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Local Schools Use Kickstarter To Fund New Initiatives

Ryan Loew
90.5 WESA

People use Kickstarter to fund everything from tuition payments to weddings. But now, it's being used for creative education programs in Pittsburgh-area schools.

Local pre-K-through-12 schools have joined with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and raised money to institute “makerspaces” where students can build, experiment and learn through hands-on projects. All this was done using crowdfunding techniques.

Seven of the 10 schools that participated met or exceeded their goals, raising a total of $107,916 from 585 contributors, including: 

  • Burgettstown School District
  • Monessen Elementary School
  • Ligonier Valley High School
  • Kiski Area Upper Elementary School
  • Pittsburgh Public Schools, Lincoln PreK-5
  • Falk Laboratory School
  • Yeshiva Schools

Now that the money has been raised, the real work can begin, says Teresa DeFlitch, the Kickstarting Making project manager with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

“The schools have already worked with us in terms of re-conceptualizing spaces within their schools to transform them into places of active, collaborative learning," she says. 

Collaborative learning focuses on group work and collective problem solving.

These “making” labs for students will allow them to begin “tinkering, hacking, creating and making,” to help build important, practical skills.

“It enables them to think about different types of problems in innovative ways and gives them a whole set of tools, materials and processes that they’re familiar with so that they can really take something they imagine in their mind and make it into a reality,” says DeFlitch.

This type of formal partnership of schools, a museum and Kickstarter, is the first of its kind in the country, according to DeFlitch.  She says those who participated learned a lot from the process, especially when it came to people’s reception to a fundraising tool such as Kickstarter.

“I think that there needs to be some general exposure in the communities around crowdfunding so that all of the backers are really comfortable with engaging with the platform," she says. 

It is a helpful tool for schools looking to expand their programs, especially when there is not enough money to go around, according to DeFlitch.

“Crowdfunding is another way that schools can, sort of, add to the resources they already have at their disposal to do other types of learning innovations,” she says.

The "Kickstarting Making" project received 20 applicants, and was narrowed down to 10 participants. They are a mix of urban, rural and low income schools. The three schools that didn’t meet their monetary goals, Woodland Hills Intermediate Center, Environmental Charter School and Cecil Intermediate School, will receive further assistance from the Children’s Museum and a grant from the Sprout Fund, which supports innovation projects.

Faculty and staff at the schools are now participating in professional developments sessions with the museum to learn more about creating and teaching in makerspaces, according to DeFlitch.

“We’re really looking at how this allows children to develop perseverance, creativity, critical thinking skills and how it really enables them to think about different types of problems in innovative ways,” she says.