Grants In Action

NEF Awards $31,415 in Spring Grants

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of 7 grants totaling $31,415 in the spring small grants cycle at the Needham School Committee meeting last night. The grants included one express grant and one multi-school grant benefitting all five elementary schools.

Awarded grants include:

• A multi-school grant to fund the purchase of Sphero SPRK Power Packs for each elementary school. These robotic balls utilize a visual block-based program and make learning the basic principles of programming approachable and fun.

• Funds for materials and technology that will enrich the curriculum of Engineering Design 101, a new course being offered at Needham High School.

• An author visit with non-fiction writer Jerry Pallotta, who will conduct presentations for students at Hillside to help increase excitement for non-fiction reading and writing.

• The purchase of 40 Wacom Intuos Drawing Tablets which will enable students at the High School to explore advanced digital illustration using the same tools that many professional digital artists currently use.

• A visit by Robin Pease, a Native American storyteller, who will educate Eliot students on Native American mythology and history through song, language, dance and games.

• An Express Grant that replicates grants provided to the Mitchell, Hillside, Eliot, and Newman Elementary Schools to provide more culturally diverse classroom libraries at Broadmeadow Elementary School.

• Funds to develop a curriculum at Mitchell which aims to empower fifth graders with the skills needed to practice everyday courage and resilience.

Kindergarten Math Backpacks

In Spring 2016, NEF funded a $12,000 multi-school grant for math backpacks in every kindergarten classroom across all five elementary schools. With three backpacks per classroom, students take home math-related activities they can do with their families. 

Elaine McKenna, grant writer and Hillside/Eliot math coach explains the program, “The kindergarten math backpacks are a great home school connection where the students are completing math activities, playing math games, and are introduced to math literature. The math concepts are aligned with Massachusetts State Frameworks but are introduced and practiced in a fun and engaging way.”

Backpacks contain a journal for students to record their experience with the backpack, which includes books, interactive games and manipulatives. Teachers report that their students are enthusiastic about the program, “The kids really enjoy using the math backpacks. They come to school excited to tell me that they played the games with their families.” And in the words of several students, 

  • “I love all the games!” 
  • “I learned how to count by tens.”
  • “The books are my favorite!”

A Study of Courage for Mitchell 5th Grade Students

Two Mitchell 5th graders proudly show their work to William Muorwel, a former Lost Boy of Sudan.

Eighty students in Mitchell School’s fifth grade classrooms are undertaking a year-long “study in courage” thanks to a $3,500 grant from the NEF. The goal of the grant, written by Mitchell Assistant Vice Principal Barbara Hayden and the 5th grade teachers, is to introduce 5th graders to inspirational people who have demonstrated courage and resiliency in overcoming obstacles–with a special focus on individuals from diverse cultures and races. “Thanks to the NEF Grant, our students are learning to face the inevitable difficulties of life. Our hope is that our students will work hard — giving up less often because they will realize what is making them want to give up and address it.” said Hayden.
This fall, students participated in a read aloud of the book Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate and then completed a partner project based on the book. This piece of historical fiction tells the story of a young Sudanese civil war survivor adapting to life in Minnesota. In October, fifth graders were visited by two inspirational speakers, William Muorel and Moses Ajou, both Lost Boys of the Sudan and survivors of the Sudanese civil war. The men shared their struggles, strategies for coping, and their ways of finding joy in life after losing their homes and families. Said Colleen Soldato, a fifth grade teacher, “The grant has provided a cross-curricular opportunity for students to explore topics such as immigration and what it means to be an American. This learning was brought to life by the visit from the former Lost Boys, William and Moses.”
In the spring, students will read about other courageous people who have faced adversity and overcome obstacles as they conduct partner research and prepare a presentation for their classmates.  The NEF grant funded a library of biographies and autobiographies for this project. Finally, fifth graders will participate in service-learning projects to support the South Sudanese Enrichment Center for Families in Medford and a school for children in South Sudan later this year.
So far, the grant has made a lasting impression, particularly the visit from the two former Lost Boys of Sudan.  As one fifth grader said, “You sent across a message to never give up and be optimistic and follow what you want to do, and work hard for what you want to do!  I will never forget that and never forget this presentation.”


Blues Guitar Player Visits Needham High

NEF was proud to award the “Blues in the Schools” grant to Needham High School to fund a visit from Toby Walker, 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.

NEF Awards Large Grant for Virtual Reality at High Rock

Superintendent Gutekanst and Principal Downey visit a classroom exploring the Google Expedition kits.

On January 17, 2017, the School Committee voted to accept $9,999 in funding for Google Virtual Reality Expeditions Kits at High Rock School. The large grant follows a successful pilot last year and will fund the purchase of virtual reality equipment, including 30 student devices, 30 Mattel View-Masters, a teacher device and other supporting equipment. High Rock will use them for a wide variety of purposes, including virtual reality tours of historic sites, virtual trips to foreign countries for language immersion, and virtual tours of the galaxy in science classes.

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