Geeking for Good

Starting tomorrow at noon Central time, Jason and JT are starting a marathon gaming session for fundraising. Half the proceeds will go to Camp Quest and half will go to the Women in Secularism conference. The whole thing will be streamed and captured for your viewing pleasure (see Jason’s blog tomorrow for the stream link). Also so you can taunt people later over being trounced in the games.

Now, if you listen to JT, you’d think these guys were doing old school gaming:

I’ve spent some time seeing if we can run some of the arcade games from my youth which I never got to beat because it cost too many damn quarters.  Old school arcades will be playing include:

  • NBA Jam/NBA Hangtime
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Street Fighter II
  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • Battle Circuit
  • Smash TV
  • R-Type LEO
  • Cyberbots
  • Ninja Baseball Batman
  • Altered Beast
  • Contra
  • The Simpsons
  • Turtles in Time
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
  • Ninja Commando

It’s not new. I’ll give them that. But oy, these kids, thinking that’s old. If you want to talk old, you’ll want to tune in when I join the guys at 8 a.m. CDT Sunday morning.

That’s also when I’ll announce a funding challenge. Only my challenge won’t be for JT and Jason. It will be for the viewers. I’ve been trying to track down a long-lost game for a while. As far the official lists go, it seems to have never existed. Only I know I played it (and I know others who played it), and I want to play it again if I can.

So if you think your Google-fu is better than mine, up for the challenge of finding a game that is well-hidden, watch Sunday morning. For that matter, tune in whenever you can. Give the guys and their guests challenges, either now or in the chatroom they’ll have set up. Or even just make a donation and watch the fun bits later on the recording.

However you do it, everybody wins, even when one of them is losing.

The Final Reckoning

I promised more thanks from happy teachers either after the election or when the science bloggers’ Donors Choose campaign ended. I, for one, didn’t need cheering up after the election, so I saved these for today. You can see the final results at the end of this post. Spoilers: You helped a lot of kids.

Now for some happy teachers. [Read more…]

Last Chance to Jump In

Donors Choose comes to a close tomorrow. Thanks from teachers whose projects you’ve funded keeps rolling in. I’ll share more later this weekend. Before it’s all over, though, I’d love it if we can help give a bunch of kids access to the same technology that most of us take for granted.

Jumping With Technology

Elizabeth Fonde Elem School, Mobile, AL

My Students: Change the world with technology aid. My students have two computer labs for the first time ever! In order for them to create and save projects, they will need jump drives. As a teacher at a title I school, my parents are not financially able to purchase these for their child.

This year, I have 18 lovely children. The are all excited to learn and are soaking up what we do in the computer lab like a sponge! They range in age from 9 to 12. I teach at a Title I school in Alabama. Our school is slowly trying to change our reputation from a rough school to an academic thriving school with many opportunities for our students.

My Project: If my children have jump drives, I will be able to teach them many technology resources and how to use them! By having the ink and paper, I can provide more resources to help them complete their projects by providing a resource for them to print information that they gather form the computer!

I feel as though this donation will make a huge difference to my classroom. It will show students how kind people are in the world and that others care about them and their education. I also believe that it will better prepare my students for a better future!

The NEA Foundation is matching everything donated to this project. I know that many of you donated to election campaigns. I know that many of you donated to Skepticon. However, this project is only $152 from completion. Small donations will add up quickly. Think we can fund one more project?

If you donate, don’t forget to enter the matching code “SCIENCE” when you check out. Your donation will be matched up to $100 by Donors Choose itself.

Thanking Donors

It’s the day before election day here in the U.S. Mostly, that means donor fatigue, annoyance at every new-email notification, growling at television and YouTube ads, and a certain amount of general anxiety. In…er, celebration? No. In recognition of the day, have a little bit of instant feel-good.

Readers from this blog have been participating in the Donors Choice science bloggers challenge. They–you–have, through large donations and small, given more than the readers of any other individual blog except Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy. You have helped to complete 13 projects reaching almost 1,900 students. That is no small feat. Thank you.

There are other people who would like to thank you as well. Here are a few of the letters I’ve been receiving from teachers. [Read more…]

Atheism Really Does Equal Communism!

