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DonorsChoose helps make teachers’ dreams come true

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 8:08 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district.

By Theresa Harrington

Ever wanted to help local schoolchildren, but didn’t know how?

DonorsChoose.Org takes the guesswork out of contributing to schools by giving teachers the opportunity to list projects they’d love to do in their classrooms, if only they had the money.

The website lets potential donors read about the school, class and project, then decide how much to contribute. It keeps track of how much has been collected and how much more is needed to make the teachers’ (and students’) dreams come true.

For example, Mrs. F. at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord is trying to raise about $186 to buy six videos for her class to help make history come alive for her students. She wants to purchase: “Inside 9/11,” “Schindler’s List,” “America: The Story of Us,” “Slavery and the Making of America,” “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad,” and “Murder in Mississippi.”

Here’s her project description:

“These videos will help to capture my students’ passion and curiosity about the topics we study. Coupled with our textbook and other primary and secondary texts, they will help build interest and understanding of U.S. History. And ultimately, they will be the jumping off point for further assignments incorporating writing and artwork about the topics.

My students rarely have the chance to travel to historical places or go to museums. Your help to provide these videos for my classroom will allow me to bring the world to them. In addition, these videos will be shared among several teachers to reach as many students as possible.”

So far, she has received about $60 from seven donors.

You can search the project database by state, county, district, city or school. In West Contra Costa County, Mrs. Q. at Riverside Elementary in San Pablo is hoping community members will donate a little more than $900 to purchase writing journals, puzzles and other hands-on activities to make learning fun for her students.

“By providing writing journals and mail boxes, students will be able to write in a variety of meaningful ways,” she wrote. “While using the phonemic awareness, sight words and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word games and puzzles, my students will be learning these important skills and concepts while working in small groups. The patterning and simple addition activities will help improve my students’ understanding of basic math concepts. These games and puzzles help make learning kindergarten skills more interesting, fun and accessible to all learners.

Young children learn best by doing. With your support, my classroom will be filled with many different activities that allow my students to learn a variety of skills and concepts by playing games, working puzzles, writing stories and having fun.”

Unfortunately, no donors have contributed to this project since it was submitted Sept. 6.

Chevron is sponsoring a “Fuel Your School” program this month that could help fund these and other projects. Every time a consumer in Alameda or Contra Costa counties puts at least 8 gallons of gas from a Chevron station into his or her car, the company will donate $1 to DonorsChoose.Org projects in those two counties, up to $1 million.

You can see how much has been raised in your city at http://www.fuelyourschool.com/. As of September 19, Chevron was over halfway to the total $1 million and had funded 291 DonorsChoose.org projects expected to help 33,902 students in the two counties.

In addition, the company is sponsoring a “Chevron Classroom Challenge” by offering an additional $25,000 to 10 different public schools with the “most innovative” Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) projects, as determined by a team of judges.

To be eligible, projects must be submitted and entered in the “Chevron Classroom Challenge” on DonorsChoose.org during the Fuel Your School promotion through Sept. 30. Details are at www.fuelyourschool.com/ccc-official-rules.html.

Matt Lonner, who oversees Chevron’s partnership with DonorsChoose.org and the Chevron Classroom Challenge, told me the company is proud to help support education in the community.

“One thing that we’ve come to realize is that there’s no shortage of great ideas to engage students,” he said. “But teachers require resources to bring those ideas to life.”

The company employs many engineers and is encouraging STEM projects in part because it wants to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is well-prepared by local schools, he said.

“Chevron is, at its core, a company of engineers and scientists,” Lonner said. “And so, STEM education in particular is not only vital to the long-term success of Chevron, but it’s also critically important to the long-term health and competitiveness of the state.”

Another Chevron-sponsored engineering program, called “Project Lead the Way,” introduces high school students to STEM curriculum.

“STEM programs provide the problem-solving and technical skills necessary not only to succeed in college,” Lonner said, “but in life.”

Other companies and foundations also help support DonorsChoose.Org programs. Recently, the Claire Giannini Fund donated over $1.3 million to fund every DonorsChoose.Org school project in California that had been posted by the time the donation was made (around Aug. 30).

Teachers and donors can communicate online regarding the contributions.

“I gave to this project because I believe in the benefit of using media to help students learn,” wrote Jenni B. in Walnut Creek, after contributing to the Oak Grove Middle School project. “History sets the precedent for our future!”

“Thank you Jenni!” responded Mrs. F. “Your donation is greatly appreciated.”

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