Grants in Action

Robotics Are Elementary

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!”

NEF Sponsors Another Series of Needham Talks Lectures

Needham Talks is proud to present another exciting free series of talks focused on the promotion of supportive and healthy parenting practices.  New York Times bestselling authors and internationally acclaimed speakers will be visiting our community to share their knowledge of…

  • How to effectively manage hectic lifestyles and enhance family relationships.
  • Strategies for raising authentic and emotionally intelligent girls.
  • The impact of fathers/male role models on children’s development.
  • Understanding adolescence and how to build a new relationship with your tween/teen.
  • How to discuss hard or sensitive topics with your child.

All lectures will be held at the Newman Elementary School Auditorium from 7:00 – 8:30pm.

Speakers and Dates:

  • October 29, 2015: Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D. – Crazybusy: Overbooked, Overworked and About to Snap! How Parents Can Cope in a World Gone ADD
  • December 2, 2015: Rachel Simmons, M.A. – Be You: An Interactive Workshop for Girls and Adults (Girls 8-14 Years of Age)
  • February 4, 2016: Michael Thompson, Ph.D. – The Importance of Fathers/Male Role Models in Children’s Lives (Male-Only Event)
  • April 6, 2016: Joani Geltman, M.S.W. – The Tween/Teen Years: Understanding Adolescence and How to Build A New Relationship With Your Child
  • June 2, 2016: Jeanine Fitzgerald, M.A. – The Truth About the Hard or Sensitive Topics

This free speaker series is funded by a Spring 2015 NEF grant.

One School, One Book: Schooled

NEF and the Pollard PTC co-funded this grant, which gave each student and teacher a copy of the summer reading book Schooled by Gordon Korman.

Tamatha Bibbo, Pollard Principal and grant writer said, “We had a team of teachers work incredibly hard over the summer to create activities for advisory for the first month of school.

“Overall, Schooled has been a huge success. The teachers were excited to experience a common read with the students and to emphasize ‘being kind.’ Students have been enthusiastic and a majority really liked it. We are having a full school – one day – workshop on the text in November. This day will be our culminating experience for all students- it will prove to be educational, valuable, and fun (some 60’s music, speakers on home schooling, tye-dye T-shirts, Tai Chi, and so much more from the text.)”

NEF Supports Let’s Build Engineering Extravaganza

Can you stand on Dixie cups without crushing them? How would you build a bridge with only paper and tape to support the weight of pennies or even a boot? Can you protect an egg dropped from many stories high? On November 8, more than 300 parents and children attended the second annual Let’s Build Engineering Extravaganza to try to solve these and many other design challenges.

The Extravaganza also highlighted local engineers and scientists. Representatives from Olin College, MIT, the Needham High School Robotics Team and the Needham Science Center were among those who showcased technologies including a 3D printer, homemade internet based on Morse code, and a robotic hand!

With help from two NEF grants, Let’s Build Engineering Fun for Kids organized the Extravaganza and kicked off in-classroom workshops for students at Hillside, Broadmeadow and Newman.

For more information or to volunteer to help with in-class workshops, go to

Outdoor Learning Center at NHS Now Open

Needham High School is bringing education into nature with a new outdoor classroom, featuring benches, newly planted trees and shrubs, and a walkway designed to create a garden setting. The project was funded by a grant from the Needham Education Foundation and the Needham High School PTC. It was designed by Michael Savrin, 16, a Life Scout and Needham High junior, and built by Savrin and fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 13. A dedication ceremony took place in October.

Luca “Lazylegz” Kicks Off Rousing Start to ‘Understanding Our Different Abilities’

Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli entertained and educated students at all of Needham’s public elementary schools this week as part of a rousing and inspiring kick-off to the Understanding our Different Abilities program.

Luca was born with Arthrogryposis, a rare disorder that causes limited joint movement and poor muscle growth and later diagnosed with scoliosis. Despite many surgeries to address these issues, Luca has never let his disability prevent him from doing the activities he loves including swimming, diving, skiing, and horseback riding.  After a leg surgery prevented him from continuing skateboarding, he was introduced to breakdancing. Using his upper body strength to create a unique style of dancing, “Lazylegz” was born. Since then, Luca has become a world-renowned break-dancer. In 2007, Luca created ILL-Abilities™, an international dance crew of differently-abled dancers. Their goal is to show the world that as long as you are positive, creative, and willing to adapt to any situation, anything is possible. Together, they perform all over the world, spreading the message No Excuses, No Limits.” Luca has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, America’s Got Talent, and So You Think You Can Dance Canada as the world’s first and only dancer with a disability to make it into Finals Week.

