‘Tis the Season: Education Projects and Fundraisers Worth Supporting

Boyfriend gave me this great idea: there are so many opportunities to support educators and classrooms that choosing can be overwhelming, but I can help! Being connected to a few large teacher networks, a lot of fundraising efforts cross my inbox. I give as much and as often as I can, and I share on Facebook, but that sharing relies mostly on my friends’ whims (and their current level of flushness). Often, great and worthy causes simply don’t get the attention they need to thrive. So here are three great projects that could use some attention and donations. (In the interest of full disclosure, these three are all projects of people I know and support. Going forward, I plan to expand the scope of these posts to include projects to which I am not personally connected.)

**UPDATE** My wonderful, generous, awesome boyfriend would like to match up to $100 worth of donations to Mr. Pecunia’s Greenhouse Project! If you donate to this project, please comment here email a copy of your receipt to thomscill@gmail.com. I’ll inform him of which donations should be matched. This is a great opportunity to increase funding for this awesome project! See #2 on the list below for details.

1. An Organization: Fundraiser for English Teacher’s Friend

The Skinny: A not-for-profit organization that provides free resources, programs to support students and teachers in authentic and relevant learning experiences, and a weekly newsletter PACKED with awesome ideas, materials, and supports, this teacher-run organization is participating in a Crowdrise/HuffPo contest to win $100,000 dollars of funding. Ultimate goal: $50,000 by January 9th

The Details: Founder and Executive Director Tamara Doehring launched ETF in 2009, with 12 years of classroom teaching experience fueling her to push back against the encroachment of standardized curriculum that promised to push student creativity and teacher support out of the classroom. The ETF newsletter reaches upwards of 5,000 teachers across the country, providing them with inspiration and free materials to invigorate their classrooms, even within the pressures of standards and testing. ETF also facilitates amazing programs to foster and celebrate student creativity: Voices in Verse, NAS: Not A Statistic, & the Florida Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards. You can read more about the mission, goals, and accomplishments of this fantastic organization here.

Why You Should Give: As mentioned above, ETF is completely not-for-profit. I came across their booth at NCTE a few years ago, drawn by the “What Would Atticus Do?” buttons they were selling (is this not reason enough?) The weekly newsletter I have received since then has helped me countless times. The newsletters are well-crafted, usually featuring the stories of a teacher, and they are always topical and relevant. They have helped me infuse fun and creativity during the bleakest times of the school year, when seasonal burnout is looming and most of my energy has gone to getting myself into my classroom. Perhaps most importantly, they are a consistent, reliable reminder that we are not alone in wanting more and better for our students and their educations. And if this amazing organization does not reach its goal by January 9th, it is facing shut down. The teachers who run this not-for-profit do so in addition to teaching, coaching, and living, all so teachers across the country can have hope and support. The contest with HuffPo includes publicity incentives: as more funds are raised, HuffPo will tweet, post, and share their progress, attracting more and more attention and funding. So even if you can give only a little bit, you will be boosting this fundraiser toward more eyes and more possibilities. Also, donators are eligible for free gifts & giveaways from Crowdrise! Earlier this month, they gave away two Droid phones. So, helping teachers and getting cool swag? Win-win.

How to Give: Visit the Crowdrise page here and click on the blue “Donate” button. If prompted to pick a team member, you can select Tamara, or me, or anyone! Then share, share, share, and keep your fingers crossed for a cool prize!

2. A Teacher: Mr. Pecunia’s Greenhouse Project

The Skinny: Mr. Pecunia is helping his students at a Bronx high school for recent immigrants create a garden for their courtyard. His mission to bring hands-on learning and green spaces into his students’ lives  promises not only to generate more interest in science, and other classes that incorporate the garden, but also to help students coming from very different environments feel ownership and comfort in the unfamiliar, concrete world of the Bronx. Ultimate Goal$415 ($366 left to go!)

Why You Should Give: Hands-on learning, like trade classes, shop classes, cooking classes, and even arts (including music and dance) classes, are rare gems in New York City public schools. The budgets for these programs have been slashed, and the spaces needed for these classrooms cannibalized as the small school movement packs up to 9 high schools into a single campus. Despite the innumerable studies and research projects showing the positive effects hands-on learning has on students, there is no funding for efforts like Mr. Pecunia’s. His goal of installing two greenhouses in the courtyard of this high school will make hands-on learning accessible to students, and also provide some comfort and connection for students who have come from warmer, greener climates. There is not much green space to be found in the Bronx, and students coming from cultures in which farming and gardening are a part of life experience a great shock when realizing that growing things is not a part of the culture here. The Cornell University Garden Based Learning project has found that school gardens benefit students in so many aspects of their lives and educations, how can you resist?

How to Give: Head over to the DonorsChoose.org page for this project and give what you can!

3. A Student: Raven’s Chilean Expedition

The Skinny: Raven is a dedicated student at the University of Albany who is trying to fund a winter study abroad opportunity in Chile, where she will participate in a medical internship at Hospital Clínico Universidad De Chile Ultimate Goal: $3,500 ($700 and one week to go!)

Why You Should Give: I came to know Raven through a group for survivors, GIRLTHRIVE, and the staggering odds that this amazing young women has overcome astound me. Raven has truly thrived, despite the hardships she has faced, and represents so much hope and inspiration in my own life, that to support her in her goals is a privilege. She is a dedicated, hard-working student, and a powerful mentor for younger girls. She has championed initiatives for intervention and mentoring teenage girls, and has been involved in national conferences around these issues. I know that she will use the opportunity to study abroad for the greatest good. Helping this incredible young women will generate some serious good karma in your life.

How to Give: Visit Raven’s GoFundMe.org page to donate what you can! Just about one week left to give. Don’t forget to share Raven’s page on Facebook or Twitter after you’ve donated.

I hope you find something worth giving to this season. There are so many hard-working teachers and students who can use our support, and the holidays are a great time to spread the joy of gift-giving. What causes, classrooms, or students are you supporting? Tell me in the comments!

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