NEF Awards $34,000 in grants for the Northborough Schools

NEF awarded $34,000 in funds to 16 grant recipients in September of 2022.

Fundraisers in 2021-22 included the Applefest Gala, Holiday Warm Wishes, Virtual Family Trivia Night, Golden Apple Teacher Appreciation Gifts, and the Princess Tea Party. Proceeds from these events enabled NEF to fully or partially approve funding for the grants submitted this year. NEF has approved two cornerstone grants that will be funded each year moving forward which are the Northborough Children’s Book Awards (NCBA) and Read Across Northborough.

This year’s awarded grants are as follows:

Ancient Healers, Modern Medicine, and the Power of Connection – ARHS – Katie Salt

This grant will support a new social studies course at ARHS,  Ancient Healers, Modern Medicine, and the Power of Connection.  In this course, students will explore various cultural traditions, beliefs, customs, medicines, and healing methods from the prehistoric age to the modern era with a focus on the global impact of health and healing. Students will also study the wellness traditions, beliefs, and practices of a variety of cultures as well as explore modern medicine, alternative medicine, and the modern wellness industry as they seek to understand human wellbeing and the traditions and practices of keeping ourselves healthy. They will examine and practice many real-life applications of the skills and techniques used by our ancestors to connect the mind and body and promote overall health and healing including breathing, mindfulness, and meditation.  The yoga mats provided by this grant will allow them to integrate these practices into their classes regularly. For the individual students, the social-emotional benefits of these practices are far-reaching and include improvements in concentration, anxiety, studying, and speaking.  On a larger level, the examination of global cultures and traditions as well as the importance of connecting with, listening to, conversing with, and understanding different people, cultures, and customs is especially important given the various global and humanitarian crises and divisive political climate we are currently experiencing.

ARHS ELD Listenwise Podcast – ARHS – Suzanne Stimson, Selvi Oyola

Current research has shown that using podcasts in the classroom enriches the students’ knowledge and develops their academic language skills. This grant provides a year’s subscription to the Listenwise program for the English Language Development classrooms to support the listening, reading, and speaking skills of our English learners.  It features interactive transcripts, listening to comprehensive quizzes, reduced speed audio, assessment reporting by listening skill (inference, main idea, etc.), close listening with language practice, and tiered vocabulary.  The Listenwise App offers an abundance of podcasts that span the curriculum and are current and of high interest to our students.

Building Healthy Minds and Bodies Through Yoga and Mindfulness – Proctor – Alana Cyr, Kristen Wilson, Andrea Flanagan

Just as we teach our students how to read for meaning, write to communicate their knowledge, and identify strategies to solve mathematical problems, we also need to provide them with strategies that will help them reduce stress and manage strong emotions.  These strategies, when added to students’ social/emotional toolboxes, can be powerful to help them be healthy and balanced learners.  This grant provides funding for the Fannie E. Proctor School to bring a six-session yoga and mindfulness program to all students in grades K-5.  Using weekly P.E. or enrichment classes, students will work with a certified yoga teacher to learn basic yoga poses and techniques that can help students reduce stress.  Additionally, students will learn breathing and mindfulness techniques that will support them when they are experiencing stressors and strong emotions.  Students will create physical tools that can be added to individual and classroom toolboxes for use in all classroom settings.  This includes all specials (i.e. music, physical education, library, and art), the Proctor office, nurse’s office, etc.  In addition, Proctor School staff members will be provided with training so that the techniques and strategies that students learn can be reinforced and carried over into the general education setting.  This training will also serve to support Proctor staff members in learning strategies that can be used to support their own mental and physical health to be at their very best for our students.  

CounSELing in the Classroom – Melican – Julie Morancy

Now more than ever, it is so important to recognize the need for more focus on our students’ social and emotional well-being.  Our students learn best through interaction; they learn how to be social by having opportunities to be social, and so many of those opportunities were taken from them during the social distancing and isolation of the COVID pandemic.  As we return to a somewhat more “normal” school experience, we need to support our students whose opportunities for development over the past three years have been anything but normal.  This school year Melican is piloting a program to bring once-weekly SEL classes to all of their sixth-grade students and this grant will provide the necessary funding to create a warm and welcoming classroom space for this including flexible seating options, maker spaces, calming corners, and other decorations and supplies that promote learning, connectivity, and creativity.

Countries We Came From Book Set – Peaslee – Clare Kelsey

A school library is an excellent place for our students to learn about different cultures and places where our families and friends claim their proud heritage. Students and teachers often ask for books about various countries and cultures to read for pleasure or for research projects and this grant will now provide them with a set of 74 books from a series called “Countries We Come From”. Each book in the set is colorful and easy to read by a wide variety of students in grades K-5.  According to the publisher, the books “feature the country’s cities, food, holidays, music, & wildlife. They even learn how to speak a few words in the country’s language! Each 32-page book features controlled text with age-appropriate vocabulary & simple sentence construction. Picture Glossary, Fact Boxes, & Fast Facts are included.”  This book set will be available to all Peaslee School students and teachers as well as students and teachers from all of the NSBORO district schools via interlibrary loan requests. 

