“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” – Carl Sagan
Once again, it is time for our ANNUAL SCHOOL SUPPLY FUND DRIVE. IAF has conducted an annual school supply fund drive for many years. Two years ago, one of our members altered the focus of our drives by offering a generous $500 donation with the contingency that the money be allocated specifically for science. The idea was so consistent with much of what IAF stands for that we decided to follow his strategy. Our last two drives have been focused entirely on school supply needs for the science teacher or science student. As we did with all prior drives, we searched for a school with a significant need. Our search led us to southern Iowa.
As every political candidate learns, Iowa has 99 counties, ranging from the richest; Dallas County (Think Adel, Waukee) with a median annual income of $73,847, to the poorest, Decatur County (Decatur City, Leon, Lamoni) with a median income of $36,326. (Polk County comes in at number 5). Lamoni is a quiet little town of 2,267 citizens (2017), most of whom are part of the southern Iowa agricultural community. It is home to Graceland College, where Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner was a student in 1972 when he won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1.500 meter event of the decathlon. Lamoni High School , where 55% of the student body falls into the category of “economically disadvantaged”, is a school with a significant need.
We visited with the Chair of the science department about the status of the school’s programs and available funding. For a student body of approximately 190 kids, the science department has an annual budget of $200 for classroom supplies. Teachers expressed frustration, one explaining that of the 36 teachers, “I cannot think of one who does not take some money from their own pocket at the beginning of the year.” Many of the lab supplies are extremely outdated; some are simply non-existent.
When we asked the science teachers what they would do with a donation of, perhaps “several hundred dollars”, their first response was “the first thing we would do would be to replace our old Ceramic Warming Plates.” Warming plates are one of the foundational science lab tools, described as “vital devices for the science lab”; used to warm and maintain the temperature of various laboratory specimens. Of particular importance is their capacity to heat uniformly, maintain temperature, and function without exposed flame. Warming Plates come with a single or double burner, some include a magnetic stirrer. Good quality plates are designed to assure student safety, and to last for several years. They are utilized to teach multiple disciplines: earth science, environmental science, biology, chemistry, soil science, geology, farming, and for soil testing in the Ag department. One teacher explained; “students are so much more engaged when they can work in the lab.” The warming plates currently in use are worn, somewhat rusted, and appear to be decades old. To provide new warmers for all of the disciplines taught to the 190-200 students would require SIX units.
One of the best products is the “; utilizing state-of-the-art ceramics with safe heating features. Stirrers can be adjusted from 200 to 2,500 rpm. Each 7” X 7” plate costs $545, though purchase of multiple units results in a discount. With is in mind, our goal for our 2019 fund drive:
To donate at least one, and if possible SIX Flinn Warming Plates with Magnetic Stirrer to Lamoni High School/Middle School. Our donation will be chronicled in the local Lamoni newspaper, and hopefully in the Des Moines Register and in Cityview. Each warmer will include a small brass plate with the inscription “Donated to Lamoni HS by IAF (Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers) – fall semester 2019.” Between 190 and 200 students and their science teachers, all living in the poorest county in Iowa, will receive immediate benefit from our 2019 school supply fund drive. If we raise $550 one warmer will be donated – $1,000 will provide 2 warmers – with possible matching funds; THREE Thousand dollars will update the entire science department.
Please donate what you can.
Bill & Joyce Shackelford
IAF 2019 School Supply Fund Drive
With both high school and middle school students, approximately 150 students would receive immediate benefit of our donation.