• September 23, 2019

Crowdfunded classrooms common among teachers - Odessa American: Education

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Crowdfunded classrooms common among teachers

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 5:32 pm

The next project-based learning activity given to students at the University of Texas Permian Basin STEM Academy may be the result of a crowdfunded initiative.

Numerous STEM Academy educators are turning to crowdfunding to pay for classroom supplies and their requests have been mainly met by parents who are eager to clear teachers’ lists.

DonorsChoose is a common avenue taken to make classroom needs public. The organization lets teachers create an account and pitch their project online to potential donors.

Pauline Williamson, a third-grade science and social studies teacher at UTPB STEM Academy, launched her first project request this year. She sought funding for materials like medical exam gloves, stainless steel measuring spoons, plastic funnels, microfiber cleaning cloths and tools that can read electricity usage and gauge temperature and humidity.

The cost of all requested materials added up to about $495, without sales tax or shipping fees. She said there were some nerves after the list went live because she was not sure if donors would give to her project. In the past, she said she has footed the bill for the bulk of her classroom supplies.

Williamson received a notification about a week after sharing her project online that stated her request was fully funded by 12 donors.

“It wasn’t that we needed these things in order to scrape by, it was more like if I envisioned what I really want to give to my kids for this year, to help make this the best classroom I can, this is kind of my wish list,” she said. “I feel like the supplies that we’re getting through the list will help enhance my students’ learning.”

Alisha Pierce-DeShazo also teaches science at STEM Academy and sought donations through DonorsChoose to help her fifth-grade students investigate biodiversity by tracing the food web of owls through owl pellet dissection.

Lab coats, owl pellets, charts and dissecting forceps amounted to about $652. The cost increased after vendor shipping charges and sales tax were included in the total, which made the full amount of the project goal closer to $861.

“I’ve always wanted lab coats for my students since I started teaching science three years ago,” Pierce-DeShazo said.

Just like Williamson, “I was worried it wouldn’t get funded being on the higher end,” she said.

Three days after posting her list, Pierce-DeShazo’s project goal was met.

“We’re all appreciative of parents and what they’re doing for us,” she said.

Stephanie Thomas is a parent of a first-grade STEM Academy student and is one of many who donated to support teachers’ classrooms and shared the lists with others on social media this month.

“With what the teachers and staff went through at the end of the last school year, I wanted them to know that we are a strong and resilient family,” Thomas said in a Facebook message. “I wanted to start this year off with a big boost of motivation and clearing their lists is one way to achieve that.”

A proposal for IDEA Public Schools to take over STEM Academy was previously presented in May but it received backlash from families. Leaders of the University of Texas Permian Basin and IDEA Public Schools withdrew the proposal after hearing widespread disapproval.

Williamson said parental involvement is at a high following the events that transpired with IDEA Public Schools.

“Parents of UTPB STEM are willing to come in and say this school is worth our time and our investment,” she said.

Rebecca Aguilar has three children enrolled at STEM Academy and said she would do anything to support the school, and she does not mind making last-minute trips to the store to buy things like duct tape for her son’s class projects.

Aguilar was holding a large box Wednesday in the school’s front office while talking about buying books for a STEM Academy reading teacher. Inside the box she was carrying were extra backpacks, rulers, folders and pens for “whoever needs it.”

“We all have to come together,” she said. “We can’t put it all on the teachers because they already do so much.”

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