Guest Blogger Ellen Peterson, Technology/STEM Teacher at Smithfield Middle School, VA, is also a National Teacher Ambassador for DonorsChoose.org, and has successfully fulfilled her classroom needs using Donor’s Choose.
In addition to sharing some “Getting Started” tips here, she can provide some assistance with navigating Donor’s Choose. Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with her.
As a Life Science teacher of middle schoolers, it is important to me that my students see themselves as scientists. To do that, I have to put lab materials in their hands. I also want them to see the application of the concepts we’re learning. Using MiniOne’s Electrophoresis System in my classroom opened up a world of opportunities for my middle schoolers to experience advanced labs while still keeping concepts easy to understand. I was fortunate enough to receive grant funding for the electrophoresis chambers that can be used from year to year but I turned to DonorsChoose.org to help provide the consumable lab supplies (agar gels, mini lab kits, accessories, etc.).
Though MiniOne is not a DonorsChoose.org vendor (more on this later), it is still possible to receive supplies through the website with a little bit of work on my part. DonorsChoose.org is a crowd-funding platform for teachers that works on a point system. You earn points for opening your account, getting projects funded, and following up with your sponsors. You spend points setting up your projects. The website walks you through the process and chances are, someone in your building has used DonorsChoose.org before and can help you. Also, DonorsChoose.org has an incredible customer service/support center along with a healthy presence on Facebook (Teachers@DonorsChoose.org: it’s a closed group but the administrators are very responsive and monitor the page closely).
If you are brand new to DonorsChoose.org, you will have to build up a few points by creating projects that use their approved vendors (Amazon Prime items are eligible, as well as vendors like Lakeshore, AKJ Education, Nasco, Best Buy – a full list can be found here) . I recommend creating a couple of small (has to be at least $100) projects to build up your points and gain familiarity with how things work. These small projects also allow you to cultivate donors who might be willing to continue supporting your projects. The Help Center has templates and advice on how to get started, etc. Plus, you can always use supplies like pencils, glue sticks, chart paper, and more that can be funded that way.
Once you’ve worked your way through a couple of small projects, you are ready to tackle a special request for an off-site vendor like MiniOne. Special requests cost 6 points but work just like regular projects. The great thing about this is that because materials are available on-line, it’s as simple as adding a link to your project and DonorsChoose.org does the rest: once you are funded, they shop and ship the materials directly to your school.
I’ve used MiniOne for 3 years now, each time funded through DonorsChoose.org. My Life Science students think it’s pretty amazing that they have the chance to perform DNA testing when we are learning about genetics and my Forensic Science students loved being able to solve a “real crime”. For them (and for me), learning Science through application is worth the effort!