Grants In Action

NEF Awards $31,345 in Spring Grants!

The Needham Education Foundation announced the recipients of 10 grants totaling $31,345 in its third and last grant cycle of the 2018-19 school year.

Elizabeth Lee, a parent at Hillside, was awarded a grant for engineering backpacks for kindergarteners that will include materials, books and instructions for students and parents to complete a critical thinking and building project. Thanks to a grant by first grade teacher Susan Audibert, 20 teachers will take part in an 8-week mindfulness course and then bring mindfulness techniques into their classrooms. Carol-Ann Hurley, literacy specialist, was awarded a grant to fund the creation of an innovative school-wide bookroom that will allow teachers to easily access individual, small group and whole-class texts by subject area.

Mitchell’s Media Center will undergo a redesign with a grant written by principal Greg Bayse. The new Media Center will house traditional and digital media, a STEAM learning center and spaces for collaborative student and adult work. Mitchell parent Liza d’Hemecourt received a grant to fund a screening of the documentary, “Far From the Tree,” which discusses the challenges of parenting and educating students with differences in areas including gender identity, physical ability, cognition, race and ethnicity.

Newman Assistant Principal Andrea Vargas received a grant to fund a Teaching Tolerance Workshop: Facilitating Difficult Conversations for a group of administrators, teachers and specialists, as well as copies of the book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” with a goal of deepening understanding of equity in education.

High Rock will have an expanded collection of Spanish-language and Latino-experience literature thanks to grant writer Elyssa Schneider, a Spanish teacher. Erin Mack, instructional technology teacher, received a grant to fund the purchase of robotics equipment so that teachers may determine which robot/coding would best work in their classrooms.

Sue Doherty, library media teacher at Pollard, received a grant to fund audiobooks to meet the needs of special education, general education and ELL students.

Needham High School history teacher Laura Magno received funding so she can attend the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Summer Institute and learn how to leverage their resources for the teaching of American history.


Talking Books

The “talking books” have been a big hit at Hillside! Students in K-5 have been enjoying the collection of 82 Vox books, which are hardcover books containing a small MP3 player on the inside cover. Simply pushing the play button allows students to listen to a high quality narration of their favorite stories. They require no batteries and can last up to four months without a charge.
Kindergarten and first grade teachers have checked these out to use as listening centers in the classroom. Newly enrolled ELL students have been enjoying them outside the library as well.

One exciting effect of the Vox books is that they ignite interest in the regular print collection. Students often want to check out the regular print copy of the book they have just listened to. The Vox books have expanded interest in new topics that students may otherwise have overlooked. The Vox books also increase student independence. Everyone who listens to a Vox book can fully access a text even if they are not yet reading. Students are able to comprehend and retell a story after listening to it.

Grant writer Elizabeth Hitron, Hillside School Librarian, said, “As a librarian, it has been so heartening to see students engage so deeply with a new material that does not involve a screen! High quality narration and high quality literature are so captivating for a young audience. I love when the students walk into the library and ask, “Can we listen to the talking books today?”

NEF Awards Eight Winter Grants Totaling $26,015

The Needham Education Foundation awarded eight grants totaling $26,015 in its winter grant cycle.

Planet Box – Pollard
Grant Writer: Elissa Strauss
Two small aquaponics systems.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Equipment – Pollard
Grant Writer: R. Samantha Martyn
Equipment and materials to enhance the 8th Grade Experiential Education course.

Pollard Low-Ropes Challenge Course – Pollard
Grant Writer: Michael Marcojohn
Funding to build an outdoor low-ropes challenge course at Pollard, to be used as a primary teaching space for the grade 7 experiential education classes.

Differentiated Learning Station – Pollard
Grant Writer: Steve Mock
Furniture and materials to create a learning center for students within a Social Studies classroom.

Sensory Pathways – Broadmeadow
Grant Writer: Saundra Watson
Two sensory paths for students to use throughout the school day when they need a movement break.

Author Visit: Gloria Respress-Churchwell – Hillside – $2,000
Grant Writer: Elizabeth Hitron
A visit from Newton author Gloria Respress-Churchwell, who has a new picture book coming out in the Fall of 2019 entitled Follow Chester!

Literacy Lounge – Eliot
Grant Writer: Margaret Berges
Furniture to create a home-like environment for students to receive literacy support and instruction in the literacy specialist’s office.

Sensory Toolkit – Eliot
Grant Writer: Jenn Scheck-Kahn
An assortment of therapy aids, which will be made available to students attending all after-school PTC activities. 

NEF Awards $67,553 in Fall Grants

The NEF awarded 16 grants totaling $67,553 in the fall grants cycle. Awarded grants include: an author visit from Gregory Katsoulis at Needham High School, ukuleles for Broadmeadow’s music department, professional development for nine teachers, and 82 Vox audio/print book combinations for Hillside. Other grants awarded:

  • A large grant to fund a library redesign project at Needham High School that will focus on collaborative space for group projects.
  • Funding for visually-based math puzzles and games for grades 3 through 5 at Broadmeadow.
  • A program to bring yoga and mindfulness tools and instruction to all current 5th graders at Mitchell.
  • A residency at Pollard and Needham High School for Sons of Serendip, a nationally recognized, crossover ensemble.
  • 34 WalkKit devices for 5th graders at the Eliot School, which will allow kids to listen to educational podcasts while taking walks.

Fourth Grade Flexible Seating

The fourth grade team at Mitchell had experimented with flexible seating a little bit last year but wanted to really give students the opportunity to have more choice in their learning. We needed more seating and work area options for students. In addition to giving students choice, we also wanted to create a stronger sense of community within each classroom. Flexible seating requires students to share materials and work spaces. We were also thinking about modern work spaces and offices when choosing their materials. We thought that fourth grade would be a great time to implement flexible seating and are pleased that the NEF grant we received is allowing that to happen.
Currently, our students are loving the ability to have choice in their learning! Most students are able to appropriately use each of the workspace options. We are collaborating to help students adjust to this new way of learning. Students have also discovered that they may need a different space depending on the activity or lesson. For example, most students have realized that a tabletop surface works best for writing workshop. Flexible seating allows students to get up and move or move while sitting, so movement breaks are happening continuously throughout the day. We have also found that students are on task most of the time and are enjoying each other’s company and working together.
In the future, we would like to expand on the workspace and seating options in our classrooms. We would also love to share what we have done with other teachers, so that more students can have the opportunity to take on more ownership of their learning. 

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