According to grant writer, Suzanne Lissy, “Luca embodies the message we bring to our kids through the Understanding our Different Abilities program; that we are all unique and different and that is what makes us the same.”

Check out coverage of Luca’s visit in the Needham Times and on Luca’s YouTube channel.

Needham Education Proud Sponsor of 2014-2015 Needham Talks Series

Please plan to attend this exciting free series of talks focused on children’s resilience and social-emotional wellness. Nationally acclaimed speakers will be visiting our community to share their knowledge of social and brain behavior, the emotional lives of girls and boys, how to nurture children’s confidence and resilience, and the hidden consequences of the internet. ALL lectures will be held at the Newman Elementary School Auditorium from 7:00 – 8:30pm. Speaker books will be available for purchase at each event.

Speakers & Dates:

October 9, 2014: Joseph Shrand, M.D. – Theory of Mind and Interpersonal Relationships for Children

December 4, 2014:  Rachel Simmons, M.A. – Odd Girl Out: Coping with Best Friends, Worst Enemies and Everything in Between

March 4, 2015:  Michael Thompson, Ph.D. – Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys

April 9, 2015:  Robert Brooks, Ph.D. – Strategies for Nurturing Confidence and Resilience in Our Children

June 4, 2015:  Jon Mattleman, M.S. – The Emotional and Hidden Consequences of the Internet

See coverage of Dr. Shrand’s lecture by The Needham Times.

See coverage of Ms. Simmons lecture by The Needham Times.

Summer Learning Loss Presentation a Hit with Parents

“Summer learning loss” was explored before a standing-room-only crowd at a free NEF-sponsored panel on May 13th. Local experts provided data about summertime loss and offered practical suggestions for keeping skills sharp in math (bring playing cards to the beach or track baseball statistics) and literacy (let kids stay up late to read). They also reminded parents to balance academic achievement with relaxation, exploration, and fun.

Speakers included:

  • David Farbman, Senior Researcher at the National Center for Time and Learning
  • Joan Kelley, Research Associate and Educational Consultant, Harvard University
  • Judith Wojtczak, Math Curriculum/Instructional Leader, Needham Public Schools
  • Katy Colthart, Clinician, Needham Youth Services


A one-man show, written and performed by actor Steve Kidd, was performed for 406 students in eighth grade at the Pollard Middle School. The play was originated by Steve following several summers of work at a camp for HIV-positive children. He wrote the play in an effort to inspire young people to do public service through telling the stories of some of these children and families. He combines actual stories of children living with HIV/AIDs with excerpts from Ursala Le Guin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

The performance ties into the students’ unit on short stories (which includes “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”). It also connects with the eighth-grade Community Service Learning program. Steve told the students about how he first volunteered to work at the HIV/AIDs camp mostly because he did not have anything else to do for a summer and how it has enriched his life more than anything else he has done in his career. One of the reasons that he created this program was to encourage public service. The students recently had their introduction to the CSL program and “Sigh/Omelas” will inspire them to understand their ability to make a positive impact, just at the time when they will be choosing their projects.

James Rojas/Urban Planner

James Rojas, an activist, artist, and urban planner, came to Broadmeadow School for a week-long art and design residency involving the entire Broadmeadow community. Rojas travels the world engaging ordinary people, young and old, in the planning process through “build it” workshops, translating city planning into activities that are visual, tactile, and playful—the language of how we actually experience the world.

Rojas brought these workshops to Broadmeadow students through their art classes. He presented the students with thousands of intriguing found objects and then engaged them to build their favorite place in their community. He got them thinking, building, and creating, individually and then collaboratively. After building, each student shared his or her ideas. During the residency, photographer Tiziana Rozzo documented students’ work, creating a slide show and photo exhibit. The exhibit was presented at a reception with town officials at Needham Town Hall on March 24th.