Grants In Action

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.

Film Screening of “Beyond Measure”

First in Education Film Series Funded by 2016 Spring Grant
 
On October 20, over 200 parents and community members gathered for a screening and panel discussion of Beyond Measure, an award-winning documentary, which outlines problems with our current education system and paints a picture of what’s possible in our schools.  The film follows five public schools across the country “breaking away from an outmoded test-drive education [and] shaping a new vision for our classrooms”. 
 
While many other education-themed films focus on shortcomings, including disparities in student achievement, low graduation rates and poor attendance, Beyond Measure looks at the innovations at work in school districts across the nation. Rather than asking why students are failing when tested and compared with peers, the film asks us to reconsider the greater purpose of education: What if our education system valued personal growth over test scores? What if it focused on project-based learning versus memorization or encouraged passion over rankings? What if we decided that the higher aim of school was not the transmission of facts, but the transformation of students?
 
The panelists for the evening included Dr. Elizabeth Coleman, former President of Bennington College, who led the university through an educational reformation; Dr. Beth Hennessey, Professor of Psychology at Wellesley College, who focuses her research on creativity and intrinsic motivation; and Dr. Jay Moody, Entrepreneur and Innovation Coach at Wayland High School.
 
The panelists concurred with the film’s theories and ideas, and they shared their thoughts on what our society needs to consider in order to improve the status of our educational infrastructure. Dr. Coleman stressed the importance of great teachers in education, noting that any approach to educational reform is only as good as the teachers who teach it. Dr. Hennessey added that it’s important that educators engage students in their own education, so that it will be individually relevant. Dr. Moody noted that while it is possible to have courses like the ones shown in Beyond Measure in our public schools, it would be very difficult to change completely to project-based coursework. The rest of the evening continued with lively discussion, with topics ranging from homework in elementary school to gap years for high school graduates.
 
With this grant, the five elementary school PTC’s have organized screenings of three additional films for the remainder of this school year. This will include a re-screening of Most Likely to Succeed, small group screenings and discussions of the PBS film series Raising of America, and screening and panel discussion of Race to Nowhere. Dates and information about the future film screenings will be available soon.

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.

Innovation Night at Needham High Celebrates NEF Partnership

Student projects showcase growing emphasis on interdisciplinary learning May 15, 2017 – On Wednesday, May 10, Needham High School (NHS) hosted Interdisciplinary Innovation Night, showcasing the work of over 700 high school students enrolled in 32 interdisciplinary classes and units of study. The evening also celebrated the conclusion of a successful 5-year partnership and collaboration between NHS and Needham Education Foundation (NEF), in which NEF invested more than $550,000 to launch interdisciplinary units of study at the high school.

Established in 2012, the partnership between NHS and NEF began with the creation of the Greater Boston Project (GBP), a class that integrates social studies, English and mathematics, and in which students use technology to build 21st century learning skills. The partnership grew to fund the Da Vinci Workshop, a lab space for hands-on learning and technological creativity; a two-year dedicated part-time Interdisciplinary Learning (IL) Specialist position at NHS; and four years of a “mini-grant” fund, which seeded many of the interdisciplinary units of study on display at Innovation Night.

While the high school’s formal collaboration with NEF is ending, the partnership established a model for interdisciplinary teaching and learning that will continue to grow both at Needham High School and throughout the district. The NEF will continue to support innovative interdisciplinary programs through its annual small and large grant programs.

“The funding by the NEF has allowed us to grow these programs at a much faster rate than the school would have made on its own,” said Jimmy Odierna, IL Specialist at NHS and one of three founding teachers of the GBP. “It is amazing to see the vast quantity, quality, and diverse types of work happening in the school. There is a lot of pride from both the faculty and students around the success we see tonight. These students are gaining skills and experiences that will better prepare them for the world ahead.”

Odierna organized the Interdisciplinary Innovation Night, which showcased the growing body of student work integrating history, engineering, art, and robotics, among other disciplines. These projects included:

  • Memory and Memorials Project – 10th grade history students utilize the Da Vinci Workshop and art studio to design and build memorials to key moments in history.
  • Kinetic Sculpture – Students in robotics and sculpture classes collaborate to build kinetic sculpture pieces.
  • Integrated Environmental Science – Through field study, students research local ecosystems and build functioning wind turbines out of
    everyday materials.

“The success of our collaboration cannot be reduced to numbers, but the numbers do give you an idea of how this big idea has grown ever larger,” said Jennifer Quinn, co-President of NEF in her opening remarks. “One two-block interdisciplinary class, 11 interdisciplinary units of study, 36 teachers now teaching interdisciplinary classes or units, over 100 teachers participating in professional development, more than 1,000 students impacted. And we are very excited that those numbers will continue to grow.”

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.

The free film screening took place on Thursday, March 24th at Newman Elementary School in Needham, MA followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with participants.

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

Read coverage of the screening in the Needham Times.

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

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