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In the News

Blues Guitar Player Visits Needham High

Toby Walker, Master Blues Artist, teaching NHS students how to play blues style music

 

NEF was proud to award the “Blues in the Schools”  grant to Needham High School to fund a visit from Toby Walker (pictured), a Master Blues Artist and member of the NY Blues Hall of Fame.  He provided an engaging presentation to the African American Studies classes that follows the history of blues from slavery, emancipation, and beyond.  He also shared his personal narrative of how he came to acquire his knowledge journeying through the south.  He also worked with guitar classes to teach them how to play blues style music, including rhythms and picking techniques.

See the article that appeared in the Hometown Weekly.

You’ve Got Mail! Helps Prevent Summer Slide at Broadmeadow

 
 
Books received through the “You’ve Got Mail!” grant
 
 
Last spring NEF awarded a small grant entitled “You’ve Got Mail!” to Broadmeadow reading specialists Martha Heller-Winokur and Julia Reichheld, which enabled them to offer a targeted summer reading program to 47 rising 4th and 5th grade readers reading at or below grade level. The program, which had been piloted previously with rising 4th graders, aims to help struggling or “fragile” readers maintain progress they have made throughout the school year and grow in their understanding of and love for books. 
 
During the summer, each student received 6 self-selected books in the mail, completed a reader response postcard for each book, and met in peer groups with the reading specialists to share their thinking about their reading. About the expanded program, Heller-Winokur writes, 
 
“The students shared how much they enjoyed getting together with their friends to talk about what they had been reading rather than just reading a book and moving onto the next one. In addition, the postcards that we received revealed a high level of investment, thoughtfulness, and engagement!”
 
At the conclusion of the program, parents surveyed the program, students completed a self-assessment and teachers performed benchmark reading assessments to determine the impact of the program. One parent summarized her daughter’s experience,
 
“It provided the right mix of excitement and incentive – she loved receiving the books in the mail and meeting her friends in the library over the summer!”
 
The NEF funding allowed the reading specialists to expand their library of “just right” books and serve both rising 4th and 5th graders for the first time. Going forward Heller-Winokur and Reichheld hope to replicate the program in all 5 elementary schools.

“Own Your Peace” at NHS Sculptures 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.

“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.

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