Grants In Action

Needham Education Proud Sponsor of 2014-2015 Needham Talks Series

Please plan to attend this exciting free series of talks focused on children’s resilience and social-emotional wellness. Nationally acclaimed speakers will be visiting our community to share their knowledge of social and brain behavior, the emotional lives of girls and boys, how to nurture children’s confidence and resilience, and the hidden consequences of the internet. ALL lectures will be held at the Newman Elementary School Auditorium from 7:00 – 8:30pm. Speaker books will be available for purchase at each event.

Speakers & Dates:

October 9, 2014: Joseph Shrand, M.D. – Theory of Mind and Interpersonal Relationships for Children

December 4, 2014:  Rachel Simmons, M.A. – Odd Girl Out: Coping with Best Friends, Worst Enemies and Everything in Between

March 4, 2015:  Michael Thompson, Ph.D. – Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys

April 9, 2015:  Robert Brooks, Ph.D. – Strategies for Nurturing Confidence and Resilience in Our Children

June 4, 2015:  Jon Mattleman, M.S. – The Emotional and Hidden Consequences of the Internet

See coverage of Dr. Shrand’s lecture by The Needham Times.
See coverage of Ms. Simmons lecture by The Needham Times.

$50,000 Grant from the Needham Education Foundation Launches “Da Vinci Workshop” at Needham High School

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) is awarding a $50,000 grant to fund the “Da Vinci Workshop,” a lab space for hands-on learning and technological creativity at Needham High School. 

The grant honors the 25th anniversary of the NEF and continues the organization’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning.

“This workshop embodies STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) interdisciplinary learning and will serve as a space for students and teachers to innovate, collaborate, create and problem-solve – all 21st century learning goals,” said Anne Weinstein, co-chair of the NEF’s Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we can accelerate expansion of educational opportunities that are needed by our students for real-world success.”

To create the Da Vinci Workshop, existing space will be outfitted with technology such as laptops for programming and computer aided design (CAD), a laser cutter and other modern fabrication tools and equipment, traditional hand and power tools, construction materials (sheet metal, wire, cardboard), and modular furniture so the space can be configured for multiple uses.

Initially, the space will be used for projects in existing classes and after-school clubs, independent study, and collaboration between a robotics class and a sculpture class to build kinetic sculptures. In addition to enabling expansion of existing classes and clubs, the workshop is intended to expand options and open new academic and career paths for a broad range of students.

The grant was announced at the June 17 meeting of the Needham School Committee. NHS math and computer science teacher Hans Batra is working to create the Da Vinci lab in partnership with NHS Principal Jonathan Pizzi, the school’s assistant principals, and other administrators and teachers.  

“The goal of the NEF is to foster innovation and enrichment in our schools,” said NEF co-president Jane Smalley.  “We have done that for nearly 25 years, and we think the Da Vinci lab is a perfect match with these goals.”

The NEF began in 1990, when members of the Needham High School Class of 1939 donated $3,000 to create an organization to stimulate and support innovative educational programs. The organization has since awarded nearly 500 grants totaling more than $1.9 million.

The Da Vinci Workshop proposal is a part of the Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative, a recent collaboration between NEF and Needham Public Schools. Interdisciplinary learning moves beyond the traditional teaching of academic subjects (English, math, science, etc) in isolated silos. It requires students to combine concepts from multiple academic disciplines, as is required for problem-solving in college and beyond. A 2009 accreditation report of Needham High School by The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) identified the need for formalized opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.  The NEF’s interdisciplinary initiative led to a new project-based course at the High School called The Greater Boston Project, which draws upon English, math, and social studies to examine social movements throughout Boston’s history.  The course is being offered for the second year in 2014-15.

A committee for interdisciplinary initiatives (made up of school administrators, teachers, and NEF board members) recommended support for the Da Vinci Workshop and will continue to provide oversight. Preliminary outfitting of the Da Vinci Workshop is expected in the 2014-15 school year. School leaders also are pursuing other private grants and partnerships to further fund the workshop.

