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What Pre-K and Head Start Teachers Need Most (Plus, a Match from PNC Grow Up Great®!)

It’s been exactly one year since we welcomed Head Start teachers to our community, and we’re marking the occasion in true DonorsChoose.org style: With cool data and matched donations!
First, here’s the match you won’t want to miss. We know that a great preschool experience can help students develop a lifelong passion for learning. Through a grant from the PNC Foundation, PNC Grow Up Great® wants to support the amazing teachers who set students on the road to success. Starting today, PNC Grow Up Great will match donations to pre-K projects in their footprint. Visit our help center to find out if your next project could be eligible for doubled donations.
Now, the data. We looked at every pre-K project teachers have posted so far this school year and found the top five resources they need most. Then, for each resource, we found an awesome project that our friends at PNC supported through last year’s program. If you’re looking for an idea for your classroom, this is a great place to start!
1. Books (5,000 projects)
In her project, “Bringing Literature To Life,” Ms. Mendoza sums up why so many pre-K teachers request books. The way she sees it, pre-K teachers have a unique opportunity to instill in their students a “lifelong love of reading.”
“For many of my students,” she writes, “their first experience with books happens in my pre-K classroom. It is my job to introduce them to books in a way that is fun, exciting, and engaging.”
Fun, exciting, and engaging are three words her students must be very familiar with! To support her students as they learn to read, Ms. Mendoza uses puppets and props to help her students “retell and reinvent stories.” As they learn to read, they learn to become storytellers themselves.
2. Activity Kits & Manipulatives (4,200 projects)
Mrs. Eggen uses STEM activity kits from her project, “STEM Learning,” to set up the perfect pre-K engineering lesson. She writes that her “preschool students have valuable opportunities to build and design independently and collaboratively with their peers.” Even better? “They are having a great time doing it.”
She’s excited to “begin planting the engineering seeds of interest with all of [her] students,” getting her girls excited early about what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.
3. Puppets & Toys (3,600 projects)
For our littlest learners, play is how they understand the world. For Mrs. Hokanson’s four-year-olds, puppets are “a valuable means for promoting oral language skills and confidence in getting young children to open up.” In her project “Puppet Pals in 4K,” she built a puppet collection for her young learners.
She notes that the puppets are especially helpful for working with ESL students. “Every year I have a few children who do not speak English and I have found that I can use puppets to help them develop language skills through music, stories, and other fun puppet activities.”
4. Book Bins, Cubbies & Organizers (1,400 projects)
If you visit a pre-K classroom, one of the first things that jumps out is how many different activities students can work on in a single day. In a few hours they’ll work on reading, math, science, play, music, art, and more. All of those lessons involve supplies, and all of those supplies need a home. It’s no surprise organizing tools are popular among pre-K teachers.
Organizing tools are used for more than just a neat classroom. For Mrs. Holt, “Organization helps promote independence and self-sufficiency in my four year old students!” In her project, “Keep it Neat,” she asked for supplies to organize her classroom and give her students a “neat and tidy” space that promotes “calm and safety.”
5. Paints & Brushes (1,300 projects)
In her project, “Paint for Our Masterpieces,” Ms. Anderson explains why art projects are so popular for pre-K students. “The arts encourage students to take risks, interpret, criticize, and use visual information.” Her students “understand more rigorous content and recognize connections by using critical thinking skills taught through art.”
Art isn’t just an end in itself; it’s also a tool for teachers working on other subjects. As Ms. Anderson writes, “Blending arts into the sciences inspires creative thinking, problem solving, and innovation.” And this doesn’t just apply to STEM. Her students “have painted in response to our science lessons, social studies, and mathematics.”
Thank you to our friends at the PNC Foundation for supporting so many projects like these!
Need even more ideas for your classroom? See every pre-K project.

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