Grants in Action

History at Play

This February, all eighth grade students at Pollard Middle School experienced the immersive living history performance of “A Revolution of Her Own! The Life of Deborah Sampson.” Judith Kalaora, founder of History at Play, wrote, directed, and performed the piece. This particular performance was selected in collaboration with the League of Women Voters in Needham to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which officially granted women the right to vote.

The intimate setting allowed students to be involved not only in watching, but also in interacting with the performer as Deborah Sampson. After the performance, students engaged in discussions about the messaging of gender roles in Revolutionary times and connected to the complexity of identity and gender in the current day. Many students found the performance powerful in its representation of a strong female character and appreciated being exposed to a different medium of history (i.e., a living history/oral history mode).

Teachers noted that the performance highlighted and breathed life into the voice of women from the Revolutionary War period, a voice that has been challenging to include. They also noted that students paid close attention and were engaged in the entire performance and subsequent discussions.

The Role of Women in History

Jen Deaderick, author and Equal Rights Amendment activist, came and spoke to high school students in February during the ‘NHS One Day’ workshops – focusing on the theme of community. Jen discussed the history of the women’s rights movement and its impact, as well as the community of women forged in the process. In addition, she read excerpts from her book, She the People, and answered questions from the students. Her appearance was made possible through a grant from the NEF.

Hispanic Literacy Expansion

Students at High Rock have benefited from the expansion of Spanish-language and Latino-experience literature at the High Rock library. With funds from a Spring 2019 NEF grant, Spanish language learners can read authentic language materials targeted to their language level. In addition, the grant has provided grade level literature for native Spanish speakers.

Assistant Principal Maggie Charron commented, “Our goal for the Spanish program is to foster biliteracy,” and the literature collection afforded by this grant contributes to this goal. She continues to say, “Being biliterate can increase multicultural understanding, ….. and can increase a student’s ability to communicate with others.”

Pedometers for Movement, Math, and More!

This Fall 2019 grant was awarded at Broadmeadow to incorporate pedometers into the school day for all 2nd graders. Students will use the data from the pedometers for understanding math and distance concepts.

Exploring Robotics

Through a Spring 2019 NEF Grant, several robots were ordered for teachers and students at High Rock to explore in order to determine how they could fit into future curriculum. In the fall, a Robot Exploration Day was held for all staff at High Rock and technology specialists from across the district. Many ideas surfaced that day, including the integration of the robots into math, science, music, and social/emotional learning curriculum. Students were introduced to the robots in small groups.

After lots of exploration by teachers, administrators, and students, the Sphero Bolt and Root were determined to be most useful in the Middle School classroom. 

The Sphero Bolt is easily connected to the coding curriculum at High Rock and teachers noted that they can see it being used in the math curriculum (angles and graphing) and the science curriculum (waves, graphing, and sensing). The Sphero also comes with pre-made lessons connecting the Social Studies units on Egypt and Hieroglyphics to coding!

The Root is an all-around robot that works nicely with the coding curriculum, but can be used in other areas such as music, art, science, and even ELA. This robot offers 3 levels of coding, making it useful for both beginners and advanced users. 

The existing robots will continue to impact students in small groups and after school, and will be available to be checked out by technology specialists at other schools. At High Rock, they plan to recommend the district purchase a class set of the Sphero Bolt, and to begin integration of the robots into the curriculum starting in the fall.

Grant recipient Erin Mack noted, “Teachers were inspired to think outside of the box while exploring these robots and I can’t wait to see what they can do once a class set is purchased.” During the exploration day a teacher reflected, “I liked the fact that it could be controlled manually or by coding and could be used to create artwork.

Far From The Tree – Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Funded by a small grant from the NEF last spring, the Far From a Tree screening was held on November 6th at Mitchell Elementary School. There was a great turn out for the event and attendees found the panel discussion thoughtful and informative.

The panelists included Tracy McKay, Liza d’Hemecourt, Laurie Davis and Sarah Burton.

Low-Ropes Challenge Course at Pollard

Funded by a large grant from the NEF, the Low-Ropes Challenge Course at Pollard features seven elements presenting meaningful physical and mental challenges to help students develop social and emotional skills.

