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NEF Awards Over $70,000 in Spring Small Grant Cycle

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced today that it has issued $73,409.68 in grants for 22 projects throughout the Needham Public Schools.

Needham’s upcoming tercentennial celebration is featured in the grants as are student achievement gaps, disability awareness and service learning. All Needham Public Schools from kindergarten to high school are beneficiaries of NEF spring grants. “In almost every grant cycle, what’s at the forefront of education is often apparent in the various grant applications submitted to the NEF,” said Frank Fortin, co-president of the NEF.

As Needham prepares to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding, all of the town’s public schools will enjoy tercentennial programs as a result of NEF grants. One such grant is a play portraying Needham’s history, acted by Needham High School students and performed at all of the Needham public schools. The Tercentennial Committee also submitted a grant for all Needham third graders to learn how to make historical maps of Needham that will be displayed around town as part of the celebration.

Another grant offers fifth graders the opportunity to experience Town Meeting as it would have been in 1775 using actual town records from that period.

Disability awareness is another current area of focus in Needham schools. Broadmeadow Elementary is implementing two grants to help kick off the school’s disability awareness program; one to develop curriculum and the other to bring the professional integrated wheel chair dance troupe, Dancing Wheels, to the school. Eliot Elementary is also enhancing its already established disability awareness program by incorporating a wheel chair accessible garden as part of a spring grant to build and grow a 19th century kitchen garden.

Three more grants in this last cycle address the achievement gaps in student population. At Needham High, students of color as well as their parents and teachers will be offered additional academic support. Another group of NHS students will receive a grant empowering them to use art to creatively engage in their education. A third grant submitted by the Needham Housing Authority will provide tutoring and mentoring for residents of Captain Cook Drive with help from teacher volunteers.

“Another theme in this year’s cycles has been the growing interest in grants with an emphasis on service learning either in their entirety or as a component,” said Pamela Rosin, co-president of the NEF.

One spring grant will support Eliot Elementary’s efforts to conduct a summer read-a-thon with proceeds going to UNICEF’s Haitian Earthquake Relief program. Eliot is also donating the harvests of the aforementioned 19th century kitchen garden to the Needham Food Pantry.

A grant written by Needham High School students from Rockets Against Destructive Decisions (RADD), the local chapter of the national Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), will enable the students to mentor fourth through sixth graders concerning smart decisions about substance abuse.

“And, remember those Needham High School students who are receiving a grant to use art in their education,” said Rosin, “they will be donating their work to a local women’s shelter. This is the NEF coming full circle. It is so rewarding to see these grants give to the students and then give to the community after the community has given to the NEF.”

The remaining grants in the 2010 NEF spring small grant cycle cover a myriad of subjects from science to social studies, from a cappella to archaeology. The following is a complete list of all 22 grants:

Grant #1 Dancing Wheels – Broadmeadow – $1,050 — “Dancing Wheels” is a professional modern dance company integrating dancers in wheelchairs with traditional dancers. This presentation of dance and lecture ties into the Broadmeadow disability awareness program.

Grant #2 Reading and Drumming for Haiti at Eliot – $1,095 — Students will participate in a summer read-a-thon to benefit UNICEF (Haitian Earthquake Relief). The fundraising effort will culminate in a November dance group performance by Bamidele Dancers & Drummers, a group which is dedicated to the preservation of African and Caribbean culture.

Grant #3 TEC Online Opportunities at Needham High School – $5,000 — This online program developed with TEC (The Education Cooperative) enables students to take advantage of online learning while providing expanded curriculum. If successful, subsequent online courses would be offered to students at $300 per course.

Grant #4 19th Century Kitchen Garden at Eliot – $4,692 — Developed in conjunction with The Needham Community Farm, this garden project consists of seven raised beds, one of which is handicap accessible. Harvested items will be donated to the Needham Food Pantry.

Grant #5 Art Quest at Hillside – $3,800 — Second graders will pilot the use of Art Quest to enhance the social studies curriculum by using art as a vehicle for learning about other cultures.

