As the STEM coordinator at Will Rogers Learning Community, Laura Simon wanted iPads to help students develop their coding skills as they learn to program robots.
She announced a request for funding on DonorsChoose.org, hoping that philanthropists and members of the community would chip in.
Gwyneth Paltrow was right on cue.
The award-winning actress and Santa Monica native bankrolled all of the projects posted by Santa Monica teachers on the crowdfunding website as part of a coordinated effort through which celebrities supported educational endeavors in cities across the country.
“Santa Monica teachers give everything to their students,” Paltrow tweeted March 10. “Today I’m giving back to them.”
Paltrow’s donation covered local projects that were not completely funded this school year. More than $48,000 combined has been raised for 42 projects in Santa Monica in 2015-16, figures show, and those projects will benefit more than 3,400 students.
Paltrow was one of dozens of donors in a campaign spearheaded by “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, a DonorsChoose board member. Actors Samuel L. Jackson and Anna Kendrick, professional athletes Carmelo Anthony and Serena Williams and businessmen Paul Allen and Elon Musk were among the nearly 60 philanthropists who gave more than $14 million combined to support close to 12,000 projects.
“Too many students don’t have the classroom resources they need to realize their passions and unlock their potential,” DonorsChoose CEO Charles Best said. “Students can’t dream big when classrooms lack books, microscopes, and robotics kits – or even paper, pencils, and paste. …
“We all remember special days at school, whether it was going on a field trip, doing a science experiment, or performing in a school play. Teachers have a hard time providing these experiences when they have to go into their own pockets to buy school supplies.”
Paltrow’s donation will pay for a 3-D printer at Olympic High School, where science teacher Christa Hollis has been working with students to design small objects using sophisticated software.
“It’s one thing to conceptualize an idea, it’s another to be able to actually hold your own prototype,” Hollis said. “My kids have a collection of projects that have already been rendered in the computer, just waiting to bring them to completion through 3D printing!”
Paltrow’s contribution will also help Santa Monica High School art teacher Amy Bouse, who said her current budget is $6.66 per student per semester. She said the supplies she requested through DonorsChoose will motivate her classes to expand their artistic horizons.
“We normally use small canvases because of our small budget,” Bouse said. “Larger canvases give my paintings students new perspective.”
Simon, the STEM coach at Will Rogers, said Paltrow’s donation will allow students at the 14th Street elementary school to work in smaller groups and have more time to program robots. Students from transitional kindergarten to fifth grade will have access to the new iPads.
“Learning computer science skills and helping engage students in this field will help all students succeed,” Simon said. “While learning to code, they will not only learn a lifelong skill, they will also be problem solving, working collaboratively, questioning, and thinking critically, while having FUN!”