Grant writer, Michael Marcojohn is excited to see this grant come to life. He wrote, “I have always had the dream to build a course and provide students with the same positive experience I once had. I cannot wait to provide students with such a different and unique experience. Students have been asking me since the first day of school about when they will be allowed to enjoy the course.”

On October 3, Pollard teachers were trained and certified on the low-ropes course. Students at Pollard will now be able to use the course to help create an inclusive and cooperative team atmosphere.

Sensory Pathways at Broadmeadow

The NEF funded two Sensory Pathways that were installed this month at Broadmeadow and they have already made a huge impact on the students and teachers, who were instantly mesmerized. These Sensory Pathways have given students opportunities to get their movement out.

The paths are located in the first-grade wing for the kindergarten, first and second graders to use, as well as on the ground level near the occupational therapy room. Each path is designed to change a child’s body position as he/she completes the course, focusing on academic visuals while moving the body in a specific order. By jumping, bouncing, bending, pushing, and breathing, students release their energy and sensory build-ups that impacts their ability to best utilize their brains.

Although teachers were initially worried about sending students to the paths independently, after a class lesson, they gave it a try. Teachers were pleasantly surprised at how responsible students were being when they asked to go on a sensory break. Broadmeadow families have enjoyed the videos shared by Principal Gaberman shared the videos in the school’s bulletin. Grant writer, Saundra Watson noted, “It has been amazing to see so many students reading the directions and following the movements and others following along by creating their own movements.”

Take a sneak peak at how Needham students are moving their bodies and putting the pathways to good use. Thank you to grant writer Saundra Watson for making this innovative grant come to life.

Rubik’s Cubes at Needham High School

The NHS Library is pleased to add 225 Rubik’s cubes to the collection this year thanks to a Fall 2018 grant from the Needham Education Foundation. This purchase was an instant hit with cubers and non-cubers alike as the Rubik’s Cube Club immediately set to creating the first mosaic. They chose to build the portrait of Caesar Chavez, solving each individual cube to a specific design and stacking the cubes together to form the final mosaic. In a few afternoons, their masterpiece was complete and displayed prominently in the library. This new piece of art sparked a number of discussions as students and staff realized how it had been created.
 
We have since created a number of smaller mosaics which were started by math teachers and completed by individual students visiting the library. Another exciting opportunity provided by these cubes is to design our own mosaic, fostering technology, art, and design skills in the process. This is one of the many ways in which this program can grow in coming years and connect to many different students. In addition to the opportunity to design and build mosaics, Rubik’s Cubes themselves can provide a fun avenue to explore mathematical concepts such as geometry, algorithms, factorals, and exponents. Teachers are welcome to check out a class set of cubes for hands-on learning opportunities, which is easy thanks to the 25-cube boxes designed and built in the Da Vinci Workshop. These boxes were designed not only to contain a class set of cubes, but also to display a small, finished mosaic or portion of a larger mosaic.
 
Grant writer Paige Rowse commented “It is incredible to see all the different people and departments involved in just this one grant! We look forward to seeing more students and staff explore this innovative opportunity.”

Talking Books

The “talking books” have been a big hit at Hillside! Students in K-5 have been enjoying the collection of 82 Vox books, which are hardcover books containing a small MP3 player on the inside cover. Simply pushing the play button allows students to listen to a high quality narration of their favorite stories. They require no batteries and can last up to four months without a charge.
Kindergarten and first grade teachers have checked these out to use as listening centers in the classroom. Newly enrolled ELL students have been enjoying them outside the library as well.

One exciting effect of the Vox books is that they ignite interest in the regular print collection. Students often want to check out the regular print copy of the book they have just listened to. The Vox books have expanded interest in new topics that students may otherwise have overlooked. The Vox books also increase student independence. Everyone who listens to a Vox book can fully access a text even if they are not yet reading. Students are able to comprehend and retell a story after listening to it.

Grant writer Elizabeth Hitron, Hillside School Librarian, said, “As a librarian, it has been so heartening to see students engage so deeply with a new material that does not involve a screen! High quality narration and high quality literature are so captivating for a young audience. I love when the students walk into the library and ask, “Can we listen to the talking books today?”