In an age when technology is king, teacher Laney Park is working to ensure her students don’t go without the latest and greatest gadgets in their quest for knowledge.
Through the online charity DonorsChoose.org, Park received enough donations to buy a Lenovo ThinkPad and two iPod Touches with cases for daily use in her second-grade classroom at Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy in Gainesville.
After writing what Park described as “mini grants,” DonorsChoose.org posted her requests to its website where donors could contribute to her projects. Park said she received donations from her students’ parents, families, friends and even a woman in New York, who gave enough money to complete the funding for one of her projects.
“I’ve spread the word about what I’ve got up on the website to donate to through Facebook, high school friends, co-workers and other ways,” Park said. “We’re fortunate to be in a very technology-driven school system that does what it can to provide what we (ask) for, but this is a great outlet for teachers. People want to give, especially to a cause like education.”
Although students at Wauka Mountain have access to iPads shared throughout the school, Park said the products she’s received through grants stay strictly in her classroom for everyday use. Her students use apps available on the ThinkPad and iPod Touches for reading projects, creating posters, making videos and practicing math skills, among other educational activities.
“I also use them as a reward incentive for the kids, like at the end of the day when students can come in and use them before they go home,” Park added.
In the past 12 months, 16 Hall County public school teachers have received donations totaling more than $10,000 for 23 projects through DonorsChoose.org, including a Wauka Mountain music teacher who received violins for her classroom. Park’s husband, Wauka Mountain’s physical education teacher, is in the process of raising funds through the charity for new archery targets.
“It’s not just technology you can get. You can ask for a lot of different things from the selection they have on their website,” Park said.
In order for eligible participants, which include full-time public school teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, to set up a grant through the website, they first select a product from a list of vendors on DonorsChoose.org and apply by presenting the product they’re asking for, what it will go toward and who will benefit from its use.
After being posted, donors from across the country can search for grants by region, state, a project’s expiration date, how much funding is left to complete a project and other factors.
Once a project has been funded, teachers have the opportunity to earn points toward grants for higher-priced items by writing student and teacher thank-you notes to donors.
Companies also have the option to match donations made through the website. Park said her last project was completed after Horace Mann Insurance matched other givers’ donations.
“It takes very little effort to apply for these grants; it’s really easy to do. The reward that comes from the projects definitely outweighs the effort needed to ask for the donations,” Park said.