#25: Make art kits for D.C. charter school students a reality
I need your help to fulfill a birthday wish. Before I can tell you what I want, however, I have to give you a little background.
If you’ve ever met my husband, you know that he is an artist at heart. He recently began a position as an electrician at a major art museum and I’m thrilled to see how happy he is in the new job. He is excited to go to work in the morning (imagine that!?), to go to a place where he is surrounded by artworks that provoke him to think in new ways or see things in a new light. One of the best things about his new job, in my humble opinion, is that it has made him reconnect with the artist within himself. He’s been sketching up a storm and scheming new art projects at a level and frequency that I haven’t seen from him in years. He’s a wonderfully creative man and I feel that my life—and the world, in general—is fuller because of the crazy and beautiful things he dreams up.
This artist husband is currently sitting on the couch next to me, knitting a scarf (yes, he can knit too . . .), while I am browsing a website I recently heard about, DonorsChoose.org. If you haven’t heard of it, let me just tell you that what they’re doing is so simple, and yet so effective, you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of the idea already. Their mission is to address the “scarcity and inequitable distribution of learning materials and experiences in our public schools.” As of this week in 2008, donors like you and I have funded $146,255 worth of resources for D.C. students in need and nearly $25M has been given to schools across all 50 states. It isn’t the amount of money that is amazing to me, but the way they’re going about raising it.
The DonorsChoose.org website provides a way for individual teachers to submit project proposals. They request materials or experiences their students need in order to learn. These ideas become classroom realities when concerned individuals (me! you!) choose projects to fund. What gets me really excited, and what really makes this organization unique, is how they’re using the Web to connect people. Individuals—public school teachers, their students, and people like you and I—are touching one another’s lives in ways that might never happen otherwise.
Now, what does my husband have to do with DonorsChoose.org? Well, when I learned about the site, and was inspired to find a project to sponsor, I noticed that I could sort teacher proposals by subject: music, literacy, sports, history, science . . . and art. I came across a project requested by “Ms. M,” a high school science teacher at a charter school in D.C. Her project reminded me about how critical art education can be to students, about how enriching it can be to have art in one’s life. She works in a school with students from some of the poorest parts of the city. They are often the first in their family to attend college.
In the proposal, Ms. M writes:
While my school has passionate teachers, dedicated administration, and some very talented students, we lack a few basics. For example, instead of hiring dedicated art, music, and dance teachers, regular classroom teachers volunteer to teach those classes.”
This science teacher has volunteered to teach art to high school students craving a creative outlet (even though some of them start out with an “I hate art” attitude). And what is the budget for supplies that this enthusiastic educator has been given? $2.50 per student. Now, many of you reading this blog are either artists yourselves or have loved ones involved in art-making. You know what you can get for $2.50. And you know it isn’t a lot.
Ms. M describes what the students really need and the supplies that are currently outside of her budget:
I would love for each of my students to have their own art kit, complete with sketchpad, pencils, colored pencils, sharpener, and eraser. I believe my students would take more pride and ownership in their work if they had the proper supplies. I also love the idea of my students having a sketch pad full of work at the end of the quarter to display. Teaching this art class has been such a rewarding experience for me and my students. This would make such a difference to my class.”
Anyone who has ever been inspired by a piece of art in a museum, a public park, or even someone’s home knows that art exercises our imaginations and urges us to think outside of the box. And anyone who has ever had the opportunity to make a work of art will tell you about the value of personal expression and how it helps us to make new connections to others, to ourselves, and to the communities we live in. Researchers have found that making works of art enhances intellectual, personal, and social development—especially for students who are economically disadvantaged and are at risk in school. Strong relationships have been found between arts learning and cognitive skills used to master other subjects like reading, writing, and math.
In case you aren’t sold yet on why this teacher’s project needs to be funded by you, how about if I put it this way: My birthday wish it that you will help me to make a difference to this teacher and these students who need our help. In honor of my 30th birthday—which is fast approaching—I am pledging to give $3 for every $1 you donate to this project.
I know times are tight, the holidays are coming up, and you’ve got 101 other great causes you are committed to. But I’m only asking you to give $1. Or maybe $10. Together, we can raise the full $305 it will take to provide art kits to every student in the class. Please donate now if art has ever made your life better. Or you can just donate because I’m asking you nicely. Either way, please donate now. Hurry—November 4 is just around the corner!
This post is part of the DonorsChoose.org Blogger Challenge.