Grants In Action

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/

“Own Your Peace” at NHS 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.

Robotics Are Elementary

Bee Bots Teachers and Students

NEF funded this grant in the Fall 2014 cycle, which financed the purchase of Bee Bots, Curriculum Mats, Lesson Plans and a set of 24-unit LegoWeDo robots for each of the five Needham Elementary schools.

According to Barbara Tennyson, Instructional Technology Specialist at Broadmeadow, “Bee Bots help us teach coding to young children. Specifically, teaching sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving are made very visual by using the BeeBots.

We have incorporated them mainly into 1st and 2nd grade STEAM classes but have even introduced them to Kindergarteners. We used them during International Dot Day and challenged the students to program them to spell the word DOT.

The individual challenges can vary greatly, from programming them to travel through a maze to completing an odd/even race using dice to using the number line mat to program addition and subtraction problems to using the alphabet mat to program it to spell their name. Lots of fun and learning!”

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