Well, maybe not exactly communism, but if you’ve got the ability, Skepticon has a need. More importantly, Skepticon is filling a need. JT explains:

Five years ago, when Skepticon was conceived, we noticed a problem: the only major conferences available cost, at minimum, a few hundred bucks just to walk in the door.  The problem wasn’t the charging, because groups like American Atheists do phenomenal things with the income from conference.  The problem is that there was no alternative for those, like myself at the time, who couldn’t afford that.  The lack of an alternative created a class distinction where only those with a fair amount of money had access to their atheist heroes.  Skepticon was invented as an antidote to that problem.  We decided, sometimes after fighting over how easier things would be if we just charged a small amount, to keep it free, and to just work out asses off to keep it that way.

And it worked.  While heading up the organizing effort, the most common emails I received contained overwhelming gratitude that there was finally a conference they could afford to attend.  The crowds at Skepticon were unlike any other event (and those who have attended can attest to this).  Whereas young people were the vast minority at conferences before, at Skepticon they came in droves.  The ages in the crowd ranged from 9 years-old up to 91, and the sheer joy throughout the attending crowd was unlike anywhere else I’d ever been.  That one could be a part of this event for free is undoubtedly culpable for Skepticon’s trademark high energy atmosphere.

Not only does Skepticon keep their tickets free, but they’re right there in the center of the country. They’re in the middle of that most-churched swath of our country, on one edge of the land of fundamentalism. They give people resources to organize rides and couches and floors where people can sleep. They put everything they can record on the web with decent production values.

People can reach Skepticon like no other convention, like no other part of the atheist community. They can participate there, even if they can’t at home. They can be part of the crowd instead of hanging separate from it. They can have that experience of having their understanding of the world be simultaneously front and center and part of the background that Christians in our country take for granted.

I’ve heard people say some harsh things about the very existence of an atheist community over the last few months. Some people have said there isn’t one; others that there shouldn’t be. I disagree on both. If I didn’t think community was an important thing to offer those who want it, I wouldn’t put as much work into improving ours as I have.

What I’ve done pales in comparison to what the Skepticon crew does to promote and provide community. Conference volunteers put in an amazing amount of work, but these men and women are unreal. However, volunteer work can only go so far. This is where Skepticon needs your help.

Dear Internet,

Let me start by first saying that I love ALL of your faces. I do.

So, as you may have heard, Skepticon is happening soon and I am so excited! WOOO!

But, here’s the thing. There’s a catch. I know, I know–there is always a catch, but this one is pretty important. Skepticon is in a bit of a tough spot. This year, we had to secure a bigger venue, and that means that it’s more expensive to put on.

If I had all the money in the world, I would put on Skepticon for free every year, but sadly (both for me and the world) that is not the case. We need donations to keep Skepticon running, especially now as we are faced with a larger obstacle than we had originally thought.

Every time I express my worry about Skepticon’s financial situation, I am faced with comments about we ‘should just start charging.’  I won’t lie to you all, doing that would make things much easier financially. If everyone who came to Skepticon gave us $5, we would easily be able to fund ourselves.

But we won’t start doing that. Ever. As far as I am concerned, as long as all of you continue to believe in and support us, then we are willing to put in the work to make this event free to attend. We want any and everyone who can make it out to Springfield freaking’ Missouri to be able to be here with us.

We want you here. We want this event to happen. We need your help.


Hearts and kisses,


Five dollars isn’t very much to give one person access to the speakers and workshops and community that Skepticon offers. Many attendees could do that themselves. Some, however, can’t. Others have already donated all they can afford before the problem (some kind of miscommunication on the costs of the venue) arose. They can’t give any more.

I can, and I have. More people get to go to Skepticon this year because I just donated what I could. Can you? Even just one person? Atheism isn’t really communism, but it does need community. Skepticon supports that community. You can too, by donating directly or passing the word on if you can’t.

And if you’re attending, stop and say, “Hi.”

Give The Hunger Games

Sometimes the materials we give children to encourage them to read are books that we think kids ought to be reading instead of the books everyone wants to read. This project has kids reading, not just fun books, but books that everyone is already talking about, giving them an extra incentive to read.

