A Special Grant Announcement for Brookline High School

A Special Grant Announcement for Brookline High School

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. For the first time ever, all five core academic department chairs came together and proposed a unified effort to solve the school-wide challenges ahead. During a three-week period this summer, approximately 30 BHS educators from the Departments of English, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Language, as well as Special Education and Career and Technology Education, will collaborate simultaneously to address academic skill gaps, assess remote learning, share best practices and build community for students. Teachers, department chairs and school administrators will prepare for the 2020-21 school year by developing a cohesive vision, a workable strategy and a functional implementation plan, ensuring that the educational experience at BHS remains as strong and supportive as ever.

The BHS Innovation Fund is constantly evolving and responding to the academic needs identified by BHS teachers across departments, supporting teacher-driven curricular initiatives at Brookline High School for over twenty years. Funded program areas include: new and interdisciplinary courses, academic scaffolding, school-wide connections and faculty inspiration. With the COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant, the Innovation Fund further accelerates academic innovation by providing necessary resources to educators who have identified urgent needs for out-of-the box thinking and planning. At the summer workshops, educators will:

  • Capture best practices at BHS and beyond in response to the school closures and resulting remote teaching and learning;
  • Research strategies for improved remote teaching experiences from peer institutions at the state and national level;
  • Examine the BHS curriculum through the lens of synchronous and asynchronous education;
  • Create a “Welcome Back to School” plan for September that will build a strong sense of community and establish routines and opportunities to connect with students; and
  • Build a variety of diagnostic approaches to assess the needs of incoming students, from content understanding to learning styles and support needs.

Founded in 1998, the BHS Innovation Fund is a community-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is unique for a public high school because it offers grant funding to faculty and administrators for initiatives that aren’t covered in the current curriculum and budget. Learn more about the 30+ innovative, interdisciplinary and forward-thinking programs the BHS Innovation Fund has supported, thanks to the generosity of the Brookline community, parents, alumni and education advocates, at www.bhsinnovationfund.org. For more information, please contact bhsinnovationfund@psbma.org.

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

Meet Roger Grande, Innovation Fellow

Meet Roger Grande, Innovation Fellow

Roger Grande PresentingMeet Roger Grande, the BHS Innovation Fund 2019-2020 Innovation Fellow who is taking on climate change at BHS:

Roger Grande has been teaching social studies for 20 years at BHS and was named the BHS Innovation Fund Innovation Fellow for 2019-2020. The Innovation Fellow is a BHS faculty member serving as a catalyst for innovation in the BHS community, sparking interdisciplinary collaboration within the school, and supporting innovative projects at BHS. In this role, Roger will focus on building a learning culture of climate sustainability at BHS. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and will impact every BHS student. As such, BHS seeks to develop a culture of learning and sustainability among all students to give them the leadership skills and tools needed to tackle issues related to climate change at BHS and beyond. Roger answers five key questions about his plans to engage the BHS community in issues of climate sustainability.

How will you build a learning culture of climate sustainability at BHS and why is it important?
My goal is to make climate change a school-wide mission at BHS, one that will produce many tangible benefits that the community will see and feel over time. Making sustainability part of our classroom and school culture makes for great education and addresses some of the things we all aspire to: building a common purpose, social solidarity, empowering students to lead and innovate, ownership over learning to address challenges, examining our impact, systems thinking, addressing equity and more.

We have a long way to go to build a true sustainability culture at BHS but I’m excited about the opportunities ahead. I have been meeting with multiple stakeholders at BHS and in the town of Brookline, including town officials, school employees, members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, advocates and even people from other districts to better understand the challenges to improved recycling and composting and reduction of waste, and ultimately methane production. I see a number of exciting areas where we can make an impact. Currently, I’m working with students to design lessons that will be taught in Advisory with the goal of creating a learning sequence for the whole year that will train and teach students about improving waste practices. I will also launch a paper challenge and a water bottle challenge to reduce waste—the money from the bottle challenge will be used to support the Brookline-Nicaragua Sister City project to support their water treatment initiative. My aim is to expose students in as many areas as possible across the school and cultivate a sense of importance, stewardship and common mission.

What are the key challenges/obstacles that you see in addressing climate change?
Until now climate change has been covered in only a handful of science class lessons. We haven’t had the systems, synergies and support in place to develop robust curriculum and integrated learning experiences to better educate our students. My goal is to develop authentic, school-wide educational initiatives that support and engage BHS staff and students and create hands-on learning experiences. I see opportunities to provide support and leadership to teachers to help them begin finding connections between what they are already doing and sustainability education. I also see opportunities to integrate waste collection, cafeteria, restaurant and school store into sustainability learning opportunities.