Grant #6 Bubblemania at Hillside and Mitchell – $2,413 — Integrating art and science, this “edutainment” program offers separate presentations for grades K-2 and 3-5.

Grant #7 Town Meeting circa 1775 at All elementary schools – $5,000 — Based on the successful third grade Little Schoolhouse experience, all fifth graders will experience Town Meeting as it would have been in 1775 using actual town records from that period.

Grant #8 Circus Smirkus at Mitchell – $4,943 — The current physical education program will be supplemented with less traditional activities.

Grant #9 Between the Lines at Newman – $2,410 — Approximately 15 to 20 parents from both Needham and Boston will create a multicultural parent book group. The goal is to build relationships within the group which can trickle down to the students and the Newman community as a whole.

Grant #10 Patterns, Poems and Puzzlers – Broadmeadow – $2,300 — Using games and literature, fifth graders will enhance math competency while developing team-building skills.

Grant #11 Rockets Against Destructive Decisions at Needham High School – $4,550 — Written by Needham High School students, this grant consists of three components; substance free activities (coffee houses), mentoring of younger students (grades 4-6) and two assemblies with Improbable Players and subsequent follow up discussions.

Grant #12 Backpacking Through the Continents at Eliot – $1,360 — Third graders will take part in on-line virtual fieldtrips allowing them to experience countries on each continent. Funds will purchase backpacks and items/artifacts representing each of the continents. These materials can also be used by other third graders throughout the town.

Grant #13 Connecting with the Past through Theater at All Schools – $2,550 — A play about life in Needham 300 years ago, comparing challenges for youth now and then, will be commissioned in honor of Needham’s tercentennial. The play would be performed by the Needham High School Theater Arts Society for students in each school.

Grant #14 Disability Awareness Program Literature Resources and Lessons – Broadmeadow – $3,800 — This grant will develop a comprehensive disability curriculum for grades K-3, including books and lesson plans to be integrated into the existing curriculum.

Grant #15 Uncovering Archaeology at High Rock – $5,000 — Based on a project that has been done at Pollard but reconfigured due to the move to High Rock; this will be a month-long project archaeology unit in social studies which will incorporate science concepts. This is a pilot for one cluster which can be expanded to all of the sixth grade clusters.

Grant #16 Making Our Mark at Needham High School – $2,321.88 — Students in the Connections program, a therapeutic environment for students who are struggling to stay in high school, will create art for a women’s shelter.

Grant #17 Striving for Success at Needham High School – $4,950 — With the hope of reducing the achievement gap, this grant was designed for Needham High School students of color (both Needham and Boston residents). There are three components: for students there will be summer classes in Math and English, after school support throughout the year and College support programs; for parents there will be academic and college application support; and for teachers there will be training and follow-up throughout the year.

Grant #18 After School at Cook’s at All Schools/residents of Captain Cook Dr. – $5,000 — Written by the Needham Housing Authority, this grant is for tutoring and mentoring activities for the residents of Captain Cook Drive. The goal is to improve student performance and provide enriching programs. Many teachers have committed their time to the project on a volunteer basis. The requested funding is to pay for a tutor/director.

Grant # 19 Flashmasters at Work at Mitchell – $1,259.80 — This grant will supply electronic flash cards for third graders.

Grant #20 Celebrating Needham through the Magic of Maps at All Elementary – $3,275 — All third graders, town-wide, will learn how to make maps and then draw historical maps of Needham. These maps will be displayed around town as part of the tercentennial celebration.

Grant #21 Writing as Play at Pollard/High Rock – $2,000 — Two writing teachers from the Walnut Hill School will train the middle school teachers (6-8) in their writing techniques.

Grant # 22 The Original Instrument – the Human Voice at All schools – $5,000 — Ball in the House, a male a cappella group, will perform at all elementary schools and middle schools, provide workshops for high school students, and perform at an evening event open to the Needham community. They have obtained additional funding from the Needham Creative Arts Council and have also applied for funding from the Ernie Boch Jr. Music Fund.

