Grants In Action

Engineering Extravaganza

Let's Build, Engineering Extravaganza With help from an NEF grant, the Hillside Family Engineering Extravaganza welcomed nearly 300 parents and children on a recent Saturday morning to solve engineering design challenges together. Activities included designing REAL Angry birds (working catapults) and windmill blades, making bubble wands, and saving Humpty Dumpty by building contraptions to protect a real egg from a real fall. Engineers from around Needham joined the Extravaganza to demonstrate projects as did Olin College students and the Needham High School robotics teams HackHers and T-10. Robots from MIT and a 3-D printer from Olin were also popular with children and parents alike.

3D printer

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a … 3-D Printer!

Students in the robotics club at Needham High School unboxed a new 3-D printer, funded by a grant from NEF, to be used by the club and soon in the school’s new robotics class. Using the printer, students will be challenged to design 3-D objects and write the necessary computer code, which the printer reads and turns into the corresponding 3-D plastic models. What was the sample design on that first day? The NEF logo, of course!

NEF Awards Nearly $36,000 in Spring Grants

Students in Needham schools will benefit from 12 grants worth nearly $36,000 in the spring cycle of grants awarded by the Needham Education Foundation.  Many of this season’s grants are notable for teaching academic concepts through hands-on activities and performances.

The Needham Education Foundation funds programs that fall outside normal school funding and promote innovation and excellence for students. Spring grants, announced at the Needham School Committee meeting on April 23, include funding for:

  • The “Amazing Nano Brothers,” who will use juggling to teach complex science concepts, including atomic structures, in performances at all elementary schools.
  • The Hillside Family Engineering Extravaganza, with engineering activities for students and families, helped by Olin College students and the NHS girls’ robotics team.
  • A 3-D printer, to enable robotics students to design a part, “print it,” and then use the physical item.  The printer will be used initially by the Needham High School robotics club and then integrated into the school’s new robotics class.
  • A one-woman performance by an actor playing Helen Keller, followed by an in-character Q& A with students, to kick off Disability Awareness programs at each elementary school.

NEF Announces Recipients of 2012-2013 Large Grant Awards

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of its 2012-2013 large grants cycle at a recent meeting of the Needham School Committee. Two grants totaling over $20,000 were awarded to Needham High School initiatives. One supports the Needham Public School district goal to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) offerings at Needham High School. The other addresses a commitment at the high school to nurture social/emotional wellness among Needham teens.

NHS Robotics Course
This grant of $13,250 funds the materials required to launch a new robotics class at Needham High School. An elective course proposed by Needham High School math teacher and robotics coach Hans Batra, the semester-long class will be offered twice a year. It enjoys strong support from Needham High School administration and faculty including Principal, Dr. Jonathan Pizzi, Science Department Chair, Bob Lockhart and Director of Technology, Deb Gammerman. 

Own Your Peace Sculpture
The “Own Your Peace” sculpture proposed for display on the Needham High School campus will be a bold and permanent reminder of the community’s commitment to support each other’s well being. The $8,250 NEF grant is one component of the $180,000 project to design, create and install this compelling work by local artist, Ted Clausen. It funds Clausen’s time instructing students as they interview community members for text to be incorporated into the art—which will highlight inspiring thoughts on wellness, resilience and challenge. During the process, Clausen will teach students valuable skills in interviewing and historical research, as well as editing.

NEF Announces Autumn Grant Awards of Nearly $45,000

The Needham Education Foundation has awarded 20 grants totaling nearly $45,000 in its autumn small grants cycle. Needham students will learn from visiting authors and dancers in residence, historical reenactments, a program pairing high school students with senior citizens, and even a course in cryogenics. These are among the programs that will receive support, reaching across all Needham public schools and all grade levels.