How will you work with BHS faculty and students to make sustainability part of the classroom and school culture to affect change?
I plan to work with the BHS faculty and students to integrate sustainability in many different ways. I’ve been working closely with BHS teachers and students on sustainability initiatives and curriculum development including developing a Concept Curriculum Map. Soon I will engage staff, students and community members in focus groups to gather input, develop additional ideas, and build a vision for BHS as a sustainable institution. I will also meet with food services, along with Food Justice students, to brainstorm ways we can reduce waste and emissions generated by supplies, menus and other practices. Additionally, Brookline Schools will soon have access to a freight farm, and I will work with the company to develop internship opportunities, curriculum and hopefully a summer program for Steps to Success students. Stay tuned for more details and opportunities for involvement.

What do you hope to achieve? What does success look like?
My aim is to make sustainability part of our common culture and expectations: common norms and practices in the cafeteria regarding waste; more teachers who are explicit about using less paper and reusing supplies; and, more sustainable practices in terms of the food and food service in the cafeteria and restaurant. My goal is to have at least two teachers in every department modify, amend or add to their curriculum so that sustainability is embedded into lessons and classroom practices. I also hope to create more opportunities for student leadership such as “compost captains” in the cafeteria.

What does the opportunity to be an Innovation Fellow mean to you and how has it influenced you as a teacher at BHS?
The short answer is much more than I had imagined. In fewer than two months, I have learned a lot, have connected with many people I would not have otherwise, and have begun to build excitement across the school. I have deepened, energized and accelerated my thinking and excitement, and have begun to think about how to continue to lead this essential work beyond this year.

Q&A: Drawing for Understanding in Field Science

Q&A: Drawing for Understanding in Field Science

BHS Visual Arts teacher Donna Sartanowicz describes the evolution of the Innovation Fund Class, “Drawing for Understanding in Field Science.”

Drawing for Understanding in Field Science at the Arboretum 01 - © Sander SorokHow did you come up with the idea for the course?
It came from a workshop that Jill Sifantus, a since retired biology teacher at BHS, and I attended at Harvard University. The workshop focused on the very close relationship between art and science at the advent of serious scientific study of the natural world. Drawing was a routine part of studying the natural world for communicating ideas and discoveries.

What was the goal?
From our different vantage points — Jill, in the science department and I in visual arts — both came away thinking that this very old school idea would be a great new way to engage students in learning both subjects. Students learn in different ways and drawing is another system — just like language or mathematics — that they can use to learn information and express understanding.

Can you describe the Innovation Fund’s role in developing and expanding the course?
We were fortunate to have this idea while teaching at Brookline High School because of The Innovation Fund, which allowed us to put our idea into practice. The Fund’s review board was instrumental in helping us to hone our idea and think through all the possibilities. The grant money allowed us to teach and learn collaboratively for three years and this was some of the best professional development I have ever experienced. Working with Jill to integrate science teaching into the way I teach art enabled me to confidently teach this course on my own once the grant period was over.

This partnership opportunity resulted in a course so unique to our school that teachers from other schools have asked to visit and learn about this program, so they might propose something similar for their students. The ripple effects of the Fund’s generosity in supporting innovative educational ideas is spreading even beyond the walls of Brookline High School.

Drawing for Understanding in Field Science at the Arboretum 16 - © Sander SorokWhat happened after the three-year funding period ended?

After the funding period was over, the school picked up the class but did not keep it as a co-taught class. Since Jill was much closer to retirement than I was, it seemed better for me to continue the class solo. Although the three years of the grant were like “biology boot camp” for me (I hadn’t taken bio since high school) I decided that to keep up the rigor of the science end of the class, I would invite scientists into my classroom.

I had taken a project-based learning workshop a few years ago that stressed real-world questions and connecting with the professional community for launching, guiding, and giving feedback to students. In that first year after the grant, I did a lot of work setting up partnerships with institutions like the Arnold Arboretum, the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and graduate programs at Boston University, Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University and Tufts University.

Drawing for Understanding in Field Science at the Arboretum 11 - © Sander SorokHow has the partnership with community organizations benefited the course?
The institutions allow my students to have experiences with the natural world and to hear about people working in the field as naturalists, curators, educators, illustrators, and researchers. Though the universities I have connected with graduate researchers who present their research and talk to my students about what it is like to study and travel the world as part of their research. So much of what students learn about in regular science classes is second-hand information from books. Having the researchers come in helps students to understand that science is not a fixed set of information — that there is still more to be investigated and understood and that they could be a part of that.

In its sixth year, the class seems to have a great reputation. What’s happening now?
I have presented this course as a visiting speaker in the art education department at Boston University last year and will do so again this year. I have also presented this work, for the second time, at the National Art Education Association Conference this year. I continue to meet individually and informally with both art and science teachers from other schools/districts wanting to start a similar course.

