NEF Awards $66,000 in School Grants

NEF awarded $66,000 in funds to 16 grant recipients during a special ceremony held at the Northborough Free Library on Sept. 24, 2018.

Superintendent of Schools Gregory Martineau attended the ceremony, along with representatives from each school and the Northborough Free Library.

NEF Grant Committee Chair, Kim Haven 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, her continuous support and for being the 2019 NEF Platinum Sponsor.

Fundraisers in 2018-19 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 Taking a Team Approach. We asked applicants to think about ideas that would encourage teamwork amongst students, departments and schools and many of the following grants touched on that theme. This year’s awarded grants are as follows:

Melican has HeART: Building a Stronger School Community Through the Arts (Melican Elementary School): The goal of the Melican Has HeART project is to deliver meaningful Social Emotional Learning content and experiences to the Melican community (staff and students) through the arts, using various media– including drawing, painting, photography, video production, drama, music, and dance/movement. Students with strong social-emotional skills are not only equipped to be better learners, but they are also better friends, classmates, and members of the community. When Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is integrated into school lessons, everyone benefits. This grant supports the belief that we are all artists and hopes to use the arts to build a more connected community at Melican.

Think Tank (Algonquin Regional High School): Algonquin Regional High School has begun the process of turning one of its standard business classrooms into a “Think Tank”. This grant will provide 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. The rolling school tables encourage easy shifts between lecture, discussion, and project work and allow freedom of movement for the instructor, enabling frequent interactions and ongoing assessment, thus creating an innovative workspace for both faculty and students.

Vertical Playpen (Zeh Elementary School): Zeh School is fortunate to be one of the only elementary schools in the state to have a high element challenge course. The vertical playpen will be the first new high element added to this challenging course since 2013 and will replace an older climb, to create new challenges and excitement for all Zeh students for many years.

Mindful Movement (Peaslee Elementary School): The Mindful Movement grant supports Peaslee’s overarching theme this school year of “Be in the Moment”, and is designed to provide staff with techniques that engage students and support parents, teachers, school counselors, and administrators. The primary goal is to help transform the education of our young children by teaching them how to slow down and tune into their inner landscapes—their thoughts, triggers, and emotions—so they can more clearly reflect upon what is really going on in their outer landscape and learn to act more reflectively. The integrative activities are designed primarily to heighten the senses of the students, teachers, and parents and their peers that surround them so they can become more aware of their environment and make better choices in their behavior. These behaviors are further reinforced through the school’s initiatives and the parent’s initiatives with assistance and curriculum design of MassMeditation©.

Student Motivation, Engagement & Achievement in Reading (Melican Middle School): Middle schoolers who learn to enjoy reading independently show success in all academic areas. Oftentimes, middle schoolers choose books that are either too easy or too difficult and then get turned off from the experience. Providing students with a wide range of engaging texts at their independent reading level makes reading both pleasurable and beneficial to improving literacy skills. This grant will provide students with engaging and level-appropriate texts. Additionally, it will provide an intervention tool for students not yet reading proficiently at grade level.

Access Through Technology (Proctor Elementary School): This grant supplies The Learning Center at Proctor School with large screen Chromebooks equipped with headsets with microphones in order to provide students with significant learning challenges better access to the curriculum. For students with significant fine motor and tracking difficulties, the larger screens and keyboards are better suited for reading and developing keyboarding proficiency. The headsets with microphones are much better at accurately recording the students’ speech, so they reduce the amount of revising needed when working on lengthy written assignments. These Chromebooks and accessories will be an effective and impactful addition for the groups of kids who receive support in the Learning Center.

Building a Tiered Approach to Support Social/Emotional Needs (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): The Northborough elementary schools are building a tiered approach to support students’ social/emotional needs. This multi-faceted professional development project, designed with consulting psychologist Dr. Craig Murphy, will contribute to teachers’ capacity for supporting all children who would benefit from classroom strategies designed to build social skills, resilience, and self-regulation strategies and to alleviate anxiety and other social/emotional challenges.

Full Steam Ahead – All Aboard! (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): This grant provides the four Northborough elementary schools with more opportunities for experiential learning in the STEAM curriculum. STEAM (which stands for Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) is a curriculum driven by problem-solving, exploration, and discovery while incorporating technology and engineering into teaching and learning. This funding will provide DashBots, Makey Makeys, Bee-Bots, and related accessories to all elementary schools in an effort to support the District’s vision to “promote high expectations and excellence for all in a dynamic learning environment that inspires opportunities for thinking critically, solving problems, and engaging intellectual curiosity” and to “integrate relevant technology and foster innovation to set the stage for success in a global society.”

Bibliotherapy in a Bag (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): Bibliotherapy is defined as “the use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems.” The librarians at the four Northborough elementary schools are working together to create small collections of picture books (fiction and nonfiction) that can be used to support and enhance the valuable work going on in all of our buildings in the area of social-emotional learning. These book sets will be organized by theme, circulated in tote bags, and available to be borrowed by teachers and families.

Northborough Children’s Book Award (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. 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 Sensory Path (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): The Public Schools of Northborough are committed to the growth of the whole child, including our students’ social/emotional learning and self-regulation. The Sensory Path is a graphic movement path on the floor that students can move through during the school day to improve self-regulation and attention. For a student to be adequately ready to access the curriculum they need to have a calm body and be in an available state for learning. When students are able to maintain an optimal state of attention their access to the curriculum is enhanced. Having an easily accessible and fun strategy for movement in The Sensory Path will allow elementary school students to naturally improve self-regulation throughout the school day.

Let’s Read Together (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): This grant gives K-3 students an opportunity to read aloud with a parent while learning about a new topic or enjoying a humorous fiction story. These books are specially formatted for a parent and child to take turns reading alternate pages aloud. The parent’s pages feature higher-level text, while the child’s pages feature text that matches the child’s reading level. Each school will have a supply of these books to lend to families to help encourage meaningful reading experiences at home between parents and children.

Straight From the Source (Peaslee Elementary School): This grant will provide the district with valuable professional development relating to the use of primary sources in the classrooms. The training is run by Primary Sources, a highly regarded non-profit organization dedicated to global and cultural learning. Its goal is to help teachers become familiar with how to integrate “primary source” resources into the new Social standards and the English Language Arts standards. The workshop involves looking at how the topical materials are constructed and what they include, and discusses how they might fit within or relate to the curriculum teachers are using now.

Understanding Differences / Disability Awareness (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, Lincoln Street Elementary Schools, and Melican Middle School): Northborough Southborough Special Education Parent Advisory Council (NSPAC) in conjunction with the K-8 school libraries will update and enhance the current collection of books about specific disabilities or with strong characters who have specific disabilities. Disability awareness literature gives students the opportunity to become connected as they learn to address their curiosity about disabilities; grow in understanding, respect and empathy of the struggles of a disabled classmate, sibling or community member; and celebrate differences and strengths in themselves and others. Resources, such as books, promote conversation and discussion–both of which are needed as students continue to learn how to interact, to live and to work with one another no matter the differences.

The Play’s the Thing (Zeh, Peaslee, Proctor, and Lincoln Street Elementary Schools): At the Northborough elementary schools, instruction in drama and public performance is quickly becoming a popular and well-received program. These programs are led primarily by the music teachers and librarians in the schools, and they are memorable and rewarding experiences for students and staff alike. This grant will provide curricular materials (such as scripts, downloadable music, lesson plans, and activity books), a collection of props, lighting equipment, and sound equipment (including wireless headsets and a stage snake)– all to help these programs continue to grow and thrive.

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