Education 360: Breaking Down Barriers with Virtual Reality – Melican – Megan Puopolo

This project will introduce high-quality Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) learning to all the students at Melican through the use of Oculus Quest 2 headsets.  The implementation of VR across the curriculum will offer teachers and students the opportunity to remove themselves from the two-dimensional learning environment of paper and Chromebook, immersing themselves in virtual experiences; they can travel inside the human body, explore the solar system, study ancient civilizations, and experience art, culture, and music from around the world just to name a few. This will enhance engagement and break down barriers, creating new learning opportunities and facilitating a deep form of curiosity and wonder that will in turn capture deep understanding. Eighth-grade students studying the Holocaust can spend time exploring the Anne Frank House Museum. While reading the play The Diary of Anne Frank, they can explore the Annex where Anne and seven other adults hid from the Nazi occupation. Simultaneously, sixth-grade science students can delve into a plant or animal cell to experience the parts and functions with their senses. They can visit Carnegie Hall 360 Video featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra, sit in on a fashion session to discover Alexander McQueen’s Craftsmanship, or swim in the Great Barrier Reef. Research also shows that VR can be a useful tool for students with disabilities to guide them through learning social behaviors, dealing with unexpected events, establishing a routine, and regulating their sensory systems and emotions,  giving them the freedom and autonomy to try new adventures and prepare them for college and career.

Lincoln Street School Outdoor Learning Space – Lincoln – Justin Lohwater, Michele Vulcano, Karen Norsworthy, Jenilee Mullin

This grant will support the creation of an outdoor learning space at Lincoln Street School that includes various opportunities for experiential learning, links to the natural sciences, and an inspirational setting for students involved in all manner of academic tasks. A “StoryWalk” will be installed as part of the pathway leading to and from the learning space which will be an engaging way to incorporate literacy into the new space. The path and learning space will also be used for mindfulness and emotion regulation activities. The Therapeutic Learning Program (TLP), a specialized district program for elementary students with significant emotional disabilities, is located at Lincoln Street, and this space will support the growth and development of students within this program as well as the general student population. The benefits of spending time outdoors cannot be overstated. There is a significant and growing body of research demonstrating the positive effects of increasing time spent outdoors on nearly all areas of well-being and the creation of this outdoor learning space will go a long way in prioritizing the social, emotional, and physical well-being of our students.  

Northborough Children’s Book Award (NCBA) – Northborough Free Library & All Elementary Schools – Katrina Ireland

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.  Students who read at least 3 of the selected titles 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. The Northborough Education Foundation is proud to support this Cornerstone Grant each year.

Peaslee Playground AAC Board – Peaslee – Katie Brennan

In the CASTLE program that is housed at Peaslee School there are students with a wide range of communication skills. Many of them use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as a means to communicate with adults and peers which requires them to carry iPads that contain vocabulary and phrases to help them participate in the school day. On the playground, it can be cumbersome to carry their iPads and they are not always as easily accessible. This means that the students are not always able to communicate. This grant will fund the purchase and installation of a Core Vocabulary Board at the playground that will allow these students the ability to communicate and offer opportunities for social interaction with their peers. In addition to benefiting students in the CASTLE program, this project would also teach all students about inclusion and the different ways that others communicate. This board will be available for use by all students, including those who typically communicate verbally. Research has shown that many students have difficulty using verbal communication when their emotions are running high (which can often happen on the playground) and this board can provide an alternate means to share what they need to with others when in a heightened state.

Poetry All Around – Melican – Janice Bisset, Karin Johnson, Megan Freedman

This grant will help to immerse students in poetry everywhere all year. Similar to a Storywalk, this project aims to post pages from poetry books all around the school. Short poems with colorful illustrations can be enjoyed and perhaps memorized as they are read and reread during the time that they are posted. Each month new poems will be displayed. The posts will be labeled with a literary device used that is used in the poem, exposing students to important vocabulary year-round and not just during the month that poetry is the focus of the ELA curriculum in class. 

Read Across Northborough – All Elementary Schools – Clare Kelsey

The month of March is dedicated to celebrating reading around our nation.  The National Education Association (NEA) promotes the love of reading across the country with its “Read Across America Through Colorful Pages” initiative.  This event involves inviting members of our community (high school students, business owners, educators, and others) to visit our classrooms to share books and engage in meaningful conversations.  To make this event a success, the Northborough Elementary school librarians will purchase chapter books and picture books to be read in each classroom that convey positive, inclusive messages.  The books will become part of the elementary library collections after the reading event for everyone to enjoy.  The Northborough Education Foundation is proud to announce that Read Across Northborough has been approved as a Cornerstone Grant that we will be happy to support each year.

