with the funding from the second grant. The IL Specialist will serve as a resource for all of NHS, and will also provide interdisciplinary learning guidance throughout the district.

To date, more than 20 teachers and 550 students at NHS have been impacted by the NEF’s support of interdisciplinary learning initiatives. These new grants will extend that impact to the 2016-17 school year.

Robotics Are Elementary

NEF funded this grant in the Fall 2014 cycle, which financed the purchase of Bee Bots, Curriculum Mats, Lesson Plans and a set of 24-unit LegoWeDo robots for each of the five Needham Elementary schools.

According to Barbara Tennyson, Instructional Technology Specialist at Broadmeadow, “Bee Bots help us teach coding to young children. Specifically, teaching sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving are made very visual by using the BeeBots.

We have incorporated them mainly into 1st and 2nd grade STEAM classes but have even introduced them to Kindergarteners. We used them during International Dot Day and challenged the students to program them to spell the word DOT.

The individual challenges can vary greatly, from programming them to travel through a maze to completing an odd/even race using dice to using the number line mat to program addition and subtraction problems to using the alphabet mat to program it to spell their name. Lots of fun and learning!”

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