The buzz word around our office lately is “innovation”—partly due to DonorsChoose.org being on the cover of the Fast Company 50 Most Innovative Companies issue (we can’t stop being excited about it!)—but also because of a funding trend we see gaining momentum. DonorsChoose.org was founded in 2000 as a platform for imaginative teachers to request the resources their students most need for an excellent education. Today, DonorsChoose.org is proving to be a platform to share the best ideas of a new group of users—innovators, entrepreneurs, and inventors.
These entrepreneurs have a technology that they know would fascinate and inspire students, but no way to reach classrooms effectively. A strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education will better prepare students for the competitive global job market, but teachers struggle to deliver robust STEM instruction without the proper technology resources for their classrooms. DonorsChoose.org is facilitating collaboration between entrepreneurs, high-need public schools across the country, and interested corporate, foundation, and citizen backers to deliver these much needed resources. Here are a few of our favorite recent partnerships that are introducing kids to cutting edge technology:
MakerBot provided over $1.2 million to fund 3D printers in classrooms across the country. Projects were funded $98 to completion and citizen donors visiting the site pitched in the rest. So far, over 500 classrooms have snapped up a 3D printer. Here are a couple of the creative ways classrooms will use this technology:
- In Sioux Falls, ND, Mrs. Rausch’s combined graphic design and geometry class will use their 3D printer to master volume, surface area, and design all at once.
- Mr. Walter’s class in Stockton, CA is using their 3D printer to explore biomechanical engineering by designing prosthetic limbs for veterans.
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, started by the co-founder of Microsoft, is bringing OpenROV underwater robot kits to 50 classrooms across the country so they can explore local water habitats. One all-girls classroom in Florida used their ROV to practice for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl this past February.
We’re also working with several partners to foster the next generation of computer scientists, and to attract more girls and underserved students to programming.
Code.org was the first of these programs to launch last fall. They’re thanking the first 1,000 teachers who lead at least 15 students through their K-8th grade, 20-hour intro to coding course with a $750 DonorsChoose.org gift card. If at least seven of their young coders are girls, teachers get an extra $250 DonorsChoose.org gift card. As of today, 800,000 students are signed up to learn to code thanks to this partnership.
Over the past 14 years we have witnessed a lot of creative funding campaigns succeed by tapping into movements our teachers are already excited about presenting to their students—environmental science, anti-bullying, health and nutrition—and it’s clear that introducing innovation and technology into the classroom is at the top of that list.