Riveting Texts for Struggling Readers – At Last! – Proctor – Kelly Strout, Lois Shaughnessy, Casey Jennings

Research in the field of early reading skills, dyslexia, and reading disabilities has given educators more and more information about how children learn to read. We know more now than ever before about what experiences children need in order to become competent, efficient, reflective readers. Many students who struggle with early reading skills do not have the opportunity to read books containing complex characters and storylines that hook them and keep them invested in reading. Recently there have been more resources available to meet this need. This grant will support the purchase of several new book series that are designed for students who are developing early reading skills. This includes students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, but it also includes students whose classroom teachers are looking to help them develop their competencies with specific decoding skills. These books are designed to provide students with access to multidimensional characters, complex storylines, and modern, thought-provoking themes. This is all done through text that is highly controlled for phonic patterns, providing access for struggling readers. Because the collections contain multiple books in a series, students will gain the opportunity to become invested and develop their thinking skills as the controlled text develops in complexity. As opposed to phonic readers of the past, students cannot wait to read the next book in the series and are given the opportunity to develop into reflective readers. We are eager to bring the same excitement to students at Proctor. 

Speech to Text Technology for All – Lincoln – Meghan Reade, Jenilee Mullin

This grant will provide classroom headsets for students to be able to use speech-to-text technology  (i.e., voice typing)  in their classrooms.  Due to the noise volume in classrooms, students have to leave their classrooms in order to access this accommodation.  Completing written expression tasks in the hallway provides further distractions and often makes speech-to-text technology unreliable.  Having access to headsets with noise canceling microphones will allow students to remain in their classrooms and be able to complete written expression tasks that are intelligible, meaningful, and compatible with other classmates that are using handwriting, keyboarding, or a scribe as their means of written expression.  In addition, If this accommodation is made available to everyone then it becomes less stigmatizing and students will be better able to self-select what will work for them when completing a writing task.

Titan Townhouse – ARHS – Karen Brown, Jenilee Mullin

ARHS is a school that values inclusion and teaches all students how to better prepare themselves for life after high school. The TLC 1, TLC 2, CASTLE, and the CAP programs are an integral part of our ARHS community. These programs have many positive aspects for learning independence and daily living skills, the newest of which will be a “Mock Apartment” that students will use to practice these skills in a setting that will support and enhance various life skills to generalize into the home and community environments. This space will be named the “Titan Townhouse”. Much of the creation of this space has been accomplished through staff donations of items from their homes and now this grant will fund the remaining needed items.  Once completed, the Assistive Technology Specialist and the OTs will make “Task Analyses (TAs)” for each activity in the apartment. Each TA will break down each step to complete a specific task/chore. There will also be QR codes for the student to access on their iPad or phone to then watch a video on how to complete the task from start to finish.  Independent Living Tasks will include making a bed; setting an alarm clock; dusting, vacuuming, and sweeping; folding, organizing, hanging, and ironing clothes; washing/drying dishes; laundry; meal preparation and cooking; watering plants. These tasks will allow students an opportunity to learn how to complete daily living activities within a structured environment to then help them generalize these skills to living independently on their own, living in a community home, or living with their families. General Education Students will also benefit from this program when they participate in reverse inclusion with their peers with disabilities. 

Unified Art Project – ARHS – Felecia Rutigliano, Rebecca Duffy, Danielle DeCiero

This grant will provide resources for several collaborative art projects that will bring students of varying artistic talents together to create pieces for the school community. This project is designed to help students foster relationships with their peers of all abilities. When students work together to create pieces of art, they find therapeutic joy and a sense of belonging in what they can do when they work together. By merging students from the National Art Honor Society with others identified by the Student Service Department as they work toward the goal of beautifying areas of the school with canvased paintings, this endeavor will promote inclusion while also providing opportunities to improve the social/emotional well-being of all students.

World Atlases – ARHS – Nate Uttaro

Atlases have been a key fixture in most social studies classrooms for many years due to their ease of use and the convenient collection of a diverse array of information all in one place.  These new atlases will give teachers the ability to access the newest resources and most updated maps, improving their ability to sharpen student understanding of how the world is interconnected. These books have many helpful and engaging features such as climate maps, population maps, and maps related to economics that will help students study the different regions of the world in much greater depth and detail.  They will also provide a helpful starting point for the 11th-grade civics project where students must research a global issue, thereby helping us move closer to our goal of developing socially and civically engaged learners who value and embrace diverse cultures.

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