Every year the science blogging community organizes the "Science Bloggers for Students challenge", a month-long competition between science blogs to see which raise do the most to help low-income science classrooms through the DonorsChoose.org website. Through Donors Choose, teachers can go and make requests for specific supplies or materials that they otherwise can't afford.
I look back on my elementary, middle, and high school science classes, and my most vivid (and fondest) memories were of the hands-on demos and experiments that we did in class, of the books that we were given to read (one of my favorites was What Do You Care What Other People Think?, from 6th grade) and the videos we were shown. As the US falls farther and farther behind in STEM education, and as funding for these kinds of materials and demonstrations gets smaller and smaller, it is more important than ever that we support science education in our schools, in whatever way we can. But this sort of rhetoric won't convince children and teenagers to love science. We know that children learn and remember better if they are actively, emotionally engaged with the material. Before knowledge comes wonder. What these students need is to be awed by nature, to have a sense of wonder.
You may have already noticed the Donors Choose widget that is temporarily placed in the left-hand sidebar
If you click the link at the top, you will be taken to my page (though the widget can be a bit wonky, so here's a direct link to my page). I've pre-selected a handful of life science-related projects in low-income Los Angeles-area schools to feature. One of the six I chose has already been funded, before I even announced the campaign (you may have noticed I snuck the widget in there on Friday afternoon).
The very grateful teacher had this to say:
Thank you all SO MUCH! I am truly touched by your generous support. I was so thrilled to receive the great news from Donors Choose that our project had been funded!
The tools you funded will enable my curious students to learn the science standards through hands-on experiences. My students are going to LOVE these wonderful learning tools. I can't wait to see the excitement and joy on their faces when they begin exploring these vital tools that your kindness and generosity funded.
It is because of the kindness of donors like you that my kids will have wonderful learning experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Let's keep the momentum going - and as the projects get funded, I'll add new ones. Also, remember that for each dollar you donate, HP is matching it, up to $30,000. This means that each dollar you donate represents two dollars for science education!
Throughout the month I'll feature specific projects to fund, and I'll reveal some nifty prizes and gifts for you, the donors.
"The greatest insights happen to us in moments of awe."
--Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Let's make it possible for these teachers to inspire their students. It isn't important that they all become inspired enough to pursue science in a professional way; what is important is that they understand the fundamentals of scientific inquiry, that they graduate with at least some minimum level of science literacy, and that their teachers have the resources with which to instill within them a sense of awe and wonder about the world.