Needham Education Foundation Awards $46,660 in Spring Grants

The Needham Education Foundation has awarded Spring Grants for ten innovative programs, including a speaker series for parents on the theme of fostering resiliency in children. Three of the grants fund innovative teacher training programs. In all, grants worth $46,660 for the Spring grant cycle were announced at the Needham School Committee meeting on April 29. They include three grants for teacher training to introduce new curriculum and concepts and a lecture series for parents.

Spring grants include funding for:

  • Bullying prevention workshop for Newman staff.
  • Teaching training for Mitchell 4th and 5th grade teachers and the school’s literary specialist at the Teachers’ College Readers & Writers Project Summer Institute at Columbia University this summer.
  • Development of a new Holocaust Unit to be taught to 8th graders and paying for training via “Facing History and Ourselves” to focus on understanding the historical roots of the Holocaust and grappling with ethical and moral questions pertaining to the roots of hatred and oppression.
  • A parent lecture series on Fostering Resilience and Social-Emotional Wellness in Needham’s Elementary School-Age Children, with separate speakers scheduled throughout the year.

NEF Announces Recipients of 2013-2014 Large Grant Awards

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of its 2013-2014 Large Grants. Three grants totaling over $40,000 were awarded. Two grants support iPad pilot programs at Newman and Hillside Elementary Schools. The third grant supports an interdisciplinary partnership between social studies and visual arts for 6th graders at High Rock School.

iPads for Learning

Newman Elementary School was awarded a $14,935.95 grant to provide 17 iPads (with cases, cart, and teacher’s iMac) to be used to enhance the literacy curriculum with connections to other curriculum when appropriate. The Media Center faculty plan to focus on digital storytelling applications to be piloted in at least one class per grade level in grades 1-5. The iPads will also be available to other classrooms. This grant will be overseen by Jennifer Murray (Media Specialist) and Mary Werlin (Instructional Technology Specialist) and is strongly supported by Newman Principal, Jessica Peterson, and Needham Technology Director, Deb Gammerman.

iPad Pilot Program at Hillside

This grant of $14,995.95 provides 17 iPads (with cases, cart, and teacher’s iMac) to further improve engagement, reading, written language, and math skills across all learning environments. The recipients plan to begin a phased approach to the iPads’ introduction to the school by focusing on English Language Learners (ELL) and Special Education students this spring. In September, they plan to expand the iPads’ use to grades K-2, and by the end of 2014/15 school year, they will include grades 3-5 and art and music classes.  Chanit List, Early Learning Center (ELC) teacher, and Jamie Singelais, ELL teacher, will be guiding the iPad use with support from Deb Gammerman, Needham Technology Director.

Deb Gammerman, Needham Technology Director, will gather and evaluate information about both of these pilots to assess how iPad technology can best be used in the Needham Elementary Schools.

Interdisciplinary Arts Integration Project

High Rock School was granted $11,775 to fund a pilot program adding an interdisciplinary learning component to the 6th grade.  The High Rock visual arts teacher will partner with the social studies faculty to co-teach interdisciplinary lessons designed to support both the Social Studies and Visual Arts curricula goals. The grant funds instruction, materials and planning. The pilot will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year in three clusters, with the remaining two clusters serving as a control group to determine the impact of the pilot on student growth and achievement.  It enjoys strong support from David Neves, Director Fine and Performing Arts, and the High Rock faculty.


Steve Kidd 002A one-man show, written and performed by actor Steve Kidd, was performed for 406 students in eighth grade at the Pollard Middle School. The play was originated by Steve following several summers of work at a camp for HIV-positive children. He wrote the play in an effort to inspire young people to do public service through telling the stories of some of these children and families. He combines actual stories of children living with HIV/AIDs with excerpts from Ursala Le Guin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

The performance ties into the students’ unit on short stories (which includes “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”). It also connects with the eighth-grade Community Service Learning program. Steve told the students about how he first volunteered to work at the HIV/AIDs camp mostly because he did not have anything else to do for a summer and how it has enriched his life more than anything else he has done in his career. One of the reasons that he created this program was to encourage public service. The students recently had their introduction to the CSL program and “Sigh/Omelas” will inspire them to understand their ability to make a positive impact, just at the time when they will be choosing their projects.

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