School projects

Helping teachers one lesson at a time

 

Special to the Miami Herald

The requests practically leap out of the computer to tug at your heart.

A teacher in Overtown needs funds for seeds and gardening tools. She wants to improve her students eating habits through a community garden.

A teacher in Little Haiti needs a classroom projector to teach English. She calls her project “Lighting Up Young Minds.”

A teacher at Blue Lakes Elementary School in Olympia Heights would like to get egg shakers and woodblock instruments “to inspire her students to create rhythms that express their individuality as they learn music.”

Also needed are funds for bean bag chairs and rugs for reading centers, microscope slides, book racks, chapter books, physics tools, even sheep hearts and other parts for high school anatomy classes.

From the simple title of “Copier for Students” to the imaginative “Magical Library of Fun,” public school teachers in South Florida, and across the United States are finding ways to help students that don’t involve digging into their own pockets.

The money for small projects can be found through the online charity, DonorsChoose.org.

The website was started in 2000 by Charles Best, a New York social studies teacher in The Bronx, who realized there were a lot of other teachers out there like him who didn’t have enough funds for supplies.

And little by little, word of DonorsChoose spread like spinach on a school lunch tray.

“It’s powerful,” said Wendy Rosenthal, a second grade teacher at James S. Hunt Elementary in Pompano Beach. “The really beautiful thing about it is you can choose to make a donation of $1 and still make a difference.”

Rosenthal recently had two projects fully funded. In one, called “Another Day At The Office,” $373 in donations got her partitions to create little office spaces for her little students.

“We’ve found students are more apt to think creatively and share later with peers if they can work in their own office spaces,” she said.

Through partnering with DonorsChoose.org, Chevron and other organizations have gotten involved in their communities’ schools. Chevron helps fund teacher projects in its Fuel Your School program.

In October, consumers who filled their tanks with at least eight gallons of gas at Texaco and Chevron stations helped make a difference in South Florida classrooms.

Physics teacher Michael Hunter at Doral Academy High School had his project, “Fuel our Future by Funding Future Physicists,” fully funded within a week. Hunter needed a high voltage electrostatics kit and measuring equipment for physics experiments.

Chevron representatives visited Doral Academy for the award presentation and the students were excited, Hunter said.

“The students also asked me to show them what I wrote in my essay,” he said. “It was very generous of Chevron to fund us.”

At Rockway Middle School in Westchester, sixth grade science teacher Lunetta Stocker received three class sets of workbooks about energy and machines through the Fuel Your School program. When the Chevron reps visited Rockway, the students demonstrated how to use electrical circuits and lights in experiments.

“I can use the ideas from the books to help my students build models and see how things work,” Stocker said.

Her principal, Melanie Megias, also was grateful for the donation.

“I appreciate Chevron’s generosity and the company’s support of Rockway Middle School and the students of Miami-Dade County,” Megias said.

Browsing through projects at DonorsChoose.org is easy and donors can search by ZIP code, school, grade, teacher or topic such as field trips, military children, or students with autism. Searches can also be made for “Most Urgent,” “Lowest Cost,” “Highest Poverty,” and “Fewest Days Left.”

All teacher requests are checked out before they are posted. Once a project reaches its goal, DonorsChoose makes sure the materials are delivered. Donors even hear back from students about how their contributions mattered.

At Miami Edison Senior High there is a project “To Write is To Be Heard.” A teacher needs 60 copies of The Freedom Writers Diary for her students “to show them that even teenagers like themselves have a voice through writing and can incite positive change.’’

At Jack D. Gordon Elementary in Country Walk, a teacher simply calls her project “Teamwork.” She’s asking for donations so students can study ant farms.

“In our changing world, teamwork has become an essential skill. Together we can change the world!” she posted in her request essay.

Second grade teacher Rosenthal recently added two projects for review.

“Through DonorsChoose we have created a community across the country. It’s opened up education more,” she said. “I’m not sure that was even the goal but it’s become a network too. Now we’re e-mailing questions to teachers in other parts of the U.S.”

And at Shenandoah Elementary School in Little Havana the third graders just need a projector for “Fly Into Math and Science.” The donation request was for $405.

Only $133 to go.

Read more Philanthropy stories from the Miami Herald

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