2020-21 Grant Announcements: Nearly $250,000 Invested in New Programs

2020-21 Grant Announcements: Nearly $250,000 Invested in New Programs

COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant

$55,000 investment

The BHS Innovation Fund is excited to award a special COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant to Brookline High School educators in Summer 2020. Reacting with urgency to the unprecedented change in the educational environment due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Innovation Fund recently spearheaded an effort to offer new grant funding, outside of our annual budget, for targeted faculty summer workshops. Funding these workshops will provide more than 30 educators from 7 departments the opportunity to collaborate simultaneously to address academic skill gaps, assess remote learning, share best practices and build community for students for the 2020-21 school year.


COVID-19 Response Planning Grants

$5,500 investment

The BHS Innovation Fund has offered short-term Planning Grants to faculty members who want to initiate innovative standalone projects or explore an opportunity to develop a full course proposal in the upcoming year. As part of our COVID-19 response, we are supporting the following faculty projects:

  • Special Education Department (Faculty — Alissa Parker and Alexa Bader): Special Education in a Virtual World
  • Special Education Department (Faculty — Andrea Lynch, Brendan McCarthy, and Jim Henry): Online Virtual Learning Planning Grant For Transition Curriculum Using Signal Success
  • Performing Arts Department/Music (Faculty — Carolyn Castellano): Alumni/Professional Zoom Workshops in the Field of Music
  • Visual Arts Department (Faculty — Elizabeth Brennan, Donna Sartanowicz, and Lisa Francescon): Online Atelier
  • BHS Library (Faculty — Ann Collins, Bridget Knightly, Shelley Mains, and Maura McGill): Cybrary: Building a More Digitally Dynamic Library
  • Special Education Department/School-wide (Faculty — Matthew DeGrace): Remote Learning Example Catalog

New Grant: Coding @ BHS

$150,0000 investment over two years

This new, interdepartmental grant is a collaborative effort from the departments of Math, Science and Career and Technical Education that will offer coding experiences to all BHS students by embedding computer science (coding) curriculum into general math and science courses at the high school so that every student will graduate with a basic understanding of how to code through hands-on coding practice. The Innovation Fund is excited to support this grant because exposing all BHS students to coding will:

  • Begin to prepare all students who wish to pursue career opportunities in the computer science field;
  • Provide all students with coding knowledge and problem solving experiences that are applicable to a wide variety of career paths; and
  • Address systemic inequities that create roadblocks for students of color and young women to enter computer science fields.

The timing of this school-wide initiative is aligned with the current construction of the new STEM wing at BHS. Part of the work that faculty will do, in examining the existing BHS curricula across departments, will also determine how coding fits in with other STEM courses and learning opportunities for all students. Faculty leads will be: Tyler Wooley-Brown (Science/Physics), Adam Fried (Math) and Christine Shen (Math).

An Update from the Chair of our Board of Directors, Ellen Rizika

An Update from the Chair of our Board of Directors, Ellen Rizika

Dear BHS Parents, Caregivers and Community Members,

Ellen Rizika, Chair of the Board of Directors, the BHS Innovation Fund

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. I am writing to provide an update on the BHS Innovation Fund and how we as an organization are working to support BHS leadership, faculty and students during this uncertain time. With the coronavirus pandemic, the last month has brought unprecedented change to our world, both globally and locally. All of us have been impacted in some way by this public health crisis, and many are experiencing challenges that we never thought we’d be facing.

As a parent of two high schoolers and a college student, and a daughter of aging parents, I imagine that I’m not alone in my efforts to keep everyone safe, happy and fed. Yet, in my role as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the BHS Innovation Fund, a nonprofit organization within the high school, I am buoyed by the momentum I see in the BHS community as we all navigate towards a “new normal” at the high school.

At the Innovation Fund, our 2019-2020 funded Program Faculty have also been hard at work adapting their curriculum goals and lessons for online learning:

Our Innovation Fellow, Roger Grande, continues to build a culture of climate sustainability at BHS, by promoting many Earth Day activities and lessons for the community via email and on his GraduateGreen webpage. In addition, Roger is offering timely activities focusing on “pathways out of a pandemic” through his Global Leadership class as well as interviews with leading speakers on important topics including:

  • a scientific understanding of the pandemic (Jonathan Lambert, Science News);
  • historical perspective (Dr. Johanna Daily, MD, MS, Infectious Disease Specialist);
  • taking action (Juliette Kayyem, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs for Homeland Security in the Obama Administration and Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security at the Harvard Kennedy School); and
  • building empathy for marginalized groups (Brooke Bischoff, JD, Attorney, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and Burt Pusch, Disability Rights Advocate).

In Experiential Physics for Ninth Grade, teachers are introducing new content on sources of energy around the world, combining the specific physics concepts already taught with a broader discussion of the environmental and health implications of different energy sources.

In Brookline Lens, students are researching COVID-19 PSA Campaigns and then they will write a compare and contrast analysis between two PSAs (print or video) they find online. They will also write and create their own COVID-19 campaign, which may be submitted for statewide competition.

