Teachers at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School are bringing their creativity to the digital realm, using the web site Donors Choose to help supplement special projects for their classrooms.
The result? Students are having a great time learning to use their new recorders, garden, interactive notebooks and more — all through the generous support of friends, family and even strangers as far away as California.
Donors Choose is not a typical donation-based web site. It often has specials where organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will match donations. When donations are made within a specified time period, they’re doubled, which has twice the impact on the classrooms and the many students that benefit.
While many students who attend Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School can provide their own school supplies, this is not the case for all. For students on the free or reduced lunch program, family priorities are not on having the best and latest school supplies.
Teachers themselves and local donor drives have been making up the difference for years. However, Donors Choose has supplemented those efforts.
So far, teachers Robin Griffin, Martha Katz, Stephen Princiotta, Laurie Brisson and Alexandra Cooper have been rewarded for their online outreach efforts.
Katz, a pre-K teacher, gave it a chance.
“It was really nice. It’s nice when other people recognize that what you do is important and want to help,” she said. “It always feels good when people do things that show my kids count.”
Katz teaches visually impaired students, many of whom have cortical vision impairment. Many disabilities that originate from the brain, such as cerebral palsy, often include cortical vision impairment as well.
It is something difficult to address, Katz said, so she asked for help in obtaining a light box for her students to help them learn. “It’s another tool in the toolbox,” she said.
Griffin teaches third-grade math and science and is a STEM coach and technology ambassador. Each year, she creates a project in which students produce an interactive notebook. The students can pull out pictures, diagrams, windows and more. They’re essentially interactive games within the notebook.
The projects use liquid glue, colored pencils and colored copy paper. “Copy paper is huge. Last year we ran out and we weren’t able to finish our notebooks,” she said.
Griffin separated her Donors Choose campaign into three separate projects, since the supplies alone cost almost $1,000. She noticed that smaller campaigns are more likely to be funded, and by breaking her campaign into three, it worked.
“We got all of the supplies, and I took pictures of the students using them. The kids write thank-you letters, and we put the pictures in them,” she said. “All of the donors get thank-you letters and pictures of the kids all excited with their supplies.”
Utilizing social media was extremely helpful, Griffin added. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matched many of the donations that Griffin’s classroom received.
“We have kids who come to school without any school supplies,” Griffin said. “Some families are unable to support their students’ needs, and the school is all they have.”
Cooper, who teaches pre-K Exceptional Student Education students, created a campaign to help with interactive toys for the children to use as learning tools. Magnet toys, special books, games, hand puppets and more were the things she asked for, which will help her students learn in an interactive atmosphere. “My class tends to be a tough class,” she said.
Music teacher Brisson’s project was made-to-order colorful soprano recorders. “When I took pictures of the kids, they were all excited to have their picture with them,” she said.
Princiotta’s wife works at Binks Forest Elementary School and partners with the garden club. She suggested he do something similar at his school.
Princiotta’s Donors Choose campaign was for money to create a small garden for his third-grade science classes.
Someone from California donated to his campaign.
“There’s something really wonderful about someone from San Francisco reaching out and helping put cool things into our classroom. It really blew me away. That was the thing that really kind of got to me,” he said. “There was something about that connection that was really wonderful.”
His classroom is filled with plants, milkweed, butterflies and all sorts of growing, living things, so creating a garden was an extension of the classroom.
Teacher Kristina Fleming, whose Donors Choose campaign is currently active, is trying to get iPads for her ESE students. Many of her second-grade students don’t have computers at home, she said.
“The iPad is very motivational for them, and they really, really want to learn,” Fleming said. “There are so many great apps out there for these kids to really learn.”
Using a tablet device will allow her students to have access to technology that enhances their learning and excites them.
“I have one of those classrooms where some of my kids go home, and they’re hungry. They come to school, and they get their free meals and their free breakfast. When they’re at school, they have more of a privileged life,” Fleming said. “They want to come to school. Things like this encourage them. They’re like, ‘I get to go on the iPad today.’ They get to work on skills and be like all the other kids.”
To learn more about any of the classrooms mentioned above, visit www.donorschoose.org and search for the teacher’s name.
To donate directly to the students at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School, call (561) 904-9200.