Grants In Action

Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative Video

Have you heard about the Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative but don’t really understand what it’s all about? In 2012, the NEF and the Needham Public Schools partnered on this collaborative initiative to break down silos between academic departments at Needham High School. Since then, interdisciplinary learning has continued to expand at the high school and is now being implemented at all other Needham public schools – including the STEAM curriculum at the elementary schools. Since 2012, the NEF has contributed over $500,000 to support this partnership and innovative educational initiative. Watch this informative video (produced by Sam Bookston, NEF board member and Instructional Technology Specialist at NHS) to learn more and hear how students are benefiting.

Dr. Jill Walsh Presents to Parents at Pollard on Topic of Social Media

On Tuesday, September 11, Dr. Jill Walsh, BU Sociologist and expert on adolescent social media use, gave a talk to over 200 Needham parents, entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Confusing: Today’s Teen Technology Landscape. The talk, sponsored by both the NEF and the High Rock-Pollard PTC, was the first of a two-part series that Dr. Walsh is presenting to Needham parents. The Needham Times wrote an article summarizing some of Dr. Walsh’s takeaways regarding social media’s effects on academics and a few strategies for parents. Do you want even more great tips? Dr. Walsh will share more strategies parents can use at the next lecturePractical Strategies to Help Your Teen Thrive in the Digital World on October 29 from 7-8:15pm at Pollard.

Dr. Walsh has also been working with Pollard teachers and students as part of a grant written by Needham parents Carolyn Guttilla and Martha Cohen Barrett and funded by the NEF, entitled “Improving Digital Communication: Helping Pollard Students Better Understand How Social Media Communication Can Be Misinterpreted.” In the parent lecture, Dr. Walsh shared a lot of important information about teen technology use and discussed how parents can be more aware of and involved in what their teens are doing online. The talk was very well received; many parents shared that Dr. Walsh gave them a new way of looking at the technology landscape and a “reframe” for talking to their children about it. Dr. Walsh’s second parent lecture will be held on October 29 and will address technology and mental health. For more information about Dr. Walsh, check out her website at Dr. Jill Walsh, a Boston University professor, is working with the Pollard Middle School to help students better navigate the world of social media.

Here is a copy of the slides used during Dr. Walsh’s presentation.



Archaeological Dig in Greece

Stephen Guerriero, a social studies teacher at High Rock, was awarded a grant from the NEF to participate in an archaeological dig in Phocis, Greece over the summer. He will incorporate much of what he learned into High Rock’s archaeology curriculum in the coming year.

He shared his experiences with the NEF:

“I am so happy to share with you some of my experiences that I had this summer as a participant and trench supervisor at the Kastrouli-Desfina Field School and Excavation.

The Kastrouli archaeological site consists of a large, terraced hilltop outside of the small village of Desfina in the region of Phocis, Greece. I arrived in Desfina, Greece at the beginning of July and stayed just about four weeks. The 2018 season’s main goal was to uncover areas of use around a large, exposed wall from the Late Mycenaean period.

I worked as a trench supervisor for one of the three trenches that we opened in Kastrouli. The days consisted of a 5:30 AM wake up, quick coffee, and then up to the dig site. Each morning, a shepherd walked his flock of goats by our site on their way to graze. Our terrace overlooked the entire valley below. The soil in Greece is dry, dusty, and hard-packed. My team worked to uncover several foundation walls, discovered pottery sherds dating from between the Late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (1300 – 1000 BCE). We also discovered fragments of human remains and animal remains, as well as fire pits, plaster, and evidence of massive destruction. We stopped our digging for a “drone break” at 11:00 AM At this time, Ian Roy, the head of the Brandeis University MakerLab, would fly his high-powered drone overhead and photograph the entire site. Each day, his photogrammetry runs would generate hundreds of images and gigabytes of data. These images were used to generate both 3-D models of the site, and to put together time-lapse animations of each trench’s progress. The overhead images were especially important in analyzing the site and planning each day’s digging.

