A Little Help From Friends

Eduwonk does not solicit funds or do any e-panhandling on the site because we’re supported by some generous philanthropic grants. But we are going to ask you for some help here on behalf of another effort.

FIRST LEGO League is a project that engages middle and high school students in hands-on robotics and scientific research. They are given a challenge to meet through the construction and programming of robots using LEGO parts. Teams compete regionally, at the state level, at the national level, and internationally. It’s a great program but, according to a Brandeis University study, few U.S. participants, less than 10 percent, are minorities and girls are underrepresented as well.

A couple of Los Angeles teachers are trying to get more students involved. This year they’ve created a team from Lynwood Middle School in LA. Lynwood has about 2/3 of students learning English and 3/4 living in poverty. Results from the 2004 California state assessments show that only 15% of seventh graders and 13% of eighth graders tested proficient or above in English Language Arts, and 8% of seventh graders and 0% of eighth graders tested proficient or above in Mathematics.

The 10 student team they’ve built is representative of the school’s population: Almost all are English Language Learners; about half have participated in Special Education or Resource Specialist Programs. Some are currently enrolled in the school’s alternate placement for students extremely far below grade level and at high risk for school failure, and others are enrolled in Special Day Classes. One-third are female, and all are either Hispanic or African-American. In the competition, the team will compete against students from more affluent communities near LA.

UCLA, the Lynwood School District, and some generous individuals in Los Angeles are helping out but the team needs more help. If you have either technical expertise with science and robotics (or even LEGOs) and live in the LA area, or if you can make a monetary contribution to help the team (every little bit helps) please e-mail “education AT dlcppi.org” and we’ll put you in touch with the two teachers helping to lead the project.

These teachers have stepped up: Please step up for them. For donations of $100 or more or 8 hours of time or more, Eduwonk will send you a personalized, signed copy of Wendy Kopp’s book One Day All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learned Along the Way. Be sure to mention this when you e-mail us.

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