Foundation for Belmont Education
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FBE Impact Stories
Historical Figures Come to Life at Burbank Elementary

Have you ever wanted to chat with Amelia Earhart about her aviation exploits, quiz Ben Franklin and Steve Jobs on their many inventions, or ask Milton Hershey about his “sweet” life? Have you ever wondered about Dr. Suess’s first book or Mary Cassatt’s favorite painting, or wanted the opportunity to thank Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln or Jackie Robinson for all the work they did to help end discrimination in this country?

Thanks to a generous grant from the Foundation for Belmont Education, on Thursday, April 17th, parents and friends of 2nd graders at the Burbank School got that chance. As the culmination of an extensive unit dedicated to teaching children how to read non-fiction biographies and use them to conduct research, students embodied an historical figure. Parents and friends were invited to tour an interactive wax museum. By pressing a sticker on the “wax figure’s” hand, visitors made the character “come to life.” They were then treated to a speech summarizing the life and accomplishments of that individual.

Utilizing non-fiction texts in an innovative way, students not only gathered information, took notes, and wrote expository reports based on the biographies they read, but also brought this information to life. Donning elaborate costumes complete with period props, down to Neil Armstrong in a full space suit and Laura Ingalls Wilder in a prairie skirt with a Wisconsin lilt, children fully immersed themselves in this multi-dimensional learning experience. In collaboration with the Art department, children also learned about portrait drawing and created realistic images of their historical figure.

"This unit is innovative, interdisciplinary and exemplifies project-based learning at its best. The kids were having so much fun I don’t think they even realized how much they were learning,” said 2nd grade teacher Karen Curran. One parent commented, “My daughter has been talking about this project for weeks. The Wax Museum has been on our calendar and we have been counting down the days – it’s like Christmas!”

The Trial of Anthony Burns Comes to Chenery

On April 3rd 2013, 8th graders had the chance to witness, first hand, the trial of Anthony Burns first. Thanks, in part, to a grant from the Foundation for Belmont Education, students watched as Theatre Espresso, an acting troupe out of the Wheelock Family Theater, dramatized this critical case.

The 1854 trial of Anthony Burns, one of the first tests of the Fugitive Slave Law, brought the question of slavery into the heart of Boston. It codified the abolitionist movement and brought to the forefront questions of law and morality. Despite support by many prominent Bostonians, Burns was returned to his Southern master by the ruling of Judge Edward Loring.

After the enactment, students became participants in the simulation. Playing Massachusetts State Senators, they were invited to question witnesses, debate the issues and decide if Loring’s actions during the trial were just. Students explored the role of law and government and their intersection with human morality in this exciting, hands-on learning experience.

Make your Mark, Get Set, Create with Peter Reynolds (Burbank)

"Be brave, be creative, never stop drawing, and use your talents to make the world a better place," declared Peter H. Reynolds to the more than 450 students, community members, and staff at Burbank Elementary School on November 1st. Spearheaded by Burbank art teacher, Nicole Pond, and funded through a generous grant from the Foundation for Belmont Education, students were treated to a hands-on glimpse into the creative process of renowned local author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds is the creator of such works as ish and the dot and illustrator of the well-known Judy Moody series.

Starting with a school-wide assembly, Peter H. Reynolds encouraged children to draw their own "map" of creativity. Reynolds shared his thoughts that creativity comes in many forms, be it a stray mark on a piece of paper or a random thought that occurs while riding on a bus. Students were inspired to be brave and unafraid of making mistakes. Mr. Reynolds cited his own success with his book the dot which began as a sleep-induced doodle, and became a wildly successful children's book.

Nicole Pond agrees, "Art education used to be very different when I was in school. Students were instructed to make their art mirror that of their teacher. My goal is to do the exact opposite- to guide our students to be innovative thinkers and to inspire creativity in my students. Peter is here to help me do just that."

Following the school-wide assembly, Peter H. Reynolds visited each of Burbank's classrooms and spent a few minutes chatting with students and signing books that were funded by the grant to become part of each classroom library. The instruction continued as Mr. Reynolds co-taught all of the 4th grade art classes. These classes, in the process of making hand sewn books of their own, discussed taking risks, learning through mistakes, and utilizing art as a means of inspiring others. Mr. Reynolds highlighted that the creative expression and problem solving necessary in art can also be applied to success in science, business, math, and many other non-academic pursuits.

Much time was spent reinforcing Reynolds' "just start," don't get stymied by the need to be perfect mantra. Burbank’s students ended the day with the knowledge that by being brave and practicing when it comes to art or any other interest they can produce an end-product that, although not always what it was first intended to be, can make an impact and inspire others.

Seeing Through New Eyes: A tribute to Paula Lerner (Belmont High School)

In the winter and spring of the 2012 - 2013 school year, the students in Belmont High School's Photography III Honors class undertook a group project to shoot in the style of the late Belmont photographer, Paula Lerner. Each student studied Ms. Lerner's photography through her publications and chose an aspect or aspects of her portfolio to explore and attempt to emulate. Each student wrote reflectively on Ms. Lerner's style and worked with her or his peers to evaluate the progress made from frame to frame and roll to roll. As they worked to understand another photographer's style, the students gained insight into the development of their own vision and voice. The images are the culmination of this exercise as well as the beginning of a tribute to its source - Paula Lerner.

This exhibition of student work, "Connections: A Tribute to Paula Lerner" is the result of the generosity of many parties. It began with the donation of a collection of camera and darkroom equipment to the Belmont High School photography program by Paula Lerner. Ms. Lerner, a Belmont resident, gave her equipment to the student photographers at Belmont High School shortly before she passed away, and in an attempt to both acknowledge and honor her generosity, Andrew Roy, one of the photography teachers at Belmont High School, wrote a grant proposal to the Foundation for Belmont Education to supplement the donated equipment as well as pay tribute to the life, work, and generosity of Paula Lerner. The Foundation for Belmont Education approved the grant and through their funding and support, the students created a new collective body of images inspired by Paula Lerner's photography and, in some cases, photographed with her equipment. The administration of Belmont High School further supported this endeavor and, finally, the Belmont Media Center has provided additional support through the promotion and hosting of this exhibition. Without the generosity and support of so many, the work you see today would not exist, but it all began with the selfless gift of Ms. Paula Lerner. It is in her memory and in tribute to her life that we present "Connections: A Tribute to Paula Lerner". Thank you for becoming part of this ongoing gift.

A grow-lab lighting system installed at the Winn Brook School

This grant provided the funds to purchase a grow-lab lighting system at the Winn Brook school to use with the grade 4 science unit on experiment with plants. As soon as the funds became available, the lighting system was purchased for Caitlin Elgert's classroom. It arrived in time for her to use the lights with her last rotation of students.

Caitlin was thrilled with the lights. They were more reliable than the system that she had before. They were easier to use to provide both a better lighting system and also a better watering system. She is delighted that these lights made maintaining the plants easier and watering them effortless.

She is confident that these lighting system will be used for many years to come by every grade 4 student at the Winn Brook School.


Standing Desks - Updated in October 2014

Archeological Excavation - Chenery Middle School Sixth Graders "Dig" into the Past

American Studies iPad Pilot - Belmont High School

Winn Brook School Watershed Turtles Project