NEF Awards $35,000 in grants for the Northborough Schools

NEF awarded $35,000 in funds to 15 grant recipients in September of 2023.

Fundraisers in 2022-23 included the Applefest Gala, Holiday Warm Wishes, Gala Jr., Team Trivia Night, and Golden Apple Teacher Appreciation Gifts. Proceeds from these events enabled NEF to fully or partially approve funding for the grants submitted this year. NEF funds two cornerstone grants each year which are the Northborough Children’s Book Awards (NCBA) and Read Across Northborough.

This year’s awarded grants are as follows:

All Access Pass – ARHS – Patricia Riley

To compete in the job market and be ready for their first job, students need the ability to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations.  Stukent’s All Access Pass to simternships offers simulated business internships that are updated annually, keeping the curriculum current with the latest industry trends in a rapidly evolving world and providing students with resume-worthy experiences.  Stukent’s hands-on simternships and activities help students practice their critical thinking skills, utilize newfound knowledge, and gain industry perspectives by mimicking real-world workspaces. In addition, they offer industry vetted certification exams, which, upon successful completion, grants students credentials that showcase their expertise to colleges and potential employers. By engaging in these simternships/simulations and achieving the certification, students not only enhance their knowledge but also demonstrate their proficiency and dedication to future educational institutions and employers. NEF is proud to sponsor a two-year subscription to this valuable program.

Book Club in a Bag – All Elementary Schools – Clare Kelsey

The “Book Club in a Bag” will provide sets of six current, popular, and grade level appropriate chapter books to be selected by our elementary school librarians for grades 3, 4, and 5. Each grade level will have two book club sets available to borrow per school. The book club bag will include six laminated paperback chapter books with a laminated page of suggested discussion questions and activities.The book club bags can be borrowed by students for use outside of school with friends and family as well as by teachers for use within the school day.  Book clubs are a fantastic way to foster a love of reading as well as build reading comprehension skills; and based on the many requests that have come in from students for multiple copies of library books to read with friends, these bags will be a popular library item. The book club bags will also be available via Interlibrary Loan throughout the Northborough Schools so students will have even more titles to choose from.

Easy English News for Multilingual Learners – Melican – Loni Sotir

Easy English News is a 12-page, 11 x 17-inch monthly newspaper written in simple English by expert ESL writers. It is aimed at intermediate English language learners ages 10 to adult; however, it is also an excellent resource for students in reading assistance programs, social studies programs, and citizenship programs. Each issue arrives by the first of the month and includes full color pages, a wide range of topics, and word help on the back page. A monthly Teacher’s Guide, reproducible quizzes, and audio recordings are also included. Having this subscription will provide our multilingual learners the opportunity to read high-interest text at their level. Through the use of these newspapers, students will be able to utilize the four domains of reading, writing, listening and speaking in class by reading articles that interest them, presenting information to their peers, and writing responses that relate to the stories in the papers. Topics of focus include current news, civics, events and holidays for the current month, readers’ true stories, preparation for citizenship exam, health and safety, and idioms. Easy English News is used and enjoyed in thousands of ESL classrooms across the U.S. and in several other countries and we are excited to bring it to Melican now too.

Interactive eBooks – All Elementary Schools – Clare Kelsey

Teachers and librarians at the elementary school level have recognized the need for interactive eBooks to support curriculum standards especially in social studies and science. Follett’s Lightbox interactive eBooks reach all learners through the use of features such as audio, video, vibrant user-friendly text features, maps, slideshows, and ready-made activities and quizzes.  With unlimited access within each school, teachers will be able to share these eBooks to students’ devices so that an entire class or grade level can be accessing the same eBook simultaneously. Teachers will also have the ability to project these eBooks on their interactive whiteboards for whole class instruction. This grant from NEF will provide one Follett Lightbox bundle per grade level for grades K – 2. Teachers will be surveyed to determine which topics they would most like to have for their grade level, choosing from such themes as: “Habitats”, “Meet the Planets”, “My First Look at Simple Machines”, “Symbols of America”, and “Continents”, just to name a few. Each bundle includes unlimited school user access to the eBooks as well as a hardcover print copy of each title for the school library.

