UPDATE: As of November 6, 2018, collaborating with your students on a DonorsChoose.org project is easier than ever! You no longer need to select “student-led project” before you submit your project. You can simply create the project like you would any other. Here’s everything you need to know about teaming up with your students to get funding for your classroom ideas!
Collaborating with your students on a DonorsChoose.org request just became a snap! Here is an array of tools to help you bring a student-led project into your classroom. They are designed (by a teacher who’s been there) to save you time, give your students direction, and augment existing curriculum.
Posting a project with your students will lighten your load if you are:
The dedicated educator working overtime. You care deeply about your students, and you want to empower them to be leaders. But you’re already planning and grading a thousand things at once, and you just don’t have time to do more.
Your time-saving tool: Check out this one-day lesson plan which teaches your kids how DonorsChoose.org works, helps them brainstorm items in small groups, and sets them up with a completed project essay. Slip it in at the end of a unit or keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day. It’s packed with so many pre-made resources, you can get an extra hour of sleep tonight.
Mrs. Lessing’s students wanted exciting books from their favorite authors, and the school library couldn’t stock them fast enough. Now they’re in fiction heaven.The beloved mentor on a budget. In addition to long days in the classroom, you lead a club, class, or team that unlocks kids’ excitement and passion for sports, the arts, robotics, or volunteering. They have a thousand things they want to learn or do, but… on your school’s budget? You’re resigned to thinking, “Maybe next year.”
Your day-seizing tip: Your kids want soccer balls, oil paints, circuit boards, a field trip to the local food bank, two more guitars, new uniforms, programmable robots, or a bus to take them to the local symphony. Pass out the student packet, which shows kids how DonorsChoose.org works and guides them through their project essay. (Need a hand with showing kids what items are free to order? Print out relevant parts of the supplies catalog.) “Maybe next year” just became: “Let’s make it happen.”
Mr. Davis’ basketball players were tired of worn-out uniforms and secondhand equipment. Now they can look like champions, in addition to playing like them.The academic expert looking for a hands-on way to end a unit. You live and breathe your subject area, and you push your kids to do the same. One of your favorite moments each year happens when a kid mentions, offhand, that they never really got the point of learning math/science/history/Spanish/[insert your subject area here] until your class. You’re always looking for new ways to push their understanding further.
Your hands-on, high-rigor breakthrough: This is your chance to get your kids to put their learning into action. Check out this example lesson plan for Geometry (scroll to the bottom), in which students put lessons about volume into practice with a creative spin. If you set the topic and learning outcomes, your kids can make it their own by requesting creative items. Want to make sure your kids are requesting reasonable resources? Annotate the supplies catalog with limitations.
Ms. Gray’s science students created an experiment to test different factors in growing fresh produce. Next stop: state science fair.The seriously under-resourced special education teacher. Your kids constantly ask to try new things: crafts, field trips, technology, volunteer projects, musical instruments… You know that there’s so many creative ways to learn, but where are you going to get the money to pay for them?
Your project-creation shortcut: Students in special education classes have requested everything from art supplies for holiday presents to iPads to help give themselves a voice. Creative project creation strategies like paraphrasing student ideas and including student quotes, or having students work in small groups to write, mean that any special education class can have a project up and running in no time.
Mrs. Brewer’s students wanted to learn how to cook healthy meals. Now they have groceries and basic cooking equipment to make their own meals at school.The writing teacher who knows that practice makes progress. When kids show up to your class, they write…and write…and write! You’re always on the lookout for more chances to get your kids to improve their writing skills and internalize why persuasive writing is important in everyday life.
Your practice-makes-perfect plan: Have students read a New York Times article about crowdfunding, teach them how to make it their own with this PowerPoint, and then let them write persuasive essays to potential donors.
Ms. Swan’s students wrote a seriously persuasive pitch for why they needed a student lounge. (You just got a new answer in your back pocket for when a student asks, “Why does it matter if I can write a good essay?”)Get more details about student-led projects here or click on any of the images in this post to see fantastic project examples!