Education

SLO County teachers turn to charity website for funding help

Harloe Elementary School teacher Wendy Martinez works with Savannah Bravo, left, and Angelica Gonzalez as they use an iPad during a class exercise. Martinez was able to acquire a couple of the devices for her class with the help of Donorschoose.org.
Harloe Elementary School teacher Wendy Martinez works with Savannah Bravo, left, and Angelica Gonzalez as they use an iPad during a class exercise. Martinez was able to acquire a couple of the devices for her class with the help of Donorschoose.org. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Frustrated by waiting for two aging computers in her Arroyo Grande classroom to start up – which sometimes took more than 20 minutes – Harloe Elementary School teacher Wendy Martinez started bringing her iPad from home to use in her fifth-grade class.

“I thought if one iPad is good, then three would be better,” Martinez recalled Monday. She posted her wish online on charity site DonorsChoose.org and within two weeks had received $1,190 for two new iPads.

The devices were put to use Monday morning as students worked on a project to determine different genres of books – science fiction, comedy and fantasy, for example.

Nine-year-old Jada Larios deftly typed a book title into an iPad and then showed off “Stack the States,” a U.S. geography game.

“Sometimes I get the iPad to play on it when I have free time,” she said. “I like looking up stuff.”

In the fifth-grade classroom next door, teacher Brianne Prickett has $139 left to raise via DonorsChoose.org for solar panels, solar car kits and K’NEX renewable energy kits so her students can build solar cars and learn about renewable energy.

Thanks to the site, she’s set to receive about $1,017 worth of materials that she never would have been able to purchase on her own.

Teachers receive about $250 a year for materials, but often pay out of pocket for glue sticks, post-it notes and other supplies, Martinez said.

PG&E is currently matching 50 percent of the cost of teachers’ requests in San Luis Obispo County, up to $25,000 total. So far, the utility has spent $4,208, spokesman Blair Jones said.

Fourteen projects countywide have been fully funded via DonorsChoose.org so far. Another 12 are seeking funding, including requests by teachers in Morro Bay, Paso Robles and San Miguel.

Martinez and Prickett have received other items through DonorsChoose.org, including books and materials to create small aquatic island ecosystems with duck weed, daphnia, snails, crabs and newts.

The teachers said the projects get students engaged and excited about STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.

“My kids are so pumped about the solar project,” Prickett said.

Without the donations, “we would have thought about using things out of the recycle bin for our project,” she added. “Which is fun too – but this is so much better.”

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