Teachers find funding for new resources

First Posted: 12/25/2009

Complete strangers have helped two area classrooms get some much-needed supplies.
Through the Donors Choose Web site and a matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeff Edwards, science teacher at Surry Early College High School of Design, and Jessica Johnson, English and journalism teacher at Mount Airy High School, have been able to purchase items for use in their classrooms that they otherwise would not have been able to obtain.
Both teachers listed their requests on the donorschoose.org Web site and donors across the country were able to choose to fund the project. In January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would match the funds raised for projects that would help students when they reach college. The RJ Reynolds Foundation also provided donations to both funds.
Edwards received $170 from two donors, which was then matched. He used the money to purchase 12 dissecting kits, special microscope slides for observing living organisms and a CD-rom of printable handouts for various topics in biology such as anatomy and life cycles.
The project directly addressed goal 4.02 of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for biology which asks that students analyze the processes by which representative organisms accomplish essential life functions such as transport, respiration, excretion, etc., said Edwards. Each kit contained a selection of preserved organisms representing different phyla of the animal kingdom. The kits allowed the students the first-hand experience in observing the internal and external anatomy of these representative organisms.
Edwards believes that the kits, slides and handouts have allowed him to immerse his students in biology in particular and science in general. The immersion has allowed his students to gain a better understanding of the topics covered in class.
Johnson received 12 donations totaling $490, which was matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She used the money to purchase a camera for the schools newspaper staff. One student on staff had a nice camera, but many of the others did not own a digital camera.
It was just a mess. Every picture we had was pixelated, said Johnson. Its something we never would have been able to purchase. Now we are able to have quality pictures in our newspaper.
The camera, which arrived at the end of last school year, has allowed Johnson to teach the students on the newspaper staff the fundamentals of taking pictures. With the new camera, they are able to learn about functions such as shutter speed and aperture openings and how lighting affects the images, things she was not able to teach with the point-and-shoot digital cameras most people own.
Were starting to see our pictures on publications and on the Mount Airy City Schools Web site. Its been a big help, said Johnson.
With the new quality pictures, the students have been able to create a Web page for the newspaper, thebeargrowl.com as well as setting up a BearGrowl Twitter account. The Web site allows the paper to post breaking news in a timely manner while using the print edition to showcase student work and feature stories.
I would definitely recommend it to other teachers in the county, said Johnson of Donors Choose. I have donated to other teachers because I know how much it helps. Many of mine were anonymous donations from people who wanted to support journalism.
Contact Morgan Wall at [email protected] or 719-1929.

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