It’s a Basic Need… Period – Melican & ARHS – Mary Ellen Duggan, Heather Allen, Erika Almquist, Courtney Lamb, Mary Rogers

Did you know that one out of five students in the United States does not have access to period products? Did you know that due to the unpredictability of menstruation, even menstruators who can afford products might find themselves without products when in need? Did you know that with billions of people globally being of menstruating age, period poverty is a far reaching issue and one that is just recently being recognized as a public health concern and an equity issue? Did you know that the I AM bill, introduced in 2019, hopes to put an end to period poverty and inequity by mandating that free menstrual products be available in restrooms in all grade 6-12 schools; and, although supported by the Ways and Means Committee, the I AM bill did not make it to a vote, so most likely it will need to go back to the Senate? Menstrual products are a necessity. Non-menstruating people go into a bathroom expecting their basic bodily needs will be met (toilet, toilet paper, soap, water, paper towels, etc.) – this is not the case for people who are menstruating. This grant will provide for the basic needs of all menstruators in our school community by having free period products in every female and non-gendered restroom at Algonquin Regional High School and Melican Middle School. The grant will provide for the dispensers and initial order of thousands of products, with the school budget absorbing the cost of refills in the future.

Level Up Learning Sphero Robots – Melican – Megan Puopolo

This grant provides fifteen Sphero robots and accompanying educational resources that will enhance students’ digital literacy, computer science skills, and understanding of content across all subject areas. Through hands-on learning experiences with the robots, students will develop a deeper understanding of coding, computational thinking, and technology in general while also developing essential 21st-century skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Sphero robots challenge students to tasks that may have seemed either too mundane or too difficult to understand through a textbook. Teachers and students in all content areas and of all different ability levels can use the activities provided on the Sphero website to widen their scope of experience, gain new competencies, build relationships, and assume new roles. Using tools like these, students can take risks and transfer skills across their academic experience, growing their will and skill as they navigate challenges presented through Sphero. Understanding the different needs of learners, Sphero is built to allow for the progression of cognitive skills. The robots can be programmed through drawing, block based-coding, or text based-coding, allowing beginners and advanced programmers to work together through activities or to create independently. Additionally, the Sphero app is available in multiple languages and offers other modifications to meet the needs of different learners, making this a wonderful addition to the Melican toolbox.

Melican World Language: 4 Mini Listening Labs – Melican – Hilary Novitski

This grant assists in the creation of World Language laboratories in the middle school. These labs offer students access to technology and materials that support language acquisition through listening. The laboratory will be equipped with headphones, speakers, language learning software, audio and video resources, and other materials that enhance language learning. The goal of the laboratory is to provide students with an engaging and safe space to practice listening and speaking in a second language and to support the development of vital listening skills in the target language. The laboratory will also provide opportunities for multilingual students to develop their language skills further and share their language skills with their peers. Through the funding of 100 headsets and four speakers, this grant will ensure that all of the World Language teachers have complete Listening Labs for use with their entire classes.

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.

Pathful Connect – ARHS – Lisa Connery

Career exploration is an important process that helps young people identify and learn more about potential career paths that align with their interests, skills, values, and goals. Hearing from career speakers can be incredibly valuable for high school students as they explore their interests and plan for their future. In the past, ARHS has arranged for members from the community to come into school to share their experience, answer questions, and generally excite and inform students about their industry, potentially inspiring students to consider that profession for themselves. Though the community has a wealth of individuals capable and willing to visit, the depth and breadth of industries we can expose students to is limited by our geography. Pathful Connect is a program that will help overcome those limitations and allow ARHS to provide a real world perspective into what it’s like to work in a wide variety of fields. Specifically, the platform offers tailored guidance and access to industry experts, including the opportunity for staff to access an expansive library of online discussions with 58,000+ professionals from just about any industry students and staff could imagine. Another benefit is that the platform arranges for 7-9 live online sessions each week featuring career professionals. For example, in a recent two-week, the platform is offering 18 virtual sessions, including:

“Digital Media Careers: Video Editing” with Paul Salazar, Digital Media Creator

“How Do I Become an Engineer? with Raheem Pree, Electrical Engineer

“Women in Aviation Panel” with Tasha Ray, RPA Pilot (US Air Force)

“Crash Site Reconstruction (Drones & GPS)” with Michael Benson, Oregon State Police

One of the most exciting features of Pathful Connect is the ability for staff to arrange online meetings between their classes and professionals eager to share their experiences. For example, a Chemistry teacher could ask for her class to meet with an Organic Chemist, or a Math teacher could ask to meet with a Civil Engineer who specializes in building bridges. Pathful Connect’s deep roster of industry professionals across all career clusters will enhance lessons of nearly any teacher seeking to infuse career exploration into the curriculum as well as offer guidance staff tools to expose students to countless paths that they never knew existed.

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 support this Cornerstone Grant each year.

