(Des Moines, IA: Tuesday, September 6, 2016)
For the fifth consecutive year, Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers (IAF) have conducted a drive for funds to purchase basic school supplies for Des Moines students who might otherwise do without. In Des Moines, there are more than 16,000 children who meet federal poverty guidelines and qualify for free lunches; an estimated 7,500 students are classified as “homeless.” After receiving generous donations, coupled with IAF matching funds, the school supply drive finished at $2,356—breaking last year’s record amount of $1,800. An additional $500 donation concurrent with the School Supply Drive was received from an anonymous donor through stem-can.org, headquartered in Washington, DC.
“Members of the School Supply Drive committee went on a shopping excursion on August 18 at a local Wal-Mart, where supplies were plentiful and inexpensive. There, we followed a checklist of basic requirements for disadvantaged urban schools,” said Bill Shackleford of the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers. “From pencils and glue sticks to calculators and backpacks, we had six or seven carts filled with merchandise—on the first trip alone! We had to make a second trip that evening to purchase more with the funds we had raised.”
“The next day, IAF delivered to the schools which included three elementary schools: Edmunds, Jackson, Moulton, Smouse Opportunity School –which is for students with Special Educational Needs, and Hiatt Middle School. These five schools serve approximately 2,155 students. We also delivered ten backpacks stuffed with essential school supplies to Hawthorn Hill shelter for homeless families. All staff members we encountered were very pleased to receive the donations, with no concern at all for whom we represented,” said Rory Moe, a member of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, and the Coordinator for the Central Iowa Coalition of Reason.
For the STEM-CAN donation, the group visited with a number of local science teachers, ultimately deciding to go with the school and staff who best described a particular need, and submitted the best suggestion. “IAF decided to purchase a particular scientific instrument that enables a teacher to display images overhead: an OMAX 40X – 2500X Lab Binocular Compound LED Microscope with double-layer Mechanical Stage and Digital Camera. The STEM-CAN donation was sufficient for two such scopes, both to be shared by the science department at Hiatt Middle School on Des Moines’ east side,” said Bill Shackleford.
Dr. Jason D. Heap, Education Consultant for STEM-CAN in Washington, DC added, “STEM-CAN is committed to raising students’ achievement and providing opportunities for STEM education, especially in local areas that are often neglected and underfunded. Education provides positive social change, and in light of current situations where children’s’ services and welfare are usurped in favor of less-practical methods of raising funds and developing harmonious communities, it’s important that public schools continue to be inclusive to all community partners who are willing to help make a difference in the lives and educational prospects for their students.”
Rory Moe concluded, “In a world where so much misinformation and pseudoscience is spread through social media, print and television it is of the utmost importance that students know the scientific method and of critical thinking skills so that they can make their own informed decisions. As the late Carl Sagan stated, science is the candle in the dark.”
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Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, Inc. (www.iowaatheists.org) is a non-profit social and educational group working to provide a community of support and friendship for atheists, freethinkers, secular humanists, agnostics, and other non-religious people. IAF provides educational events; is active in community service projects; conducts charitable donation drives; and provides an environment where non-believers can be themselves.
Central Iowa Coalition of Reason (www.centraliowacor.org) is a proactive partnership of four Iowa Atheist, Free-Thought advocates, and Humanist groups working together in the central Iowa region with a clear vision to foster a sense of community for the Secular among us and to raise the visibility of our efforts for those who have not yet found a Secular community through which they can thrive and feel welcome.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Community Action Network (“STEM-CAN”: www.stem-can.org) is a national organization that local STEM clubs and supporter organizations all across the United States.
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