The Scientific Activist

For the month of October–and for the third year in a row–ScienceBlogs will be teaming up with the DonorsChoose Bloggers Challenge to raise money for worthy classroom projects. This year, they’ve added a nifty blog widget, which I’ve posted at the top of my left sidebar. So, if you’re in a generous mood, you can donate directly from my widget, or you can visit my challenge here. DonorsChoose is a website where potential donors can browse through project proposals written by teachers from all across the US, and this year I’ve personally picked out ten projects that I would like to see funded. Most of my picks involve biology or molecular biology, but there’s quite an assortment. You can view the ScienceBlogs leaderboard here, and the leaderboard for all of the categories of participating blogs here. As in previous years, Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science is coordinating this drive, and you can see her blog entry about it here.

In 2006 my challenge raised $495, and then in 2007 we raised $2,500. As I write this, I have just over $5,000 of unfunded proposals in my challenge. Since some of these projects will also be in other challenges, that’s the maximum value we need to raise. I’m optimistic that we can do it, because I know that you ScienceBlogs readers are a generous bunch. In 2006, ScienceBlogs overall raised over $26,000 (including $10,000 is matching funds from Seed). As impressive as that was, in 2007 we managed to raise a whopping $69,000 (including $15,000 from Seed). You’ve set the bar pretty high, but–total collapse of the American financial system not withstanding–I have a pretty good feeling that we can top that this year.

So, why should you give? Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty confident that I’m only where I am today because I was exposed to some challenging, engaging, and inspiring science teaching at various points during my education. Helping ensure that others have similar experiences is a worthy goal. And, even if the majority of the affected students don’t go into science down the road, at they’ll have gained an appreciation of science and, more importantly, a more fundamental understanding of how our world works.

As the name suggests, when you donate at DonorsChoose, you get to choose exactly where you money goes, making the experience that much more tangible–and rewarding. As if I needed any reminder that these donations are improving the education of real kids, earlier this year I was pleasantly surprised to receive an incredibly touching thank-you packet from Tony Colburn’s class in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Last year, my challenge help fund his proposal “We Can Do it, Weather Or Not!” The thank-you packet included photos, a letter about how excited the kids were about their new weather station and how they had put it to use, and even hand-made thank you notes from his entire elementary school class! It was an embarrassment of riches, and–no exaggeration–it almost brought me to tears.

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Thanks, Tony, but you’re the one who deserves the real credit! Keep up the good work!