By 1:30 PM, we finished digging for the day because the summer sun in Greece is intense, and temperatures were often over 90ºF. After lunch, we washed, photographed, and “read” the pottery found that day. This means we were able to make preliminary judgments about the context, dating, and usage of the site based upon the pottery sherds we were finding. Later, we attended lectures and seminars from faculty members of Brandeis, Wesleyan, and the University of the Aegean. These included talks and workshops about the Bronze Age collapse, pottery reading, conservation, local History, advanced archaeological methods. We also traveled throughout the regions of Phocis and Boetia to see similar sites of occupation, visit museums, and have a guided tour throughout the famous archaeological park of Delphi, which includes the Sanctuary of Apollo, the home of the oracle.

My work has been to document my experiences for my students and colleagues, to bring back the latest in archaeological field methods and practices, and to see first-hand the newest technology in use. I’m so excited to share all of this with my students, especially the drone-based photogrammetry, 3-D imagery, 3-D printing of artifacts, and the use of GPS satellites. I know my kids will have a more dynamic, interactive, and richer learning experience because of the NEF’s support!”

Science Center’s StarLab Makes Debut at Let’s Build Event

Good things come to those who wait! The NEF was pleased to provide funding to the NPS Science Center to purchase a StarLab portable planetarium through a $15,000 grant in our 2015 large grant cycle. It took a while longer than anticipated, but the StarLab was up and running at last week’s 5th Annual Engineering Extravaganza put on by another former NEF grant recipient, Let’s Build, at Broadmeadow School.

During the event, three groups of approximately 24 eager children and parents crawled into the large black dome where day was transformed to night, and all of the stars were on display. The tour through our solar system was guided by grant writer Elise Morgan and other Science Center staff. Once all of the questions were exhausted, participants also got a peek at a second projection cylinder which showed all of the constellations floating across the night sky.

“The Science Center,” Morgan wrote in her grant request, “strives to … provide curriculum which educates, inspires and promotes deep and comprehensive scientific knowledge to support NPS students’ academic futures and by extension, the future of the world in which we live.” The StarLab will eventually be integrated into the curriculum in all elementary grades. Who knows how many future scientists it may inspire?

See coverage of the grant award on the Needham Channel.

$32,125 in Spring Grants Awarded by NEF

The NEF recently awarded five small grants, totaling $22,125, as well as a special, $10,000 grant to help support the Portrait of a Needham Graduate initiative.

The $10,000 grant, submitted by Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst, will allow five teachers to participate in the 26th Annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida. This nationally renowned conference focuses on innovation and emerging trends in classroom instruction. The five teachers will bring back their findings and share them with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate committee. 

For the small grants, three will fund professional development opportunities for teachers.

Melanie Bunda of Needham High School received funding for three NHS chemistry teachers to attend the American Modeling Teachers Association Modeling Curriculum Workshop, Chemistry II. The modeling approach to chemistry has been shown to increase student understanding of fundamental chemical concepts and strengthens students’ ability to critically examine data, understand the application of mathematical concepts to science, and to discuss and represent chemical phenomena.

Three Needham High School teachers will attend the Computer Science Teachers Association Conference in Omaha, Nebraska this summer thanks to a grant written by NHS teacher Hans Batra. The conference will provide the teachers a chance to learn about new technology, applications, and teaching methodologies.

Stephen Guerriero of High Rock will attend an archaeological dig and field school outside of Delphi, Greece over the summer. The knowledge gleaned from this experience will allow the Social Studies department to strengthen, expand, and update major areas of study within the curriculum.

Additionally, fourth grade classrooms at Mitchell Elementary School will become student-centered and highly-flexible with new types of seating and desks at the grant request of Seth Evans, a Mitchell fourth grade teacher.

Bethany Crowe of High Rock received funding for books, audiobooks, and a “Learning Ally Link” school membership, which will give extra support to struggling readers.

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