In the News

NEF Receives $50,000 Gift from Middlesex Savings Bank

NEF announces they received an unexpected $50,000 donation from Middlesex Savings Bank. The gift was part of a $1.2M donation that Middlesex Savings is making to further education in the communities they serve. “Middlesex Savings Bank has great respect for the education foundations in our community,” said Michael McAuliffe, President and CEO of Middlesex Savings Bank. “They work hard to support projects and programs that foster learning and creativity. We hope these donations will make their jobs easier this year and are excited to see their existing academic programs flourish or new ones come to life.”

See coverage in the Needham Times.

NEF Awards $35,664 in Fall Grants

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of 16 grants totaling $35,664 in the fall small grants cycle at the Needham School Committee meeting last night.  Awarded grants include: playaways and digital magazines for the high school library, a giant floor map for Pollard, ukuleles for the Eliot School, an author panel at the high school, and a visit from two Lost Boys of Sudan at Newman.  Other grants awarded:

  • Lighting equipment for the performing arts departments at Needham High School, Pollard and High Rock, so that students will learn to operate lights and sound for all NPS performances.
  • A collaboration between Pollard and the Needham Community Farm to fund a new STRETCH class and club where students will learn about food justice and gardening.
  • Dialectical behavior stress management skill training for teachers at Pollard so that students will learn lasting skills for stress management. A parent information session will also be offered.
  • Breakout EDU Kits for the elementary schools and High Rock, which offer a fun, creative way to develop team-building skills, critical thinking skills and can span all subjects and topics.  Students work collaboratively to solve a series of problems to open locked boxes.
  • A visit to each elementary school from Eine Kleine Konsort, a professional recorder quartet comprised of veteran music educators.

Needham Times Interviews NEF Co-Presidents

By Stefan Geller from The Needham Times, August 28,2017

Sarah Winig and Kelly Partridge both joined the board of the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) three years ago and have since become co-presidents of the organization.

The NEF raises funds and awards grants to the public schools for programs and equipment that falls outside of public funding.

The NEF was founded in 1990 by Needham High alumni, who built a sustaining fund that helps the foundation today, though it still raises money each year. The grants have paid for all kinds of school programs, such as the DaVinci Engineering Lab, interdisciplinary projects and small grants to pay for authors or performers to come speak to the kids. Winig and Partridge sat down with The Needham Times to discuss the work they have done with the NEF.

What are you most proud of that you have helped bring to the Needham schools?

SW: The Greater Boston Project. A few years ago the board and the district worked together to come up with an idea for an interdisciplinary learning class. It’s a team-taught class with an English teacher, math teacher and social studies teacher. They studied a bunch of different themes about what made Boston the way it is. It has been a phenomenal thing for the kids.

KP: I was going to say the same, because it was a really big undertaking. Now that it’s been five years since we kicked the project off, the district has taken over the funding of the three teachers and the class is continuing, and now the high school is looking to offer more interdisciplinary classes. For so long kids have been taught English, science and math in separate rooms, but more studies show that that doesn’t work in today’s world and the NEF is helping the school move away from that.

Which program do you think gets far too little funding?

SW: Professional development is something the district asks us a lot about. At first we were nervous to fund it because it doesn’t seem to directly benefit kids, but if a teacher learns a new way to teach a subject or learns a completely new subject that will benefit them. And there are limited funds for professional development.

KP: I think new technology doesn’t get enough funds. Technology is changing so fast and for any school district to try to keep up is impossible. We’ve been trying to help here and there. All the classrooms have smartboards, the NEF funded the first ones a few years ago then the district got them for everyone. There’s so many pieces of technology and it’s hard for the district to keep up.

If you were back in high school what do you wish an educational fund could have provided you?

SW: The ones that excite me are the hands-on programs. Like the planetarium that we funded for the science center, or the sandbox at Pollard Middle School that has a projector that overlays a topographic map which changes as you change the surface of the sandbox. It’s hands-on things like that that I wish I’d had.

KP: I would have liked having cool new materials. And more in the sciences, to be able to have access to the equipment that professionals use as a high schooler is a really cool thing. And while we do big projects like the Greater Boston Project, the nuts and bolts of what we do are small things like that.

Innovation Night at Needham High Celebrates NEF Partnership

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.”

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.

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