Monday, August 10, 2009

Help a Classroom This September!

The most precious piece of swag I was given at the BlogHer conference last month were two $25 gift certificates from the worthy and ingenious organization Donors Choose. I'll be able to use one of the gift cards to fund a classroom project of my choice from the hundreds listed on their website.

After browsing the site, I've decided to help a Chicago teacher in a high poverty area who is seeking a class set of Howard Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States. Zinn's groundbreaking work turns traditional history-telling on its ear and broadcasts the voices that have gone largely unheard in history textbooks. (Remember when Matt Damon told Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting "If you want to read a real history book, read The People's History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass"?) I'm really happy that more kids will be exposed to Zinn's exciting point of view. And even more happy that my money will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently partnered with Donors Choose specifically for projects that will "make sure that high school students graduate ready for success and prepared to earn postsecondary degrees." In the Chicago area alone, there are 31 classroom projects where your funding will be matched by the foundation.

Vicky Phillips, Director of Education Initiatives for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: "Our initiatives are all about making sure every student in this country is well prepared when they leave high school to enter college and to make sure every teacher and student has the support they need every time they step into a classroom. It provides immediate support for teachers for what they need on a daily basis."

As a former teacher, what really gets me jazzed up about Donors Choose is the key idea that classroom teachers are getting funding for WHAT THEY ASK FOR. Instead of a new educational fad plopping down from above, the projects that Donors Choose funds are designed by the very teachers who will implement them. These teachers know their kids; they know their kids' needs. And the Donors Choose model respects the teachers' knowledge, expertise and relationships with their students.

Donors Choose has a four star rating from Charity Navigator. Their work with the classroom teachers not only includes promotion of their projects, but work to insure the integrity of the purchase: verifying the availability of the needed resources, negotiating for discounts, examining the proposals for clarity and handling the purchasing and delivery of the resources.

Stephen Colbert, one of my pop culture heroes and a fan of the program, says, "It's such a simple, wonderful idea. It connects individual donors with individual classrooms and individual teachers and individual projects. You know exactly who you're helping and how you're helping them."

Would you like to help out a teacher and her or his kids? Check out the Donors Choose website and leave a comment here about what project YOU would like to help. I'll draw a name from all comments left by August 25. You will need to redeem the gift card by September 30.

Thanks so much!!


Bonggamom said...

What a great giveaway this is! I would help Mrs. M's classroom in East Palo Alto, CA because it's near where we live yet worlds away in socioeconomic development, and I love her goal of improving reading fluency in her at-risk students.


Selfish Mom said...

I'd help out my kids' school (so I'd rather not say which one it is in the comments) with art supplies.

2KoP said...

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this wonderful post and challenge. Donors Choose is a great organization; it just took me a little time to peruse the great opportunities to make a difference.

If I win, I would chose Classroom without Technology needs Y2K9 Update!

Mrs. P teaches high school special ed in Illinois, an area near and dear to my heart, as I also have a special needs high schooler here in the Land of Lincoln. I have had to advocate and fight for my son throughout his school career in an affluent school district. I know for a fact that technology has and will continue to play a huge role in making him a successful learner and contributor to society.

I also like the fact that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will double my donation.

I hope I win, but I know whichever commenter wins, it's teachers and students who will be the real winners. Thanks for this meaningful giveaway.

Melissa Chapman said...

The economy has hit my daughter's school especially hard as many parents I know are struggling to make ends meet. And so many teachers often have to reach into their own pockets to buy extra supplies that their budget simply doesn't cover. What a wonderful giveaway thanks for hosting- I hope I win, I'd love to be able to saunter into school with FREE supplies for my daughter's teachers!!

Kim Tracy Prince said...

I would use the card to help our neighborhood school which has a high density of low-income families.

NyNancy said...

There is something horrifying about a classroom that is in such dire straits that the teacher is asking for PAPER. Has it really gotten that bad? I would help Paper Me Pretty, here in NY, because without even the basics, what chance do these kids have?

Tech Savvy Mama said...

If I were to win, I'd help other teachers in my school system fund their projects. There's a project called Learning in a Flash where a kindergarten teacher is looking for digital cameras for project based learning. Digital cameras can be such a huge motivator for children. When put in the hands of kids, the pictures that they take can serve as the best writing prompts and motivate even the most reluctant learners to come up with a story based on their photo.

Here's the link to the project:

Thanks for a great giveaway!

tech savvy mama at g mail dot com

JavaMom said...

I would help a VA kindergarten class who wants math supplies from Lakeshore Learning in honor of JavaBoy who is starting K and also loves math - and also loves stuff from Lakeshore Learning (so do I!!) This is a GREAT giveaway! Thanks for sharing! JavaMom (at) caffeineandaprayer(dot)com

L.A. Story said...

I would love to help out Mrs. C's classroom in Southern California. She's requesting and LCD projector, which would engage kids who have special needs. I'm all for using new and exciting technology to reel in students. Here's her page:


Anonymous said...

I'd love to help Mrs. C's classroom in California with her project for her College Bound 4th Graders. As a former 4th graqde teacher, I saw immense value in literature centers and circles, kids who rarely participated in class-wide discussions, became a part of the discussion when they were led through circles. And giving the students the opportunities to select books with friends encouraged reading, challenges and opportunities to learn beyond the regular curriculum books.

Erica Cosgrove said...

If I win this great giveaway, I would donate to a rural classroom in Nebraska that needs white boards and dry erase pens to teach math to middle schoolers. As a country, we could all use better knowledge of math and it's a subject that can be HARD for middle schoolers to learn, especially without basic classroom supplies. The link to the funding request is called "Write This" on Donors Choose and it's here:

beccalynn said...

Okay, I would totally give to the "where are our markers" project. I am addicted to all things that write and it breaks my heart that all they have is pencils. "Let them have markers!" :) Great post...and I love Donors Choose -- one of my best friends helped build it to what it is (go Brita!).

Rebecca Rodskog