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What’s the Secret to a Great DonorsChoose Project? Ask Your Students.

Published in October 2018 and updated in January 2020.

Some of the most powerful classroom projects on our site are directly inspired by the needs of students. One way to make sure donors will understand exactly how your project will impact student learning is by incorporating those student voices into your classroom project. 
Adding the Student Voice
Projects that incorporate student voice keep things interesting for the classroom supporter, and help highlight the exact need your project will meet. 
Here are our tips on how to add student voice to your classroom project:
Lead a brainstorm with your students. Start the brainstorm with a few sentence starters or prompts. For example, “Our classroom would be even better with ____” or “Our classroom community could take our learning to the next level with ____”. When your students have a say in what materials you request, you can know for sure that they will have a huge impact! 
Let your students choose the resources they want. You might already have an idea of what your classroom needs are, but your students can still have a say. Does your classroom need library books? Have students choose books from a curated list. Are you writing a project for a classroom rug? Let your students help choose a color or design.
 Use your student’s interests to conceptualize a project idea. Maybe your students are nerding out about a new fantasy novel, or voraciously learning about amphibians. Letting your student’s interests and curiosities lead your next project idea can engage them in their learning and catch the interest of a supporter. Capture the spirit of their interest by requesting project materials that support their learning. 
Explicitly name in your essay that your students want these items. Once your students weigh in on what materials you should request, include the process you went through in your project essay. Something like “My students brainstormed and determined with a class vote that they would like more graphic novels in our classroom library.”
Include a quote from a student. Including a quote from a student can help your supporters understand what the direct impact the classroom materials you are requesting will have. Remember to keep student names confidential by saying something like, “When asked why we needed these materials, one student said these resources will help them feel comfortable while reading.”!
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Want additional ways to incorporate a student’s voice? Here are some ideas from teachers in our community:

Let your students request new library books. 

“I have done a few projects for books that students have requested. They let me know which series or books they are interested in and I build the project with those choices.”

— Mrs. Busk

“I really didn’t notice until this year that my books were becoming yellow and weathered. My students kept asking me why my books had Yellow Pages. So I thought it was time to get some new books into my student library. My biggest fear was picking up books that were not appropriate for second grade. So I decided to have my students help me find some books that they love. We hopped on Amazon and they yelled out the names of their favorite series of graphic novels. They were so excited and the next day asked the books were going to arrive.“

— Mrs. Walker

Work with students to find and research new flexible seating options. 

“My students always contribute to our DC projects because it’s their learning environment we are building. They have picked out furniture for our flexible learning environment projects and books for cultural diversity library.”

— Ms. Neely

“I did some floor seating two years ago that is absolutely adored. Came about because kids were asking for options and they helped identify good choices. Other teachers come to borrow my floor rockers all the time. 100% would recommend these chairs!“

— Mrs. Puzzo

Host a brainstorm, and let your students do the research. 

“My students have a large part in creating most projects, but really created my DonorsChoose project ‘Buggy Time’ themselves. They wanted to study the insects at recess and I am was adamant that we could not harm them or take them from their habitats so we brainstormed ways to do this without harming them. We decided to ask for a camera and took pictures of them and wrote about insects and created our own insects.”

— Mrs. Mcconnell

“My students planned, organized, and helped write my tech upgrade project. They did all the research, all of the legwork, and helped write the project itself. Once we got the new laptop, things have gone crazy. We’ve been able to tackle music editing, introduce a recording studio, and do a ton of awesome tech-based music things because of the project!”

— Mr. Ezzo

With the above tips, you can let your students’ voices shine while getting exactly the resources they need.

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