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How PhilaSoup Boosts Teachers to Fill Classroom Needs

May 15, 2015 Category: Method

Stephanie DeJarnette, a teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School, had shared communal meals and listened to passionate pitches from her peers at numerous PhilaSoup microgrant dinners, but she had never completed a proposal to vie for her own grant.

That changed after DeJarnette attended a grant write-in sponsored by PhilaSoup, one of the initiatives the group has implemented to increase its reach and encourage more educators to submit proposals. On average, PhilaSoup receives 20 proposals each year, a figure it is seeking to boost, said Carlye Norton, the secretary and outreach chair at PhilaSoup.

The write-ins, known as “Grapes and Grants,” walk educators through the PhilaSoup application process and “make it very approachable,” DeJarnette said. She and her peers bounced around ideas and shared resources at the session.

Soon afterward, DeJarnette completed a proposal for a digital microscope.

In the budget-strapped School District of Philadelphia, faced with shrinking resources, DeJarnette sought to bring the tool to her classroom, which is focused on supporting learners with very limited English proficiency.

The digital microscope would give her students, many of whom are refugees or attended school intermittently in their home countries, the chance to participate in science lessons in a more visual, hands-on way.

DeJarnette ultimately took home the top grant of $344 at a PhilaSoup microgrant dinner last June.

Growing the Movement

Founded in 2011, PhilaSoup brings together teachers, educators, and community members at quarterly fundraising dinners to support small, education-focused projects.

For a $10 entry fee, attendees get a meal and the chance to participate in on-the-spot crowdfunding. Typically, three educators present their proposal ideas at each dinner, and proceeds are divided between them. The average grant is $300, enough to purchase a digital microscope, for example, or stock a small classroom library.

Similar to DeJarnette, some teachers in the resource-challenged district have sought to acquire basic classroom necessities, but PhilaSoup also wants to support teacher innovation.

So far, the group’s model has proven effective, but in order to grow, it must continue to engage new supporters.

Next year, according to Norton, PhilaSoup will work on hosting more regional events — informational happy hours and grant write-ins — offering multiple, neighborhood-based opportunities to connect with educators and communities.

From our Partners

PhilaSoup, Norton added, “is trying to align better and be a little bit more thoughtful” about how it will attract a wider audience.

“We’re really trying to think how we can reach teachers we’re not currently reaching, as well as community members,” she said.

The final PhilaSoup dinner of the 2015 school year is planned for May 17.

Image via PhilaSoup

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