Claire Chatinover is a first-time teacher to a fifth grade class at PS 90 in Coney Island. In the midst of stressful New York State testing earlier this year, Ms. Chatinover wanted nothing more than to give her students something fun and stress-free to look forward to.
To do so, she knew she needed to get creative. Popular within the teaching community, DonorsChoose.org hosts education-based projects that require funds. While projects are not always a success, Ms. Chatinover's first attempt was funded within a month.
With a few months still left of the school year, Ms. Chatinover was able to tell her students she had an out-of-this-world surprise for them: She had raised enough money to book a class trip to Wagner College’s Planetarium!
As a Title 1 school, many PS 90 students will miss out on trips due to associated expenses. “That’s not what trips should be for them. This is stress they shouldn’t be feeling at 11 years old,” Ms. Chatinover said.
Once the trip was booked with the funds raised by the DonorsChoose campaign, Ms. Chatinover got to work planning a two-day lead-in lesson encompassing the basics of astronomy and typical college life. She was especially excited for the trip since most of her students had never been to a college campus before. "I remember going to a college for the first time... I was probably a little bit older, but I was looking around being like 'Oh there are people here and I want to be one of those people,'" Ms. Chatinover said.
The morning of their May visit, yellow school buses responsible for transporting PS 90's fifth grade students from their classrooms in Coney Island to our college campus on Staten Island lined up at the main entrance off of the Sutter Oval. The students quickly stepped off the buses, one-by-one, and followed our staff around the Oval to the Spiro Building that houses the Wagner College Planetarium.
Later that day, the students emerged from the Spiro Building with a new energy, their eyes and smiles sparkled like the stars projected on the planetarium ceiling.
After the show, the perfect spring weather begged for some outdoor fun. During which, PS 90's fascinated students had the opportunity to run around on the grass of the Sutter Oval and interact with Wagner students. I personally overheard them asking collegiate walkers-by questions about everything from sports and classes to whether or not they played the video game Fortnite.
Thanks to the generous givers on DonorsChoose.org, these students were given something to look forward to during a stressful school year: a trip that will hopefully stay with them, and inspire them for years to come.