In the News

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

NEF Continues to Support Interdisciplinary Learning at NHS
with Help from Staples Foundation
March 29, 2017

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.”

Large Grant Awarded

Virtual Reality Coming to High Rock

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.

Innovation Night at Needham High Celebrates NEF Partnership

NHS Innovation Night Celebrates 5-Year, $550,000 Partnership
with NEF

Student projects showcase growing emphasis on interdisciplinary learning
May 15, 2017 – 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.”
The NEF is an independent, community-based, not-for-profit organization that
raises funds for the enrichment of public school children in Needham. Since 1990,
the NEF has funded more than 640 grants, totaling over $2.75 million, to promote
innovation and excellence in education. To learn more about the Needham
Education Foundation and how you can support it, please visit
For more information contact:
Tina McHugh, Communications
Needham Education Foundation

Robotics Are Elementary

Bee Bots Teachers and Students

NEF funded this grant in the Fall 2014 cycle, which financed the purchase of Bee Bots, Curriculum Mats, Lesson Plans and a set of 24-unit LegoWeDo robots for each of the five Needham Elementary schools.

According to Barbara Tennyson, Instructional Technology Specialist at Broadmeadow, “Bee Bots help us teach coding to young children. Specifically, teaching sequencing, estimation, and problem-solving are made very visual by using the BeeBots.

We have incorporated them mainly into 1st and 2nd grade STEAM classes but have even introduced them to Kindergarteners. We used them during International Dot Day and challenged the students to program them to spell the word DOT.

The individual challenges can vary greatly, from programming them to travel through a maze to completing an odd/even race using dice to using the number line mat to program addition and subtraction problems to using the alphabet mat to program it to spell their name. Lots of fun and learning!”

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