Schacht School Loom / Collaborative Weaving Project – Peaslee – Tammy Money

According to Ms. Money, the one art project kids always find enjoyable is weaving. Weaving is a fun activity that not only allows children to use another form of creative expression but helps develop children’s eye-hand coordination, concentration, and problem-solving skills. This grant provides ten loom kits – each including two pick-up sticks, a weaving needle, and simple warping and weaving instructions. The collaborative weaving project will start with students learning about the history of weaving, the terminology used, and the process of weaving itself. Each class will then choose a design that they will work on as a group throughout the school year. Working through any problems they encounter as they weave, students will build an understanding of patterns and sequencing, essential skills for literacy and numeracy development. At the end of the school year, the final products will be displayed at the school or in other public locations and potentially even auctioned as a fundraiser.

SELF Help – Melican – Julie Morancy

Last year’s grant titled CounSELing in the Classroom helped fund the pilot of a class at Melican Middle School called SELF (Social Emotional Learning Foundations) for all sixth grade students. This class was so well-received by the students and school community that all three grades will now have a weekly SELF class in their schedule starting in the 2023-2024 school year! This new grant will support the expansion of this program by providing funds to prepare the SELF classroom to welcome hundreds of new students this year. Included in this will be additional desks and flexible seating options. Also, knowing that students often learn best when they are moving, interacting, and creating together, funds are provided for replenishments of supplies that are used in the much-loved hands-on activities this class offers. Some of these memorable activities include a snowman making contest that focused on mindful teamwork and group work, a “name that smell” activity that focused on mindful smelling, several mindful movement stations that helped students practice balance and coordination, and a popular scavenger hunt that focused on active seeing and following directions carefully.

Social Emotional and Mindfulness Books – Proctor – Kara Bayley

Over the 2022-2023 academic year, Proctor school focused on many mindfulness activities, including having an instructor come in to teach the children yoga – an opportunity provided by the “Building Healthy Minds and Bodies Through Yoga and Mindfulness” grant. The teachers and students have all enjoyed and benefited from this work and have noted a need for books to help reinforce this work. This grant will add 20-25 books to Proctor’s library collection relating to mindfulness, yoga, and social emotional learning. These will support the students’ continued growth in techniques that foster their wellbeing by facilitating continued learning of strategies to use when they are experiencing stressors or strong emotions.

The Puzzle Project – ARHS – Brittany Burns

This grant supports the creation of “puzzle stations” in ten classrooms at Algonquin. A puzzle station is an area in a classroom where students can work collaboratively on a large jigsaw puzzle in both formal and informal ways. Funds are provided for ten portable puzzle tables that will be set up in classrooms; the portable tables allow for more flexibility with space and permit teachers to share and set up multiple stations, if desired. Additionally, an initial set of 20 puzzles will start the “puzzle library”. There are many practical uses for puzzle stations in the classroom. In some cases, they are used as an extension activity for students who finish work early; in other cases puzzles serve as a stress-reducing activity. In both cases, puzzles provide a great alternative to phones and can help limit screen time when students finish work or need a break. This is especially important in teenagers, and providing them with a space to decompress without technology supports the district’s social-emotional learning goals. Studies have shown that jigsaw puzzles can help improve cognitive functioning including increasing short-term memory, improving visual-spatial reasoning, and building problem-solving skills. There are also mental health benefits to building jigsaw puzzles including relieving stress and boosting creativity for people of all ages. Additionally, puzzle stations can be used to help develop collaborative skills in a low-risk environment. Teachers can use a puzzle as a starting point for group work, allowing students to brainstorm and strategize before diving into an academic task; by working together on a puzzle, students can practice the important skills needed to be successful when working in a group on more demanding tasks.

The Walking Classroom – Melican – Gretchen Bean, Mary Ellen Duggan

This grant idea was sparked when, on a brisk January morning, a colleague saw one Ms. Bean and her class of seventh graders heading out the front door for a stroll around the building as they prepared their minds and bodies for learning. The “Walking Classroom” is a nonprofit program aimed at strengthening students’ physical, mental, and academic health by providing standards-aligned educational podcasts that they listen to while walking; in other words, they walk, listen, and learn. Each podcast begins with a brief health literacy message and includes a character value woven throughout the narrative. Podcast topics include English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and more. This innovative program prioritizes the social, emotional and physical well-being of students while actively engaging them in their learning experience. The students are learning academic content as they foster lifelong benefits of being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. The Walking Classroom appeals to many different types of learners and learning styles, allowing students to do their learning while moving. This grant provides one classroom set of  25 WalkKits; each set includes an audio device preloaded with 167 15- to 20-minute podcasts on science, social studies, and language arts topics as well as a lanyard, earbuds, battery and storage case. Additionally, disposable earphones will be made available so that all students can participate in this activity.

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