For the 2009-2010 academic year, the NEF has awarded 40 grants for a total of $125,304.98. 

Meet Our Leadership Team for 2010 – 2011

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) welcomes 12 new board members and is delighted to announce the appointment of new Co-President Steve Mock. He will join Pamela Rosin to lead academic year 2010-2011.

“As a teacher in the Needham Public Schools, Steve possesses a first-hand understanding of how grants can bring innovative, practical ideas to the classroom,” said Rosin. “As a parent with children in our schools, he also offers the NEF the rare perspective of knowing both what our schools need and what our parents want for their children’s education.”

Mock currently teaches eighth grade social studies at Pollard Middle School where he has taught since 2004. He became a teacher after an 18-year career in sales and marketing for national technology companies. Mock has served the NEF as Co-Chair of the Small Grants Committee and as an integral member of the Strengthen the Core Committee. He co-founded the Needham Young Girls Soccer League and was a big brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay for over a decade. He and his wife, Dori, have made Needham their home for 17 years. They have two daughters attending Newman Elementary, where Dori serves on the Executive Board of the Newman PTC; their older daughter will attend High Rock next year.

Mock will succeed Frank Fortin, who joined the NEF in 2003 and is completing his two-year term as co-president.

“Frank’s years of dedication offered the NEF a breadth of knowledge and continuity that ensured the success of the NEF at a pivotal time in our economy,” said Rosin. “This academic year alone, the NEF awarded 40 grants for a total of $125,304.98. We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Frank and the Needham community for their continuous and generous commitment to innovation and enrichment of our children’s education.”

Serving three year terms, the following board members join the dedicated individuals who have continued to make the NEF a success for nearly two decades:

Joanne Allen Willoughby – Needham Director of METCO (Metropolitan Council of Educational Opportunity, Inc.); Adjunct faculty Lesley University and Curry College; former Assistant Dean, Radcliff College; former Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Programs at Babson College; Paige Academy Board of Directors; Greater Egelston Community High School Board of Directors

Sara Berney – Former English teacher at Braintree High School; former consultant and associate at Cambridge Associates; former tutor at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School

Sarah Carmine – Sixth grade math teacher at High Rock; master’s student of Curriculum and Instruction

Dina Creiger – Advertising Director at the Jewish Advocate Newspaper in Boston; Eliot PTC Co-President and Past Eliot PTC Treasurer; Past Eliot Co-Chair for the “Paint the Town” Auction which raised funds to create The Seven Wonders of Eliot School mural painted by Eliot students and artist Joshua Winer

Karen Dunne Dasey – Sole proprietor of DunneWrite marketing, communications, copywriting and editing business; Hillside Elementary PTC Co-President; Hillside Elementary Co-Chair of the PTC Publicity Committee

Dianne Escalante – Mathematics Intervention Specialist for the Wellesley Public Schools; Past METCO Family Friends Committee Coordinator

Casey Palmer – Personalized Learning Center teacher at Needham High School; third generation board member of NEF’s founding family

Liz Rover Bailey – In-house attorney for the Massachusetts Medical Society; incoming Chair of the Religious Education Committee at First Parish Church in Needham, Unitarian Universalist; Mitochondrial Disease Action Committee Member

Caroline Rufo – Freelance graphic designer and fine artist; former Design Manager for Houghton Mifflin Company School Division; Designer for Kidz b Kidz, a non-profit organization teaching children about giving back through visual arts

Magda Schmalz – Former school psychologist for Boston and Rockport Public Schools; former consultant for Winchester Public Schools; Vice President of Programming for the Sisterhood at Temple Beth Shalom; Chair Mitchell Elementary Fundraising Committee; Past Co-Chair Mitchell Elementary Enrichment Grants

Peggy Strakosch – Kindergarten teacher at Hillside Elementary School; Council of Women at Boston College Board Member; Boston College mentor George Varga – Art director, digital artist, and animator specializing in children’s interactive games; assistant soccer coach for the Needham Soccer Club

“The diversity and versatility of these exemplary new board members brings even more excitement to the upcoming year,” said Mock. “The NEF is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary while the Town of Needham celebrates its tercentennial. The addition of these new members to the already stellar talent of the NEF is certain to make the 2010 -2011 academic year a memorable one.”

