DonorsChoose is a fantastic organization. Individual teachers submit proposals for things they'd like to do in their classroom, but can't afford to do. People can go to DonorsChoose, pick projects that they like, and donate money directly to those projects. You truly know where your money is going to go, and you can see what a big difference even a small donation can make.
Last year, we had a major Scienceblogs funding drive for DonorsChoose. Our readers - you - were absolutely fantastic. In just 15 days, we managed to raise more than 23,000 dollars - not counting the 10,000 dollars in matching funds that our benevolent overlords at Seed kicked in to sweeten the pot. Readers of this blog - and there weren't as many of you then - donated over $650, exceeding my goal for the drive. Today, we're launching another drive, and I hope you'll be every bit as generous this time as you were last year.
This year, I'm hoping that the readers of this blog will be kind enough to kick in $1588. That might seem like an odd number - it's definitely not a round number - there's a method to my madness. $1588 is the combined total that is needed to fully fund four projects that I know will really help make a difference in an area that could really, really use it.
The four schools are all located in The Bronx, and all four are within walking distance of where I grew up. All of the schools are in high poverty areas. 73% of students qualify for a free lunch (that's an annual pre-tax income of under $27,000 for a family of four) at one of these schools, and that's the one in the wealthiest area. At least 80% of students qualify at the other three. These children come from families who don't have much money, and go to schools that don't have much either. The buildings are often in incredibly poor shape. The classrooms have few of the resources that most of us take for granted. The kids do have at least one thing going for them, though. They've got teachers who care enough to go the extra mile, and aren't willing to let the lack of funds at their school stop them from trying to offer the best education that they can. Let's do what we can to make sure they get what they need. They certainly deserve no less.
Here are what the four teachers I picked are asking for:
I am asking for a set of science materials called "Simple Science Exploration Tubs". The set includes a tubs for magnets, insects, sounds, colors, mirrors, and water. Each tub contains materials and instructions for teaching these concepts. Children can practice simple investigations, collect and record information, make comparisons and predictions, and communicate their observations. These are all important skills that play a large role in life long learning.
A science journal is something every good scientist needs. My first graders are the most amazing students and one day they want to be amazing scientists, as well. But one thing they are lacking are science journals, something every successful scientist needs to have.
Unfortunately they do not attend a school in an affluent area, and as a result they do not get provided with some of the most basic things they need to learn and succeed. I, as their science teacher, would be more than thrilled to see them use journals that are age appropriate and user friendly, where they can draw experiments they observe and write their must-know science vocabulary words.
This summer I took a class at NYU about the Hudson River and I was so impressed by how much I could teach the students from the recources in my neighborhood. So I wanted to use the river as one of the motivational points of the year. Thats why the project is named a river that runs both ways. I want to be able to use the fact that the Hudson is partly salt and fresh water.
The biggest obstacle would be setting up these environments in the class room. I have been lucky enough to inherit some fish tanks, which can be very expensive. So now all I have to do is fill up the fish tanks, which is even more expensive. I have always managed to get fish for my other tanks but it always goes way above my budget and I and can't afford what I would really like.
When the students see life in front of there face they are forced to learn. I have never had a more stimulating experience for my students than live animals. I want to show my students fish having babies, tadpoles changing to frogs, animals that live in and out of water, plants growing, and I want them to write about these things as they grow as students.
Part of our mandated curriculum this year involves the study of ecosystems. I would like to provide a tangible example of ecosystems by use of aquariums in the classroom. My proposal includes a full river ecosystem kit (it contains plant life as well as fish and other types of organisms), a 10 gallon tank to accompany the ecosystem kit, also a smaller more "hands-on" aquarium with a built in viewer that displays saltwater fish in an "undersea encounter". I'm also requesting a smaller 2-gallon aquarium for viewing by smaller groups of students.
I think all of these projects are things that can be done, and that can make a huge difference in how these kids learn science. Whether they will be done or not is up to you. Please help.
This years challenge will run for the whole month of October. If you don't think that the projects I've chosen are the best use of your money, please consider giving to one of the other Scienceblogs challenges.