Online fund-raising effort to earn money for new student bicycles
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An online funding source is being utilized to raise money for the purchase of nine new bicycles for students at Presque Isle Middle School.
Bill Guerrette, an eighth-grade English/social studies teacher at the school, has created a page on DonorsChoose.org with the hope of raising $1,811.
DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of the country post classroom project requests on the site, and people can give any amount to the project that most inspires them.
“My eighth-grade students learn better by doing than sitting. Their interest is really piqued when they can connect what they are learning in the classroom to the ‘real’ world,” Guerrette said. “Our school strives to get students to be active participants with their learning. We look to give opportunities to students to learn about their surroundings while being physically active and not just sitting in a classroom.
“These bikes will be used to replace nine bicycles from a fleet of about 25 bikes that are over 12 years old and beyond repair,” said Guerrette, noting that there are 154 eighth-graders in this year’s class. “These bikes are used by sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders for physical education classes. They are also used by the eighth-grade students as part of a unit on local history.”
According to Guerrette, the eighth-graders study the history of Presque Isle during a two-week period, and at the end of the unit, they take part in “The History of Presque Isle Amazing Race.”
“Students are put in five groups of five and they — as a team — bike around the city to find clues that pertain to local history. There are 24 clues put out around the city; some are located at places where the Presque Isle Historical Society has placed informational signs, while other clues are hosted by local businesses,” he said. “Students must answer questions to figure out where they are heading next. In some places, they must perform a physical challenge. Students end up biking about five miles during this activity.”
Recognizing that the out-migration of young people is a problem in Aroostook County, Guerrette said he believes that by learning about the history of their community, “students begin to make connections and ties to the community.”
“The more connections we can create for students, the better chance they will be an active participant in their community,” he said.
Due to budget constraints, the existing bikes have fallen in disrepair.
“We usually try to have $200-$300 set aside for repair and upkeep,” said Guerrette, “but we’ve had to skip a year or two because of budget crunches. When we used the bikes this past spring, I was scrambling just to get enough for my class to use. Fortunately a number of the kids had their own bikes that they were able to bring in from home and that made a big difference. We were able to get by.”
Should the online fundraising be successful, Guerrette said the bikes, which would be purchased through Amazon, would be Northwoods Pomona men’s cruiser bikes, with 26-inch wheels.
Guerrette encourages community members to consider making a donation.
“There’s the obvious health aspect to this, and if we can introduce kids to biking and they enjoy it, that may become a lifelong physical activity for them,” he said. “It’s amazing … the first year we did the Amazing Race, I might have had one kid a year who had never ridden a bike. Now it’s least 3-4 kids who have never ridden before. This is a healthy opportunity that we’re exposing our kids to that might turn into something more long-term.
“In addition, the history/community part of this gets the kids into the community and gives them some insight into Presque Isle,” said Guerrette. “Plus there’s a social aspect in dealing with business owners and perhaps customers. All of those things tie into this project, and it’s a way to make the history of our town come alive for them in a way that’s different than just being in the classroom.”
So far, eight donors have pledged a total of $372. The online effort will end Jan. 18, 2015.
For more information on the “Bikes for Health and History” project, log onto www.donorschoose.org/project/bikes-for-health-and-history/1354434. Contributions can also be made by contacting Guerrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.