If you were in high school and could dream up, plan and execute your own curriculum or projects, what would you do?
Now, New York City students are going to find out.
Staples has announced it will be donating $173,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Think It Up initiative, which allows 9th-12th-graders to crowd-fund their own education-related projects, from building their own robots to planting a community garden to writing and performing their own plays. Think of it as Kickstarter for education.
“It allows students to take control of their own education based on what they want to do,” says spokeswoman Vanessa Williams, herself the daughter of two public-school teachers. “And it gives teachers the resources to bring these student-powered projects to life.”
Think It Up is a collaboration with DonorsChoose.org, which allows teachers to raise money to not only furnish their classrooms with the supplies and technologies they need to enrich learning, but also allow them to fund field trips and other projects.
“I was a history teacher at a public school in the Bronx, and I realized that my colleagues and I were spending a bunch of our own money for school supplies,” says DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best. “Then it dawned on me, ‘Hey, people might fund these projects if they know where the money was going.’”
Fast-forward 15 years, and DonorsChoose has helped fund more than 236,000 classroom projects. Now, it’s inviting students to come up with their own projects, too.
The money Staples has donated will fully fund all the current student-led New York City projects listed on DonorsChoose, helping 132 teachers fulfill the classroom needs and impacting some 26,000 students across 93 schools.
“So many young people have these creative ideas, but they don’t have the tools to make these ideas happen,” says Williams. “Especially with schools cutting funding for so many of the courses I loved — humanities, music, gym class — this is an important way to let kids pursue their passions.”