Growing a mustache helps kids learn science

December 18, 2008 7:19:32 PM PST
Because of the state's budget crisis, schools around the state face an uncertain financial future. So a non-profit organization, DonorsChoose.org, recruited a few good men to help some local schools in a most unusual way.

In Leah Heinrich's first grade class, students have to share their watercolor paints and the brushes are getting old.

"The watercolors are really old, we don't have Cray-Pas, we don't have clay, we don't have different kinds of paints, different kinds of brushes, colored pencils, anything like that," Heinrich said.

Heinrich teaches at Rise Community School in Oakland. She tries to use art as a way to enhance learning. Subjects like science and social science are often better understood through art.

"So one of the things, one of our standards is that they need to know the parts of an owl or parts of a duck, different parts of an animal. So, like on our wall... we talk about the different parts and they draw the different parts," Heinrich said.

Heinrich and her students are hoping to get their much needed art supplies through the Web site DonorsChoose.org. There, teachers post their projects online and they get funded by the public.

Heinrich's students hope Ken Taylor's mustache will help them. Every year DonorsChoose.org asks guys like Taylor to grow mustaches for the kids while collecting money from sponsors. Two years ago Taylor won the competition for the most impressive mustache.

"I think the shaved head probably was the edge just because the only hair on my face was this caterpillar thing," Taylor said.

All the money collected by his sponsors will help buy the art supplies the kids need and fund other projects on the DonorsChoose.org Web site.

Tune Up Media is a San Francisco-based startup. They help organize the iTunes library. This year, the entire staff grew mustaches.

"Afam, I believe it's his first time growing a mustache, Will as well. Raza Zaidi, my business partner, did it last year with me," said the 2006 and 2007 top fundraiser, Gabe Adiv.

Even the women in the company have been supportive.

"They did try. It wasn't successful. I think they are both thankful," Adiv said.

Adiv is the king of the fundraiser; for the past two years he has brought in more money than any other competitor.

"The name of the game for me is really persistence, annoyance. I keep a blog updated about every other day and I send updates to a list of probably about 100 people," Adiv said.

Adiv is supporting 20 teacher's projects, including one at Think College Now in Oakland. While all the kids in one fifth grade class there have science textbooks, they do not all read at grade level. The teacher wants to buy science books at different levels to supplement their learning.

"They are all fifth graders but they come from different backgrounds," teacher Brenda Tuohy said. "A lot of them are learning English as a second language. The text isn't comprehensible to all of them."

The books cost $1,000. Adiv says his staff and sponsors will pull through.

"It's something small to do; it's not going to solve the problem but it definitely clears my conscience at some level that I am at least playing a part and lending to the solution," Adiv said.

"I think it's pretty neat that people who have never met me or the students are willing to spend their own money investing in the future of these kids. It's exciting. Public education needs their support," Tuohy said.


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