In the News

NEF Continues to Support Interdisciplinary Learning at NHS with Help from Staples Foundation

In its fifth and final year of funding from NEF, the Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative (ILI) is a collaboration between NEF and Needham High School (NHS) intended to launch an interdisciplinary model of teaching and learning at NHS. The cornerstone of this collaboration was the development and implementation of the Greater Boston Project (GBP), a two-block interdisciplinary class that combines instruction in English, History, and Statistics. The collaboration has also seeded many smaller units of interdisciplinary learning (IL) programming, such as Kinetic Sculpture and Art in the Dark.

An important piece of the collaboration has been funding a part-time IL Specialist position at NHS dedicated to overseeing and supporting current IL projects, seeding new IL opportunities, and promoting IL at NHS, throughout the district, and in the community. On February 28, the School Committee voted to accept $36,000 in funding from NEF to support the IL Specialist position for a second year.

The NEF gift is made up in part by a grant of $500 awarded to the NEF by Staples Foundation, the private charitable arm of Staples, Inc., through a program called 2 Million & Change. With a recommendation from Staples associate Jodi Fletcher, NEF was awarded funding in support of its Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative (ILI).

“We were very pleased to be recognized by Ms. Fletcher,” said Jennifer Quinn, NEF Co-president, “and we are grateful for the support of all the Needham area businesses and families, including Staples Foundation, that helped to make this very large, multi-year collaboration with NHS possible. Funding the innovative IL Specialist position will ensure that the impact of the ILI remains broad and lasting.”

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.

NEF Awards $40,718 in Fall Grants

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of 12 grants totaling $40,718 in the fall small grants cycle at the Needham School Committee meeting last night. Three of the awards are for multi-school grants that will provide funding for a musician residency for middle and high school string students, reader’s theatre props chests for High Rock and Pollard, and professional development for K-12 math teachers and school administrators with Dr. Adrian Mims. Dr. Mims is the national director of the Calculus Project, and his focus will be on narrowing the
achievement gap for students of color.

Awarded grants also include:

  • A series of workshops with young adult author, Tara Sullivan. These workshops at NHS will encourage students to be global citizens.
  • E-Reader Tools for English Language Literacy to provide powerful comprehension tools for English language learners at Pollard.
  • Mindfulness equipment at NHS to formalize the mindfulness meditation practice that is part of the health curriculum.
  • A Project VOICE performance, using spoken word poetry, for 8th graders at Pollard.
  • Virtual Reality equipment that will provide high school students with the opportunity to experience and create their own virtual reality environments and videos in the classroom. As a viewer, students can manipulate an object or experience an environment, like visiting Machu Picchu.
  • Pollard Challenge Course, an adventure education-based challenge course to create dynamic opportunities for developing resilience in students.
  • Differentiating Math at Broadmeadow, which will provide kits for fourth-grade teachers to use to differentiate learning during small group and independent instruction.
  • Two Express Grants benefiting Broadmeadow and Newman which replicate a successful grant at Eliot for Kore wobble stools.

NEF Awards $44,351 in Spring Grants

 The Needham Education Foundation announced the recipients of 10 grants totaling $44,351 in the spring small grants cycle at the Needham School Committee meeting last night.  These include four (4) multi-school grants benefiting all five elementary schools, the largest of which provides math backpacks for all Needham kindergarten classrooms to build early math literacy around Common Core standards and facilitate math-related activities at home.

Awarded grants also include:

  • An interdisciplinary workshop for African American and Guitar classes at Needham High School (NHS) about the history of Blues with visiting Master Blues artist Toby Walker.
  • The transformation of the current technology lab at High Rock into a Creation Lab that will allow for stop motion and animation creation, green screen videos, audio recording and book creation.
  • A three-film series and panel discussions focused on the future of education and designed to promote family and community dialogue around educational innovation.
  • Number sense challenge kits for all elementary schools which enable individualized math enrichment at all grade levels.
  • Twenty-five (25) Lightbox interactive multimedia learning modules for K-5 students in all elementary schools, including modules on Four Seasons, Continents, Earth’s Water, Forces of Nature and Rock Science.
  • A summer book mailer program, which builds on a successful pilot, intended to prevent “summer slide” among struggling 3rd and 4th grade readers at Broadmeadow.
  • “A Study of Courage” ELA/Social Studies unit for Mitchell 5th graders, in which students study inspirational people who have demonstrated resiliency and which includes a visit from two lost boys of the Sudan as well as service-learning projects.
  • A school-wide book reading program for Newman teachers, administrators, parents and students focused on developing strategies and classroom activities for cultivating grit, supporting resiliency and learning from failure.
  • An “express” grant, which replicates successful grants at Mitchell, Hillside and Eliot, to build more culturally diverse classroom libraries at Newman Elementary and Needham Preschool.

NEF Announces 2015-2016 Large Grant and Interdisciplinary Learning Funding

Starlab Planetarium

Large Grant Award – STARLAB Coming to Needham

The NEF announced the award of a $15,000 large grant from its 2015-2016 Large Grants cycle at the School Committee meeting on January 26th. The grant supports the purchase of a Basic STARLAB Portable Planetarium System (with weather and solar system units) for use by the Needham Science Center. The STARLAB can be used in gyms and performance centers and can accommodate up to thirty students when inflated.

STARLAB is an exciting way to spark students’ interest in science and increase their scientific literacy. It can be used to make meaningful curriculum connections for students across all grades and can build students’ skills and content knowledge in a way that ensures that students not only “know” science concepts, but also can use their scientific knowledge to investigate the natural world.

More Interdisciplinary Learning at Needham High School

The School Committee accepted two NEF Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative (ILI) grants at its January 26th meeting, totaling $48,019. These grants will help to solidify the broad and lasting impact of the ILI Collaborative Initiative, the collaboration between NHS and the NEF that is most well-known for the creation of the Greater Boston Project, an interdisciplinary class at NHS. The Da Vinci Workshop and several smaller interdisciplinary projects have also been created through this collaboration, now in its fourth year.

The first new grant provides a third year of funding for the “Interdisciplinary Learning Fund.” This fund, administered by both NHS and NEF representatives, was created to support small interdisciplinary units of study. Thus far, six multi-year mini-grants have been awarded.

A new, part-time Interdisciplinary Learning (IL) Specialist position will be created with the funding from the second grant. The IL Specialist will serve as a resource for all of NHS, and will also provide interdisciplinary learning guidance throughout the district.

To date, more than 20 teachers and 550 students at NHS have been impacted by the NEF’s support of interdisciplinary learning initiatives. These new grants will extend that impact to the 2016-17 school year.

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