Grants In Action

James Rojas/Urban Planner

James Rojas, an activist, artist, and urban planner, came to Broadmeadow School for a week-long art and design residency involving the entire Broadmeadow community. Rojas travels the world engaging ordinary people, young and old, in the planning process through “build it” workshops, translating city planning into activities that are visual, tactile, and playful—the language of how we actually experience the world. Rojas brought these workshops to Broadmeadow students through their art classes. He presented the students with thousands of intriguing found objects and then engaged them to build their favorite place in their community. He got them thinking, building, and creating, individually and then collaboratively. After building, each student shared his or her ideas. During the residency, photographer Tiziana Rozzo documented students’ work, creating a slide show and photo exhibit. The exhibit was presented at a reception with town officials at Needham Town Hall on March 24th.

Fall 2013 Small Grants Announced

We’re pleased to announce that the NEF awarded over $60,000 in funding to 21 grant applicants this fall. Through these grants, Needham students are learning from visiting authors and dancers in residence, a program to teach high school students to create stained glass pieces, and even a week-long residency with an urban planner.

Helen Keller: A One-Woman Play

Students in grades 1 to 5 at all Needham public elementary schools were exposed to history through performance thanks to a Small Grant awarded by NEF during its spring 2013 grant cycle. The program, “Sheryl Faye Presents Historical Women,” served as the kick-off event for the town-wide Understanding Our Different Abilities program, which is coordinated by each school’s PTC. This fall, each elementary school had two sessions of the performance followed by a question-and-answer period with the performance artist.

Local actress Sheryl Faye presented a one-woman play that portrayed moments from Helen Keller’s childhood and young adulthood and her struggles to overcome obstacles and learn to communicate. Faye stayed in character for the 35-minute play in which she revealed the life of this historical woman who was deaf and blind yet achieved success. “Sheryl Faye showed the students that people such as Helen Keller who live with a disability are really not disabled but differently abled, and this is the same message as our program,” said Suzanne Lissy, chair of Understanding Our Different Abilities and an NEF board member. “Faye also explained to the kids that if you see someone who is differently abled not to be scared or to stare but to talk to them and ask questions if you have any.”

Needham Education Foundation Awards Second Year of Funding for Innovative Interdisciplinary Class at Needham High School

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) has awarded a grant of $115,275 to fund an innovative interdisciplinary course for a second year at Needham High School and to continue developing additional interdisciplinary initiatives and coursework.

With this funding, next year’s high school seniors will be able to enroll in the Greater Boston Project.  This course incorporates English, social studies, and math as students study specific turning points in the city’s history. This interdisciplinary approach is regarded as essential for 21 st century education.

“I thank the NEF for taking a chance on this innovative collaboration and the teachers and principal of Needham High School for taking this opportunity and making something of it,” said Needham Public School Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst. “Already the students are saying, ‘This is a different kind of school experience than I’ve had before.’ It’s the kind of powerful  collaboration that we should explore more.”

Currently, 50 high school seniors are enrolled in the year-long Greater Boston Project, a first-time course at Needham High School. Students in the course make connections between academic disciplines and develop problem-solving skills that are needed in higher education and beyond. Last year’s NEF grant of $111,500 to the school district launched the Greater Boston Project, which was developed collaboratively by NEF, district leaders, and the three high school faculty members who teach the course.

Included in this year’s grant, which was accepted by the School Committee on October 16, is up to $20,000 to seed additional interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students.

Author Grace Lin at Mitchell

Newbery Medal–winning author Grace Lin presented her seminar, How a Book Is Made, to the first- and second-graders at Mitchell Elementary School. She also read an excerpt of her book The Ugly Vegetables to the kindergarten classes.

Lin provided the students with insight into the steps of how a book is made. She began by showing them her “personal idea book” where she jots down ideas and words, which then become the inspiration for her stories. Through her interactive presentation, she demonstrated the many steps in publishing an illustrated picture book. Lin also read an excerpt from her junior novel Year of the Dog to teach the children about the Chinese zodiac and the traits associated with each year. She ended the program with a “draw-along,” teaching the students how to draw a dragon or a dog.

The engaging program walked the students through the complete process from story ideas to illustrations to the published work, all while infusing insight into Chinese culture. NEF grant writer Patty Deroian said, “Ms. Lin presents a fantastic program combining writing and diversity in a way that really connects with the students.”

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