Many in the education field talk about interdisciplinary and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art, and math] classes but few receive the kind of support we got from the Innovation Fund to make it happen. The impact on students has been tremendous, as evidenced by the continued popularity of the course and students recommending it to other students.

Interview by Jennifer B. Wells

Genesis of the Fund

First, came a tragedy. In 1980, Andrew Warren Lurie, a Brookline High School graduate in his freshman year at the University of Chicago, died of an infection at school.

Years later, his parents, Bob and Syrul Lurie, came to Bob Weintraub, the headmaster of the high school, and explained that they wanted to create a memorial space at the high school in Andrew’s honor. They offered to pay to construct and furnish a beautiful library — named for Andrew — in School Within a School (SWS), which Andrew had attended.

The question was: could a public school use private money to do this kind of project? The Luries and Weintraub cited endowments for public colleges and universities as examples of spending private money for public institutions. The superintendent of schools, James Walsh, and the school committee supported the idea.

The Andrew Lurie Library exists to this day. And the project had an added effect: it sparked an idea. Weintraub recalls Andrew’s father, the late Bob Lurie, saying, “You know, if we can raise money for a room, we can probably raise private money for other stuff you need, Bob.”

A team from BHS visited the Boston Latin School and spoke with the headmaster, Mike Contompasis, and the school’s very sophisticated development team. Boston Latin actively solicited and cultivated their alumni — which included some very prominent and generous folks — and had built a multi-million dollar endowment. The Brookline team left Boston Latin saying, “We can do this.”

As this idea was germinating, two renowned senior teachers at the high school – Margaret Metzger and Gayle Davis — approached Weintraub to tell him that they were nearing retirement, and felt a need to create ways for seasoned staff to ease the entry for newcomers. Long story short, the plan for “Teachers Mentoring Teachers” was born. The teachers would be released from one of their classes so they could devote time to developing and running it, and their professional lives would be enriched. It wouldn’t be very expensive. Weintraub figured it would cost around $25,000. But that was money he didn’t have.

So he spoke with Bob Lurie and another prominent BHS grad and Brookline citizen, Arthur Segel, and a team began to coalesce around a goal — starting a private, non-profit foundation to support innovation at the high school. The Brookline Education Foundation already existed and was widely beloved for the awards and recognition it gave teachers — but its grants tended to be small.

“This was a very different idea,” Weintraub says. “This was to do big stuff, in the spirit of Brookline’s innovative history.”

“Local Solutions to National Education Challenges” became the mantra that defined the project. Brookline High would address important educational problems and develop compelling programs that, if validated, could be disseminated nationally. “Through this foundation, we can improve public education and simultaneously polish the mystique of Brookline High,” Weintraub argued.

After copious work by Lurie, Segel, and others, the Brookline High 21st Century Fund was launched with a gala in December 1998 at the home of a team member. The launch featured a star-studded list of speakers who graduated from Brookline High, including Mike Wallace, Mike Dukakis, Conan O’Brien, and Bob Kraft. More than 50 donors attended and kicked in $10,000 each. With $550,000 in hand, the “BHS 21st Century Fund” was born.

The Fund didn’t have much structure at the beginning, Weintraub says; it tended to generate ideas informally, focusing on problems and how to solve them. Teachers Mentoring Teachers was the first program and proof of concept. It was evaluated and validated, research conducted on the program was published in prominent national educational journals, and the program leaders — Margaret Metzger and Gayle Davis — presented to school systems across the country. Both Metzger and Davis acknowledged that their engagement with the program prolonged their careers at Brookline High by many years.

The Fund — now known as The BHS Innovation Fund — is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It has created 15 programs, including the nationally significant African-American and Latino Scholars Program, the Social Justice Leadership Program, and BHS Tutorial.

The Tutorial Program, which has also received national recognition, began with a research project. Weintraub saw that the only academic support/tutoring available at The High School was through the special education program. The “experiment” removed 40 students — the experimental group — from the special education Learning Centers and placed them with regular classroom teachers for tutoring. Forty other students — the control group — with similar academic profiles remained in the Learning Centers. The format for the services was the same — five students met with a tutor every day for one class period. Data was gathered over two years.

The results demonstrated that for students with mild learning issues, tutoring with regular classroom teachers — math, social studies, world languages, and science — was more successful in terms of academic data. Students in The Tutorial Program also reported feeling better about going into a mainstream classroom than a special education classroom.

For teachers, the program provided some professional variation, working with a small group of students in a different way, once a day. And for parents, it offered tutoring that they could not afford otherwise. Good for students; good for teachers; and good for parents.

In 2017, the Fund’s name was changed to the Brookline High School Innovation Fund, to more accurately reflect its mission. As it celebrates its 20-year anniversary, this mission continues to be not only relevant, but also paramount in supporting Brookline High School students as they enter today’s world.

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