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IPS classrooms raise more than $100,000 in new crowdfunding program

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 23, 2014) — Tight budgets and funding challenges mean teachers often can’t afford all of the supplies they’d like to have for their students in the classroom. Now, thanks to technology and some bright ideas, teachers at Indianapolis Public Schools are raising money and getting grants in a new way.

Kindergarten and first grade teacher Deanna Schmidt wanted to teach her curious students about plant growth and gardening. IPS School #60 has a partnership with Butler University and operates on the Reggio model, which encourages project-based learning.

“I started thinking about the resources they would need that we didn’t have at school, so magnifying glasses, soil, starter seeds, seed packets, things I just didn’t have access to,” Schmidt said.

So she posted her project idea online at DonorsChoose.org, a type of crowdfunding site just for teachers. The money started coming in.

“It warms my heart, that sounds cliché, but it does,” Schmidt said. “To know that there are people out there who still sort of feel that education is powerful, because it is, and that it’s meaningful and that it’s worth spending, whether it’s their $10 or $100 that they want to donate,” said Schmidt.

The success of the site caught the attention of the IPS Education Foundation, a nonprofit that gives grants and connects community resources to IPS classrooms.

Executive Director Linda Broadfoot decided the foundation would start matching the money raised online with a grant.

“I think the success of the match of what teachers are doing on Donors Choose is testament both to the need throughout the country for funds for education, but also it’s a testimony to the ingenuity of IPS teachers,” Broadfoot said.

The IPS Education Foundation has now matched teachers’ projects across the district to the tune of $100,000.

Schmidt said she sees the small supplies making a big impact on her students. They’ll be planting pumpkin sprouts they’ve been tending to in the school garden on Friday.

“Their level of questioning the inquiry their engaging in, it’s that much more powerful with the materials that we have,” said Schmidt.