The NEF would also like to offer a hearty thank you to those board members who have completed their last year of service.

“At any given time, the NEF board is made up of 35 to 40 members,” said Fortin. “It is a working board with every member contributing hours of their valuable time. The NEF could not achieve its mission to enrich our students with the latest and greatest in educational technology, academic and social curricula, and artistic and ethnic culture without every one of our devoted volunteers.”

High School is Thinking Globally

Hoping to broaden students’ knowledge of the world, Needham High School is launching a global competency program that will combine travel abroad, community service, and foreign language programs.

“It’s the right time and the right place . . . to make this happen for young people,” said Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst.

“Citizenships, both local and global, are key values in this program and in this community.”

Under the program, students would travel abroad, perform community service involving another culture (either abroad or locally), show foreign language competency at a fourth-year level, and engage in side projects from reading books to preparing dishes from other countries.

Those who complete the requirements will earn a certificate in global competence.

At the end of the program, students will prepare a portfolio documenting their experiences that Gutekanst said would look great on college applications.

Research shows that learning a second language and being exposed to other cultures improves overall academic achievement, according to April Burriss, dean of the School of International Education at Endicott College in Beverly.

“Language learners can transfer those skills to other academic subjects. They do better when they go to college,” Burriss said.

“It’s also a great way for students to develop new problem-solving abilities.”

Funding to start the Needham program will come from a Needham Education Foundation grant, but Gutekanst said the program is designed to be cost-effective.

“I’m pleased about how we’ve developed this. This is not laying a brand-new program with a whole new level of bureaucracy or administration or staff,” he said.

“We already have a foreign language program; we already require community service. What it is doing instead is refocusing and rechanneling what exists at high school level.”

During a period of financial difficulties for some Massachusetts towns and public schools, Gutekanst is confident that foreign language and culture programs can be improved without detriment to any other department.

Gutekanst said programs like language, sports, community service, and after-school activities were not “extracurricular but cocurricular” — vital to the educational process.

“These programs are not extra; they’re essential to students’ education overall,” he said.

Needham launched a task force in 2005 to explore ways to improve students’ cultural knowledge. The global competency program was created around principles defined by that task force.

The focus on education about other cultures comes at the right time, said Burriss.

“It’s not only somewhat easier, but it’s much more effective to learn language earlier because it’s something you learn, forget, remember, and learn more — it’s a lifelong type of skill,” she said.

Cultural education also promotes a better understanding of other people in the world.

“It’s very important for us to learn about other cultures. . . . Students’ own professional and personal happiness can be greatly enhanced by the ability to communicate with others,” she said.

Gutekanst said the program would start in the fall. A special launch event is scheduled for Oct. 3 in the Needham High School media center.

Net result: Old-fashioned fun

Reprinted from The Boston Globe

By Christina Pazzanese
Globe Correspondent / April 14, 2005

Needham middle schoolers are fascinated with a hot, new fad. Is it Sony’s new PlayStation Portable? Nope. How about the Apple iPod mini? Nah. Heck, if you spent any time in a paneled rec room back in the early ’70s, it’s not even new. Read more in The Boston Globe.

Bequest reflects one man’s belief in schools

Reprinted from The Boston Globe

By Christina Pazzanese
Globe Correspondent / April 10, 2005

Donor leaves $150,000 to education group

Though he never went to school in town, the late Richard Burnham was always interested in helping Needham students. So it was no surprise to Burnham’s daughter, Beverly Maeder, when she learned that after her father’s death in 1996, at age 79, he left nearly half a million dollars to a handful of local groups, including the Needham Education Foundation.

Read more in The Boston Globe.

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