In Hub, teachers connected to ninth grade students remotely to share ideas about how they could replicate some elements of their “circle” practices from Hub with their family members up-close or at-a-distance. These focused on mindfulness and breathing exercises and “rounds” of questions, discussions and personal reflections.

In keeping with our mission to foster a culture of academic innovation at BHS, we at the Innovation Fund are discussing how we can support both teachers and students to address the educational impact of COVID-19. We are asking,

  • “What does academic innovation look like in a new educational environment?”
  • “How can we best support BHS teachers with new funding opportunities for out-of-the-box ideas?”
  • “How can our work support BHS students as they adjust to new learning challenges?”
  • “What else might be on the horizon and how can we respond?”

I look forward to providing an update and sharing more information with you as we solidify our program plans.

Wishing you all good health at home,
Ellen Rizika, P ‘22
Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors

9th Grade Physics Reimagined: A Spotlight on Experiential Physics

9th Grade Physics Reimagined: A Spotlight on Experiential Physics

Jen Spencer with Physics Students​In the 2019-2020 school year, BHS launched Experiential Physics, a three-year pilot program to develop a new curriculum for 9th grade Physics, supported by a grant from the BHS Innovation Fund. The redesigned course develops scientific, engineering, and entrepreneurial skills and teaches students collaborative, real-world approaches to designing solutions to today’s scientific problems. We caught up with three physics teachers, Julia Mangan, Jennifer Spencer, and Stacy Kissel, who shared their views on the new Experiential Physics course curriculum and teaching approach. Their collective insights are captured in the Q&A below.

Q: Why was it important to redesign the physics curriculum?

State standards and practices now call for an increased focus on the skills students develop in 9th grade physics. As a result, we were inspired to reimagine learning in 9th grade physics to be more applicable to physics in the real world! Our approach has become less teacher-driven and more student-focused. We attended two intensive training seminars to learn more about the Modeling Approach to teaching physics and how to teach students to work together collaboratively, take risks, and communicate productively.

Students will participate in a variety of projects, activities and labs to give them a broad sense of what it means to “do” science—this emphasis was missing from our previous curriculum. We are developing the “story of physics” through multiple lenses including student learning through content, skills development, and the many different “hats” students wear throughout the year.

Q: What are some of the new ways you are covering physics material?

We wanted students to learn physics through doing and not just learning facts, placing greater value on the process of science. We’re spending more time teaching students more explicitly how to ask questions like scientists do and how to answer them right in the classroom. We’ve added more hands-on experiments in which students test hypotheses and carry out procedures, analysis of data, and online research.

We have created and piloted a new project across the 9th grade asking students to apply content learned in the waves unit (sound, light, etc.) to explain how organisms use waves to communicate and sense the world around them. Students can take a deeper dive into how the content connects to the real world, both with how human ears and eyes work as well as how other organisms have evolved different ways to use sound waves and light waves for sensing and communication.

We will also be doing a unit on nuclear physics at the end of the year. This is a topic we have not previously taught to freshmen.

Q: How does the new curriculum impact the experience of students?

The goals for student learning are to push beyond learning about science and to focus on learning how to do science. This involves many skills that scientists employ, such as learning how to ask good questions, using discussion skills to make good predictions, designing experiments that answer their questions, using research tools to see what other researchers have learned, and creating mathematical and computational models that describe the real world for the purpose of answering questions.

We’ve received informal feedback from students that they love learning this way! We are regularly hearing students refer back to the common experience of each unit as they make new connections that push their understanding deeper.

Our activities and projects are designed to better meet the needs of all students regardless of background knowledge. For example, students who typically aren’t engaged in the learning of science, but loved tinkering with circuits, spent time creating a complicated device that worked in unique and challenging ways.

Q: What have you learned in the first few months teaching the new curriculum?

It has been so exciting to have the time and opportunity to be creative in defining this shift in science instruction!

We’re still trying to cover the same breadth of physics material but deeper learning requires more time for students to both learn and practice the skills of a scientist. Students seem excited to apply their knowledge through in-depth projects (so far, building a complex working circuit and researching an organism’s ability to create and use sound/light waves).

Rolling out a new curriculum has pushed us to collaborate more closely across our 9th grade physics teachers to create a more consistent experience for students. We’re creating a central place and strategy for documenting the what, the how, and the collective wisdom of the physics department. We have managed to capture most of what teachers are doing in their classrooms and, in year 2, we will evaluate and refine this documentation.

Q: How will the BHS expansion with updated classrooms and the new STEM wing support this course?

The new classrooms will be larger and more effectively designed than the previous ones at BHS. Desk seating will be in the middle of the room and tall lab tables will be located around the perimeter. Separate instruction and lab work areas will allow students to set up and leave long-term experiments, or exploratory stations, out and accessible in the classroom for longer periods of time. This will provide students with more opportunities to explore something in the beginning at the surface level, and then go back to it throughout the unit as they learn more and are able to ask deeper questions.



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  • 115 Greenough St Brookline, MA 02445