Donors choose to support classrooms

Published 12:02 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Frazier Primary School student Makayla Murray, 6, left, and Gracie Mcelwee, 6, play with a game donated to Frazier through the Donors Choose program. The program is an online charity that connects public school teachers with people who want to support classroom learning.

NATCHEZ — Instead of whining about funding cuts to the classroom, some Natchez-Adams School District teachers took matters into their own fingertips.

By punching in the web address Donorschoose.org, teachers were able to solicit funds from a worldwide pool of generous donors to buy materials for their students.

Kelsea Collins, 6, plays with a donated game.

Donors from all over the world can browse project requests from public school teachers and give any amount to the one that inspires them.

Once a project reaches its funding goal, the organization delivers the materials to the school.

First Grade teacher at Frazier Primary School Lisa Lewis said when her class received a box of donated materials — math and reading activities — she and her students ripped through the packaging together excitedly.

“I couldn’t go in my own pocket and buy it,” Lewis said. “I was glad to know there’s somebody out there (who can).”

A shelf in first-grade teacher Jennifer Haile’s classroom at Frazier was filled Wednesday with educational activities and games, all of them purchased through Donorschoose.org.

The students use the activities as individual learning centers when they break into groups, which helps differentiate instruction, Haile said. Haile has also replaced headphones for the classroom’s listening center with donations from the website.

In total, Haile has received approximately $800 in supplies for classroom materials, which she orders through the website.

And Haile is currently waiting for full funding for an iPad, which will connect to the Promethean board to help better acquaint her students with the technology age, she said.

Lewis said a mother and daughter pair from Mississippi funded two of her classes’ projects — math activities and reading activities — worth just under $400.

Lewis said she spent only 30 minutes or so writing a narrative and titling her project. And if she leaves the school, the children will continue to benefit, because the supplies stay in the classroom.

Haile said Donorschoose.org requires materials purchased for the projects must be used by students.

After teachers registered with Donorschoose.org submit a project, a volunteer confirms the cost and gives the project an OK, she said.

At least three other teachers at Frazier have also had success with the site, Haile said.

Lewis said when she received any e-mail notification about a donation, she is able to write the donor a personal thank you note.

Both Lewis and Haile said the donations have helped pick up the slack from a decrease in funds from state Education Enhancement Fund, which provides earmarks for classroom supplies.

“I don’t know who has money to give away,” Lewis said. “But (the site takes donations) from anybody that’s willing to donate. I like that.”

Haile said the website allows donors, both individuals and corporations, to choose projects based on regions, level of need and other categories.