NEF awarded $68,000 in funds to 20 grant recipients during a special ceremony held at the Northborough Free Library on Sept. 18, 2018.
Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson attended the ceremony, along with representatives from each school and the Northborough Free Library.
NEF Grant Committee Chair, Susan Ogar recognized the significance of the continued support of corporate sponsors, members of the community and schools, and the organization’s many volunteers who help make the fundraising events successful. A special thanks was given Kerri Sullivan-Kreiss of SullivanKreiss Financial, for generously becoming the 2018 NEF Platinum Sponsor. NEF was also proud to present a $1,000 scholarship, generously donated by Main Street Bank, to our first “I love Northborough” Scholarship Contest winner, Megan Harrington.
Fundraisers in 2017-18 included the Applefest Gala, Golden Apple Appreciation Gifts, Trivia Night, Gala Jr., and the Mother/Daughter Princess Tea Party. . Proceeds from these events enabled NEF to fully or partially approve funding for the grants funded this year.
NEF has created a yearly theme for the grants. Applications do not need to relate to the yearly theme, but it is presented in an effort to inspire unique ideas. This year’s theme is Small World, Global Students and many of the following grants touched on that theme:
The Global Read Aloud: One Book to Connect the World (Lincoln Street Elementary School): The Global Read Aloud is an initiative which connects teachers and students with classrooms around the world. Each year, organizers choose books for several different age groups and participants agree to read the books aloud to their students and then find innovative ways—such as Skype—to interact with counterparts at other schools. This year’s chosen books all reflect themes of understanding and empathy, as well as multiculturalism and global connections. This grant will allow for the purchase of the books that are part of the 2018 Global Read Aloud project as well as nonfiction books that will help students expand their understanding of the cultures in which these read-a-louds are set.
Growing Global Citizens Using VR Field Trips (Melican Middle School), It’s a Virtual Reality World After All (Zeh & Proctor Elementary Schools), Peaslee School Virtual Reality Field Trips (Peaslee Elementary School): Virtual reality field trips allow teachers to promote curiosity and exploration by providing the opportunity to visit a faraway place without leaving the classroom. The integration of this technology can provide unique learning experiences for students by dropping them in the middle of the Aztec and Mayan Ruins or putting them on the NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter. Thanks to these grants, students will be able to view and appreciate the world in which they live like never before, helping them grow as global citizens. While each school has different plans for how to use the technology to work with their curriculum, all students will have a unique experience that will take them far beyond their classrooms.
School Membership to iEARN – International Education and Resource Network (Peaslee Elementary School): Peaslee School will receive a membership to iEARN —the International Education & Resource Network—which enables educators and young people to participate in global virtual exchange through collaboration. With unlimited access to the network’s collaboration center, teachers will be able to search by age level, subject area and language to find global, collaborative projects that meet the curriculum needs and interests of their grade or classroom. Once a project has been selected, the class will use an interactive online format to connect and collaborate on a project with peers from other countries.
Fostering Civil Discourse in Social Studies Classrooms (Algonquin Regional High School): In light of the pending Massachusetts legislation that will realign the Social Studies curriculum and add a civic engagement graduation requirement, Social Studies teachers are looking for new and innovative ways to encourage civic action and civil discourse in their classrooms. This project sponsors a partnership with Facing History and Ourselves for professional development to train teachers in fostering constructive dialogue around controversial topics and to build the foundations of the soon-to-be mandated civic engagement curriculum. By bringing together Social Studies teachers from the middle schools and high school to train with Facing History, they hope to establish norms and instructional practices around civic engagement and dialogue that will be present throughout the secondary education experiences of Northborough students.
Lincoln Street Hands-Free Drama (Lincoln Street Elementary School): Lincoln Street School students will now have access to cutting-edge technology in their dramatic productions. Six new Headset microphone systems will allow students to let go of the microphone, and sing, dance and move about the stage freely. This technology is the type that is used in productions in the community, on Broadway, and on professional stages all over the world.
Sharing Books, Talking Science: Exploring Scientific Concepts Through Children’s Literature (Proctor Elementary School): Units of Study based on the Next Generation Science Standards are being implemented in grades K-5 across Northborough. These units encourage scientific habits of mind and reinforce seven crosscutting concepts such as pattern, cause and effect, structure and function, and energy and matter. These concepts are, surprisingly, often addressed in children’s literature. For example, in Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White writes about how a spider can produce several kinds of thread. She uses a dry, tough thread for foundation lines, and she uses a sticky thread for snare lines, the ones that catch and hold insects. Charlotte decided to use her dry thread for writing the new message. “If I write the word ‘Terrific’ with sticky thread,” she thought, “every bug that comes along will get stuck in it and spoil the effect.” This story provides a perfect opportunity for teachers to “think aloud” about how Charlotte understands structure and function. This grant will provide teachers with resources that will allow them to provide high quality read aloud experiences to their students while helping them develop the mindset necessary to think like a scientist.
Understanding Student Behavior as Communication (Melican Middle School): This grant will provide the entire Melican staff the opportunity for expanded Professional Development with Jessica Minihan, a licensed and board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), author, and special educator. The goals of this grant are three-fold. First, all teachers and support staff will come to understand that behavior is a form of communication, and will be able to recognize what a student’s behavior is communicating to them so that they can respond effectively. Second, all teachers and staff will be able to recognize skill deficit areas in students, identify them, and address them in research-based ways, collecting data to assess the effectiveness of the strategies implemented. And finally, all students will be able to recognize skill deficit areas in themselves, identify them, and utilize effective strategies.
