June 23--Middle-school librarian gets funding to purchase more equipment for project to continue
GLASGOW -- The librarian at Monroe County Middle School had made use of the DonorsChoose website before and raised enough money to purchase two LEGO MINDSTORMS robot kits for students' use.
Nancy Holder decided to try for two more kits, and from time to time, she said, she gets notifications of when matching funds are available and this was one of those times. In this case, to make the most of the opportunity, she also submitted "Storytelling and Robots = Bot Tales" to be judged for the AT&T Digital Storytelling Challenge that was offered through the site where anyone can contribute funds to help an education effort. The formal request she made was for two robotics kits and two microphones.
It paid off far beyond the cost of the equipment.
Her idea is that students will write a story, design and build an obstacle course that captures the setting of the story, then program the robots to perform the actions through the course in the story, and the students will use the microphones to record voice-over narrations and produce a video of the Bot Tale.
The project got a $50 contribution that was matched by AT&T, and then the company Ripple pitched in the rest toward the $893.79 overall goal. According to the project's Donors Choose page, Ripple funded every project on the site on Best School Day 2018 in March.
In addition to matching funds provided for projects, AT&T funded the $5,000 DonorsChoose.org gift cards that were given to each of 10 proposals chosen as winners, said Cathy Lewandowski, Nashville-based lead public relations manager for AT&T Global Media Relations, in an email to the Glasgow Daily Times.
"The power of technology can help bring a lesson plan to life in new and exciting ways for students," Lewandowski said. "Whether it's a virtual reality film crafted by students or stop-motion videos and podcasts, digital storytelling is a powerful tool for student learning and growth."
Holder said she was notified just before spring break that Bot Tales was one of the top 30 to be judged, and there was one other Kentucky school in the mix at the time, but to be in the top 10, they had to get local online votes. She and the students started spreading the word in various ways to ask people to do that.
Out of 870 projects submitted from 46 states, the Bot Tales project was chosen as one of the 10 winning gift-card recipients to continue the digital storytelling project.
"I've got some things in mind," Holder said when asked how the extra money would be used, "but I want to get some student input as well [as to] what they would like to see us have."
Holder, who has been at Monroe County Middle 18 years, taught technology before becoming the librarian seven years ago, she said, so she enjoys incorporating and encouraging science, technology, engineering and math concepts into independent activities for the students who visit the library outside of class time -- like during during lunch break.
The students enjoy the trial-and-error and troubleshooting processes, she said, and when they got the additional equipment, they got excited about having something new in the library with which they could play or work on projects independently or as part of a Beta Club project or student technology leadership program.
She said probably around 15 students from all three middle-school grades were in the initial group that began working on the idea, and others have trickled in over time, so there are about 25 now.
She said this is not an overnight project, even for the first video. Some of the story writing and coding for the robots' programming had started during the spring semester, but the culmination of the first efforts won't be ready until sometime this fall, Holder said, hopefully by around fall break. The plan is to put a video on the school's website when it's ready.
In at least one instance, she hinted, a Sphero robot will be part of the story, and it'll have music from different time periods.
"Their imagine is wild, so they can just do whatever they want," she said of the students.
Holder expressed thanks to all who took the couple of minutes to vote.
"I appreciate everything everybody did to help us win this $5,000," she said. "[The Bot Tales project] is going to be ongoing for years to come. This is not something that's a one-time thing."
And because they now have four kits, four groups can be working on separate ideas at one time, she said.
All 10 winners are listed a June 14 installment of The DonorsChoose Blog: https://www.donorschoose.org/blog/meet-winners-atts-digital-storytelling-challenge/ . From there, readers may click on the title of any of the projects to read more about them.
Although the AT&T challenge was a special opportunity, schools make use of the DonorsChoose fund-raising forum throughout the year. Each request shows exactly what materials are desired, the quantity and a breakdown of the cost, plus how much as been contributed, any matching funds available, etc.
A handful of schools in the Glasgow and Barren County districts, three in Monroe County, one in Metcalfe and several in Bowling Green/Warren County had funding requests pending on the site as of Thursday -- and those were just the ones in the first 15 pages of a search "near Glasgow" that was prioritized by "urgency." For instance, elementary personnel from at least two Gamaliel Elementary, Park City Elementary and South Green Elementary schools had requested funding for laptop computers or tablets. A Hiseville Elementary School teacher asked for equipment like a wheelbarrow, rain barrel, garden hoses and tools to help students start and sustain a greenhouse, and a Glasgow Middle School requested some alternatives for students rather than always sitting at their desks while working.
"A classroom rug, floor cushions, bean bag and gaming chairs, along with, lap desks and clipboards can make our room a little more comfortable and allow for the best working space for all students," Leigh Bivens wrote.
When searching "near Gamaliel," several more requests from Monroe County appear. Searches can be tailored in other ways as well.
Holder has also now requested help to obtain a digital SLR camera for the media class.
"DonorsChoose is definitely a teacher's friend," she said.
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