Curious looks — some bordering on confusion — were a welcome sign in a classroom at Orcutt Academy High School on a recent afternoon, where students worked to harness a new technology.
The chemistry students were learning the ins and outs of high-tech Student Response System devices, commonly called “clickers,” which allow users to electronically answer a posed question by pushing a button. The results are shown, often anonymously, as part of a real-time tally.
Curiosity denotes learning, which is exactly why a 2-year-old nonprofit dedicated to funding academics and science in the Orcutt Academy Charter program raised $2,000 to buy the devices.
The SOAAR (Supporting Orcutt Academy’s Academic Resources) foundation has been building a network of giving since its creation in spring 2011, when a group of concerned parents and school staff realized state funding alone could not provide the best for the charter.
“Clickers” are just the latest benefit of the nonprofit’s efforts, according to Laurel Ciervo, OAHS dean of student services and counseling.
Ciervo said teachers can use the devices, which were donated this school year, for multiple-choice questions as well as on tests and for data collection.
“They can right away check for understanding,” she told Noozhawk. “It cuts down on a lot of time. (SOAAR)’s really financing school.”
SOAAR raised about $18,000 through grants, donations and fundraisers in its first fiscal year. So far for 2012-13, SOAAR has raised about $7,000, according to SOAAR board member Juliann Hemphill.
The nonprofit regularly supports the high school’s successful Spartatroniks Robotics Team, provides technology equipment and is currently raising funds for computer software.
Joe Dana, district director of charter programs, said SOAAR raises money through grants, organized events, direct asks to parents and families, and business donations.
“We cannot depend on Sacramento to fully fund everything we want to do,” Dana said. “If we want to do some special things, we’re going to have to be innovative and entrepreneurial ourselves.”
He said SOAAR is solely for academics, whereas the PTSA funds education enrichment, athletic boosters fund sports and the Orcutt Children’s Arts Foundation supplements arts.
“We are steadily making progress,” Dana said. “We do think that we have found a good reception. They like what it stands for. I think it’s important. Who knows where state financial stability is headed? We have got to look for what we can do.”