EGG HARBOR CITY — Several teachers in the Egg Harbor City Community School have discovered a new resource to obtain materials for their classrooms in an age in which educators often pay out of pocket for their own school supplies and a proposed federal tax overhaul may eliminate a deduction that covers them.
Over the past few months, they have raised funds on DonorsChoose.org to enhance learning opportunities for their students.
According to its website, DonorsChoose enables teachers to request materials and resources for their classrooms and makes their project requests available to individual donors. Donors can give $1 or more to projects that interest them, which are searchable by school name, teacher name, location, school subject, material and keywords. DonorsChoose then purchases necessary supplies and ships them directly to the schools.
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Every project contains a line-item budget and a description of the project. All donors receive photographs of the project taking place in the classroom and a letter from the teacher. Donors who contribute $50 or more to a project also receive hand-written thank-you notes from students.
“Teachers explain their project on the site, and the information is then shared through social media sites to encourage their contacts, school supporters, parents of their students and others to contribute for their projects,” said fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher Lori-Beth Silver, of Egg Harbor City. Her goal was to acquire five refurbished Chromebook laptops, which was quickly accomplished.
Principal Jack Griffith said the 18 Chromebooks acquired by teachers through the website help supplement the supply the school currently has.
“We have 100 for our 260 students,” he said. “Our goal is to eventually have one for each of our students.”
“When the PARCC testing came into existence, the writing was on the wall that districts needed to have these devices as all of the tests are done online," Griffith continued. "We have slowly been able to purchase them through our budget, and now we are almost halfway there. We no longer use textbooks, so cost savings there can be utilized to acquire more of them.”
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Technology Coordinator Matt Gross said the laptops greatly enhance learning opportunities for the children.
“The students love them and take the initiative to take good care of them,” he said.
According to Gross, the average cost of each device is about $189 with an additional $25 licensing fee.
Science teacher Andrew Ross, of Egg Harbor City, is also a big fan of the Chromebooks.
“They just open the doors to infinite possibilities to engage students,” he said. Using sites such as Google Classroom allows me to create a virtual learning space so that I am practically in two places at the same time.”
Silver’s colleagues Kylene Farnan, of Egg Harbor City, a fifth-grade language arts teacher, and Gianna Miranda, of Galloway Township, a fourth- and fifth-grade special education instructor, also received Chromebooks through the program.
“I sought $1,500 for 10 refurbished Chromebooks, and it was funded in two days,” Farnan said. “I have been able to use them every day in my classroom in order for my students to explore what the internet has to offer.”
The goal of Deepa McCabe, of Linwood, a Technology/Library/Media teacher for grades 4 through 8, was to acquire a 3-D printer for the school.
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“Many of my students do not have access to technology at home, in a world where technology is necessary,” she said. “As their technology teacher, it is my goal to ensure that they have access to a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) resources in school.”
McCabe sought a grant for $690 which was funded in July. The printer, along with teaching software videos, arrived in mid-October.
Fourth-grade mathematics and science teacher Kelsey Wertz, of Williamstown, is seeking $1,453 for five Chromebooks. To date she has accumulated $853.
“My students do not get the opportunity to study technology-based math and science at the frequency required to become 21st century learners, mathematicians and scientists,” she said. “If I had technology available in my classroom, I would be able to set up centers for independent skill practice, assign videos for reteaching, supplement lessons with interactive games and lessons, research answers to all their wonders, as well as teach computer skills.”
Griffith is pleased to see his teachers taking advantage of the opportunity to obtain technology for their classrooms.
“Prior to last school year, I had never heard of the website," he said of DonorsChoose. “I was delighted to learn about it and discover several of my newer teachers had the drive to create technology proposals for their individual classrooms this school year.”