By Kathy Chouteau
For students at E.M. Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, the adjustment to distance learning has been made far more fun thanks to their new Legos, microscopes, Rubik’s cubes, Tetris boards and other hands-on learning gear.
Their STEAM teacher, Mark Fox, recently received an email from DonorsChoose notifying him about a $1,000 Keep Kids Learning grant to purchase distance learning materials. The grant was used to purchase 125 individual remote learning items, “everything from science to technology to engineering to art materials,” Fox said.
The materials are helping to “promote a better distance learning experience than is possible just through computers,” said Fox, whose students range from first to sixth grades and are part of his Maker/STEAM Lab.
For the last two decades, DonorsChoose has been supporting teachers with grants for classroom supplies. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures, the nonprofit swiftly launched the Keeping Kids Learning initiative to support distancing learning efforts in underserved school districts, including West Contra Costa Unified. To date, the national initiative has raised $5.5 million in donations overall, including a $500,000 contribution from Chevron.
Fox said he’s thankful for the added support.
“Both the parents and the students and the teachers who distribute them seem to love every single thing that’s distributed,” he said. “They’ve really been enjoying coming and using them in the lab setting every week already and now they’re able to take some of those home and keep them.”
Fox also credits E.M. Downer Principal Chris Read as “a great source of help during this transition,” as well as his fellow teachers “who have delivered the distance learning materials and tablets.”
Teachers and potential donors can learn more about DonorsChoose’s Keep Kids Learning initiative here.