HEF Disburses Educational Excitement

From 2018-2019, the Holliston Education Foundation (HEF) disbursed $50,000 in grants to Holliston Public Schools and teacher-applicants.  Thanks to a generous donation from the Middlesex Savings Bank, some fortunate and talented teachers realized their dreams.

The members of the HEF decided to split the total $50,000 donation 5 ways, dispersing $10,000 to each Holliston Public School and a separate $10,000 to the District.  

According to Heidi Gibson, Treasurer of HEF, “Before asking for “Innovations in Education” proposals from the faculty, HEF awarded $10,000 to the District [Holliston Public Schools] to fund teacher training at a “Summer Institute” on project-based learning conducted by the Buck Institute for Education in 2018. 

By combining our grant with the School District, we were able to train 60 teachers in innovative teaching techniques to promote independent learning and hands-on activities in the classroom.  Trainers from the Buck Institute have returned to Holliston during the school year to continue the training with the teachers.” 

Working within the overarching theme of “Innovation in Education,” teachers articulated their creative ideas on applications, received by enthusiastic members of the HEF.  Grant recipients began their work almost immediately, attending training, writing curriculum, and ordering materials.  The following is a brief description of each resulting “Innovation in Education” project.


The Placentino Library Media Center and Makerspace received a Premethean interactive display board.  Specific training of staff was also made available through the grant. 

Winnie Carey, Technology Integration Specialist at Placentino, gave an impressively facile demonstration of the board’s capabilities.

Student schedules cycle them through the library one week a month.  In February, the PlacenTinkers’ Makerspace  (see also website:  Placentino Website) focused on Pollination with support from the new Promethean board.   Students can actually manipulate their iPads so as to “see” themselves inside the body of a bee, flying through the air, extracting nectar from a blossom, and so much more.

With an assist from student Liliana Canto, Carey showed the effectiveness of working not only with the display, but also the interconnectedness of using iPads, thanks to Bluetooth interconnectivity and access to web links.


Much to the fascination of visitors Heidi Gibson, Courtney Canto, and Aaron Snyder, members of HEF, Liliana was completely at ease and skilled with the Promethean board that was easily adjusted for the height of little hands. 

Children (and especially librarians, as evidenced by librarian Lynda Canal‘s enthusiastic demonstration) enjoy applications that work with the Promethean board such as “Novel Effect,” an app that aids read-alouds by accompanying the instructor’s voice with music, sound effects, and voices coordinated electronically to the reader’s voice.  “Go Noodle” is another app that encourages interactive dance and movement. 

One thing was clear, as Principal Jaime Slaney said, “Every child benefits from this award.”


Martha Stering, Allison Curley, Michelle Hastings, and Wendy Krauss received a HEF grant and went to town transforming the hallways and classrooms and student mindsets at Miller School.  The quartet received training and purchased learning materials that have excited the student body and brought significant innovations to their work.

Michelle Hastings, Allison Curley, and Wendy Krauss show off the “Mindfulness Message” mural.

A giant hallway keyboard that corresponds to the Chromebook keyboard was one of the projects made possible through the use of a Cricut machine.  Aiding students in learning their keyboard, a letter on the mural can be “high-fived” by students to show knowledge of letter placement. 

An enthusiastic Miller student “high-fives” the letter “e” on the keyboard mural.

Other products from the Cricut (with some clever graphic design from Ms Stering) include the “Steps to Learn Multiplication,” “Mindfulness Messages,” and a “Walk of Seasons.” My particular favorite is the Multiplication Steps; I could still use some practice ascending the stairs to learn the multiples of 8!

These and other planned hallway murals reinforce student learning with posted suggestions for a variety of activities for their use.  Coming soon is a “Sensory Hallway” that encouraging kinesthetic learning, matching movement to visuals. 

Michelle Hastings explains “Miller Makes and Innovates” projects to Heidi Gibson, HEF Treasurer.

In the student computer room, Grade 5 students create projects for their “Miller Makes and Innovates” class.  Each project requires empathy for another.  They must build/create something not requiring fundraising.  They explore their ideas, research on their own, create a digital portfolio of their process, and even develop a Google website.  For example, a student is learning to knit by watching YouTube videos, and ultimately producing a piece that will go to homeless shelters.

Other materials supported by the HEF grant include Bloxels, a type of building block that aids the student in developing video games that then become “live” on an iPad. 

Curley and Hastings attended a Project Based Learning workshop at Buck Institute that helped them to frame all of these ideas (with so many more planned).  For a layman’s definition of the educational term “Project Based Learning”–referred to by those in the know as “PBL”—it’s simply an approach to teaching whereby students learn by exploring real world and personally meaningful projects. 


 A visit to the library of Adams Middle School is perhaps not what you expect.  Yes, there are books within, but would you believe a “Chill Zone,” a Studio 323, a “pizza” table, and large wall monitor? 

Technology Integration Specialists Matt Cotter (left) and Tina Curtis (middle) together with Librarian Kelly McDaniel (right) welcome kids, teachers and entire classrooms to the library for innumerable purposes and activities.  Thanks to new furniture, electronics, green screens (2) and light-reflecting umbrellas, weather forecasts are now delivered from Studio 323—sometimes even in a language other than English!

In this space video editing can be performed, podcasts created, and interviews conducted.  Specialty equipment is available to students, faculty, and administrators.  In a designated Chromebook area, teachers and students can access the large monitor—or it can be used for a larger group presentation.

Want to hear a sample?  Here’s a podcast on mindfulness by David Jordan, Principal and Gretchen Powers, Adjustment Counselor:  Mindfulness Podcast

A modern lounge area has been created featuring contemporary furniture and access to games, noise canceling headphones, CD’s and DVD.  This “Chill Zone” helps students (and sometimes faculty, too) to de-stress. At times it becomes an alternative to the cafeteria! Or a comfy place to “flop” and read a book.

Planning to deliver some instruction in this space?  The “pizza” table, an assemblage of several wedge-shaped/white board topped tables may be just what is needed. 


Becky McLean and Sarah Kuhne discuss their work, enabled by the HEF grant.

Sarah Kuhne and Becky McLean, Holliston High English teachers, received a grant from the HEF that made possible the creation of technology-dependent curriculum for a new Fall 2019 class “Audio Storytelling and Podcasting.” 

Through the use of new iPads, software, and microphones, students in grades 9-12 created documentary-style narrative podcasts that required a variety of criteria, including research, speaking to an expert in the designated field, and several other “people skills.”   

The new elective class was open to students in grades 9 through 12, at two levels of credit.  Students were required to record, edit, add music, but to focus on the narrative line of a story.  Classes listened to model podcasts to better understand the possibilities for their assignment. 

Future plans include using podcasting project in “Probability and Statistics,” and two more new English electives,  “True Crime Narratives,” and “Voices of Holliston.”  Both Kuhne and McLean are constantly thinking of new opportunities into which they can incorporate the innovations of the podcast.

A sample of one such student podcast (audio only) is available here:  Mama Mia Podcast


According to their website, the Holliston Education Foundation is “a catalyst for creativity, excellence, and innovation in education.”  To find out how you can support the HEF, or to apply for a 2020 grant, please visit their website:   HEF website

Applications for the 2020 Holliston Education Foundation grants are now being accepted.

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Yvette Cain