When Tangela Kirkpatrick needed books for her first graders at Lewisdale Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland, she turned to DonorsChoose.
“My classroom library has a variety of books but unfortunately does not meet the needs of all of my students,” she wrote in an appeal to donors, who can use DonorsChoose to help her classroom directly. “I would like to have a classroom library that supports all of my students’ reading levels and interests.”
Her appeal attracted roughly two dozen supporters—including New Meridian—and she received the funding to build a more diverse library. “All of my students are enjoying their new books,” she wrote. “Especially, my students who are reading below grade level. For them, these books give them the confidence they need to read. They feel empowered and capable while reading.”
Since its founding, New Meridian has worked through DonorsChoose to help make a difference in classrooms nationwide.
“DonorsChoose allows us to help educators directly,” said Arthur VanderVeen, New Meridian’s CEO. “Our mission is to empower educators, and this allows us to do so on a very personal level.
New Meridian has helped fund projects in communities from Albuquerque to Chicago, ranging across a variety of academic disciplines.
For example, Thomas Wortman, a technology teacher at Sierra Vista Elementary School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wanted to show his third, fourth and fifth graders how to write computer code. His strategy was to purchase Sphero SPRK+ robots, which students can program using a special application.
“Now that we have the Sphero SPRKs, we have been able to introduce coding to make a robot complete tasks,” he wrote. “Through the Sphero Edu app, students learned (and are still learning) how to piece code together to make the Sphero perform commands. Students are ‘driving’ the Sphero SPRKs all around the classroom!”
Wortman said that the school’s STEM lab can use the robots in many different ways to engage students at different levels of learning.
“Once the students learned how to drive the Spheros, I created a maze in the classroom,” he wrote. “The students had to code to make the Spheros navigate through the maze! Students were amazed and delighted with this task! They couldn’t wait to have their chance to drive.”
In another case, donations were used to provide Chromebook laptops for a class at George Westinghouse College Prep in Chicago, Illinois. Special Education Teacher Kylene Young runs a resource class for high schoolers, which is designed to help them prepare for each day, address challenging assignments and function independently. The computers would be used to engage in independent study through Google Classroom and participate in online discussions.
“The current project they are working on is a self-advocacy project, where they will end up with a portfolio that they can take with them to college detailing their disability and the accommodations/modifications they will need to be successful,” she wrote. “Not only are the computers being used for creating these portfolios, they are also allowing students the opportunity to gain the skills necessary for a lot of college courses that involve an online classroom component.”
VanderVeen said that New Meridian is proud to participate in projects like these, which are designed by teachers to address the challenges that they see every day.
“Educators know better than anyone what will work in their school and their community,” he said. “This puts resources directly in their hands and we’re glad to play a role.”