Proctor Gardens-Nurturing the Seeds of Community (Proctor Elementary School): A Proctor School community garden will help support student inquiry, a connection to the natural world, and engage students with both same age peers and older peer role models. All students will be exposed to healthy foods and moderate exercise through working in the garden, while providing them a safe space to feel calm, safe, and relaxed. Students will have the opportunity to work with others who are different from themselves in order to develop increased self-understanding, as well as interpersonal and cooperative skills.
Thermal Camera and STEM (Melican Middle School): Melican Middle School will receive two thermal cameras which will give students an opportunity to learn about heat, temperature and heat transfer in an engaging real life applicable way. In using a thermal camera, students can learn first-hand how insulators and conductors work. Through investigation, they can determine which materials make good thermal insulators and which would make good thermal conductors. The new Massachusetts Science Curriculum Framework places an emphasis on active student engagement in science, and the standards specifically require that students solve problems using scientific thought and design thinking. This compliments well with Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) philosophy of engaging students in engineering practices and design.
Winds of Change: Renewable Energy Conversion & Meeting New State Standards (Algonquin Regional High School): Students enrolled in Physics learn about electricity, magnetism, and energy needs. The kits purchased with this grant will allow them to design and develop wind turbine blades and test them on a scaled wind turbine in the classroom. The students will be able to analyze results by seeing voltage output, lights lighting up, and sounding buzzers providing tangible, immediate feedback that is similar to real-life applications. They will develop lab reports which will analyze results and develop analysis skills based on the results.
Unleveled History Success Kits (Algonquin Regional High School): This grant will provide High School US History 1 students with reusable, laminated timelines that they can refer to during open response writing, class activities, tests, and other assessments. These timelines will give all students a base of people, places, and events to draw from as they build their skills in writing, speaking, arguing, and cooperating.
Storybook STEM Across the Grades: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for grades 1-2 (Peaslee Elementary School): This grant will fund materials to create STEM Bins that can be utilized for small group as well as large group exploration in Peaslee’s first and second grade classrooms. These kits will help children discover STEM in their favorite fairy tales and naturally inspire them to explore each challenging situation until they find a solution. For example, in Kit 1, kids will engineer happier endings to fairy tales as they design a house that can’t be blown down by the Big Bad Wolf, construct a bridge that keeps three goats safe from the troll and build a chair even Goldilocks can’t break!
Think Tank (Algonquin Regional High School): Algonquin Regional High School will be turning one of its standard classrooms into a “Think Tank”. This grant provides the Algonquin Business Department the opportunity to purchase furniture to encourage students to create, innovate and collaborate. The classroom will transform into an active learning space for students with the objective to facilitate social learning by designing spaces where students can easily connect and collaborate.
Growing the Center: Writing Center as a Center for Writing (Algonquin Regional High School): Since opening in December 2016, with help from an NEF grant, the Algonquin Writing Center has expanded in staff, services, and scope. In three semesters, they have blossomed from fifteen students meeting after school in the directors’ classrooms to a staff of over forty who have tutored, on average, over three writers per day. They have expanded their reach by including one-on-one sessions during the day. They have created a rent-a-tutor service in which teachers can ‘hire’ a tutor to come into their classes and work with the writers in real time as they endeavor whatever writing project they’re tackling. This grant will fund additional resources needed to continue to expand tutoring opportunities and possibilities for the writing center.
A Mighty Girl: Enhancing Classroom Library Collections with Strong Female Characters (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): In her January 2016 Washington Post article, Jennie Yabroff noted that the main characters in children’s books, whether human, animal, snow plow or crayon, are almost always male. A 2011 Florida State University study found that just 7.5% of nearly 6,000 picture books published between 1900 and 2000 depict female animal protagonists. The good news is that many recent books are addressing this gender disparity. Students can now read Mary Had a Little Lab about an enterprising young inventor, Brave Charlotte, the sheep who climbs trees, and Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor, the woman who became the curator of reptiles at the British Museum in 1917. This grant will provide a selection of these updated titles to the K-3 students in the Northborough Public Schools.
Elementary “Straight from the Source” Social Studies Project (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): The “Straight from the Source” Social Studies project will enhance the elementary Social Studies and English Language Arts curricula by providing students and teachers with a variety of texts written from various perspectives. The use of “Straight from the Source” primary sources and learning activities promote students’ skills in understanding and analyzing informational texts, thus contributing to students’ development of close reading skills and critical thinking based on factual knowledge.
Greg Tang Jr.-Working with Teachers and Students Across Northborough (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): How many times do we hear, what’s this new math all about? The Tang Team will lead a day of enrichment for students, professional development for teachers, and an evening family math night at each of Northborough’s four elementary schools. Greg Tang Jr. and his team will show students and teachers how to play fun and effective math games which can then be used as part of center activities and used in the larger classroom.
The workshops that the Tang Team conducts will target important skills, strategies and standards, and combine Greg’s proven techniques with the best practices from around the world. In their work with parents, the Tang Team helps them make sense of new and unfamiliar teaching methods by focusing on three important aspects of effective math instruction: visualization, reasoning and number sense. Parents come away with a clear understanding of visual models and number bonds, along with other techniques that are being used by our teachers. Students at each grade level will have direct contact with Tang Team and engage in dynamic, hands-on work.
Northborough Children’s Book Awards (NCBA) (Northborough Free Library and Northborough Public Elementary School Libraries): The NCBA is a collaboration between teachers and librarians aimed at inspiring all 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students to read great literature that develops their individual literacy skills. In the fall, knowledgeable school and public librarians from Northborough gather together to deliberate and vote for at least 12 recently published book titles that serve as the nominees for the awards. Multiple paperback copies of these titles are purchased and divided between all of the Northborough elementary schools as well as the town’s public library. Beginning in February 2019, students will read at least three of the selected titles and in May, can vote for their favorite at either the public library or during their library classes in school. In June, votes are tallied and the winning author is notified.