The Needham Education Foundation funds programs that fall outside normal school funding and promote innovation and excellence for students. Autumn grants, announced at the Needham School Committee meeting on Nov. 20, include funding for:

  • A Jazz quartet to introduce students at all five elementary schools to various styles of jazz and complement the music curriculum.
  • The Boston Museum of Science’s “Cryogenics:  Heat and Temperature” live demonstration for 8th graders at Pollard Middle School, including experiments that cannot easily be conducted in a typical classroom.
  • Seed money for a new “Farm to School” at Needham High School that was organized in response to student interest in local and organic farming, composting, and sustainable food practices.
  • Android tablets for a high school computer programming class to enable students to design and test apps.

NEF Launches Interdisciplinary Learning at NHS with Largest Grant to Date

Innovative Pilot Program Connects Traditional Disciplines – A Key for 21st Century Learning and Problem-Solving

The Needham Education Foundation is awarding a start-up grant of $111,500 to fund a pilot program in interdisciplinary learning at Needham High School, including an innovative course planned for fall 2013. The grant was announced at this evening’s meeting of the Needham School Committee.

“This is a very exciting advance that will have a profound impact not only on our students, but also on Needham’s standing as one of the state’s premier school districts,” said Needham Public School Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst.

The grant is the largest in the 22-year history of the NEF.  It provides resources for the pilot year of a new interdisciplinary course, which has been developed by Needham High educators in collaboration with the NEF.  The course will help students learn to make crucial connections between academic disciplines and develop problem-solving skills that are essential for success in higher education and beyond.

“Students who take the course will gain valuable skills in the cross-disciplinary thinking that is expected in top colleges — and that is crucial for success in so many academic and professional endeavors,” said Needham High School Principal Jonathan Pizzi, who was joined by teachers and NEF leaders to describe the course to School Committee members on Wednesday.

Addressing the Need for Cross-Discipline Learning

Interdisciplinary studies are a departure from traditional teaching models that present academic subjects (English, math, science, etc) in isolated silos. Educators nationwide are embracing interdisciplinary learning. In Needham, teachers have been exploring cross discipline instruction informally for many years. But creating these complex courses requires staff time for program and curriculum development.  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 district set a goal to implement an interdisciplinary course at Needham High in its 2013-2016 school improvement plan.

The NEF grant enables Needham Public Schools (NPS) to take a vital first step in breaking down academic silos at the secondary school level. This program emerged from the NEF’s Collaborative Initiative, created in 2006, in which the NEF works closely with the NPS administration to fund large, multi-year initiatives that will have major, strategic impact on education — yet would not be possible within the current school operating budget.

“Community support of the NEF over the years is making it possible for us to seed innovation on a large scale in Needham schools,” said NEF co-president Brooke Baker. “Funding and helping to develop this course has been a real partnership with district educators to provide maximum impact in Needham public schools.”

The Greater Boston Project

In early 2012, five teams of teachers responded to NEF’s request for proposal to develop a high school course that combined local resources, community service, project-based learning, and an interdisciplinary focus.  “The Greater Boston Project” was chosen for full course development and received a $31,000 NEF grant for research and development, which proceeded over the summer with consulting help from Olin College professors.

The resulting course, called Integrated Senior Studies: The Greater Boston Project, will launch in fall 2013 and focus on specific periods in Boston’s history.  Students will investigate how individuals and groups perceived themselves and the world around them and how they worked to effect change. Students will read primary historical sources, analyze demographic trends, build mathematical models, and hone presentation skills. The course will culminate with community action projects created by the students.  The program, for up to 75 seniors, will meet for two consecutive class periods daily and will be taught collaboratively by three experienced teachers.  Students will earn 8 academic credits (four English, two math, and two social studies).   

The grant for the course’s pilot year was approved by the NEF last month. If the program is deemed successful, school officials will request operational funding in the district-funded budget for future years. The NEF will continue to work with the district to expand interdisciplinary learning in other courses and other grades.

“Already the creativity and energy around developing this course has spread throughout the district and has become a springboard for more interdisciplinary learning throughout the Needham school culture,” Gutekanst said.

See coverage of the initiative on the Needham Channel.

Connect with Us!

Email Facebook Twitter Youtube Linked In