Butler High School Literacy Initiative

Butler High School in Augusta, GA

My Students: There is an extreme lack of reading in our community. Students would rather turn on the TV and watch the movie versus reading a book. During Independent Reading, we hope to ignite a fire and instill a love and appreciation for reading within our students.

This GA high school is roughly 90% Black, 7% White, and 3% other (Hispanic, Asian, etc). Most of the families here are of low-socioeconomic status and benefit from Title I. There is a plague of student apathy here but there are also motivated students as well who want to learn.

My Project: Having these resources in place will improve the 4th-8th grade reading level that many of the kids are presently on. Students are already using annotation to improve comprehension. This is especially beneficial when the time comes to do research papers from the American author books I requested.

This project is especially important to me because it frustrates me to watch the students walk around in their world, ignorant of the diversities and different cultures life holds. They are in a box-thinking mindset and willingly believe whatever Hollywood feeds them instead of opening a book and letting their imagination soar and their ideas flourish. The knowledge they will learn from reading will be far more than I can ever impart as their teacher.

My students need 25 copies of The Hunger Games, books that interest them and also better references for research purposes.

Starting today, any donation you’re able to make to one of the science bloggers’ challenges, up to $100, will be matched by the Donors Choose Foundation. They’re matching up to $50,000 from us, so this is an opportunity to have a huge impact. Just enter “SCIENCE” when you check out and help even more students.

Picture showing the "Match or gift code" field just above the buttons for choosing type of payment.

Access to Civil Rights History

A number of the Donors Choose donors from this blog have found this project appealing, and it’s no wonder why. There is only $185 to go to fully fund it. Can we push it over the top?

Researching Our Past

My Students: My 4th graders attend a Title 1 School and have limited access to technology outside of school. We live in a technological age, and my students deserve the opportunity to be exposed to as much technology as possible.

My students face the world already at a disadvantage. Our school is in one of the poorest counties in South Carolina. It has a 15.6% unemployment rate, so these children face tremendous challenges in their life away from school. Most of the students receive free or reduced lunches and free breakfast everyday. The only computers and technology they are exposed to is at school and they come eager to learn to use it.

My Project: Having an iPad available in my classroom for my students will allow them the opportunity to research Civil Rights and the Civil War using state of the art technology. The iPad will give them access to websites with pictures, videos, and key information about the leaders and heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War. Not only will my students learn about our past, they will also learn how to use an iPad (something that they would never see outside of school).

This project is so important for us because it is vital we remember those who spoke out for change and because it allows my students to do that using amazing technology. Please help me expose my students to the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War in a way that they will never forte, using a cool iPad!

My students need an iPad to help assist them in using technology to research the Civil Rights Movement.

Students Building a Curriculum

One of the best ways students can truly learn their subject is to teach it to someone else. This Donors Choose project allows gifted students to do just that, helping them and their peers learn now and into the future.

Project Lab

Oak Grove Lower Elementary School in Hattiesburg, MS

My Students: Save our work! Students are creating authentic projects to share with other classes by developing “Learning Kits.” It is hard to motivate students to put forth their best effort if their materials will not hold up to long-term use. Knowing that their work will be “saved” will inspire them!

My students are second grade intellectually gifted students in one of Mississippi’s fastest growing school districts. These students come from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. All have been identified by set criteria to participate in this one day per week pullout program to promote higher level thinking skills.

My Project: With the help of the laminating system requested my classroom will be transformed into a project-based learning environment where students eagerly work on authentic projects to demonstrate their own learning and enhance the learning of others! We will call our classroom the “Project Lab” because our room will be like a lab with students working to create outstanding projects to share with others. Students will learn how to research, plan, set goals, and follow through to completion on a project of their choice based on each unit of study. By using the classroom laminator student’s work will be protected from wear and tear caused by use over the year. The “Learning Kits” they create with laminated educational reports, lessons and activities will be shared with other students. Without this laminator, these projects can only be shared for a short time; however, with this laminator system these projects can be used indefinitely and many students will benefit from our effort

Not only will “Project Lab” inspire my students to put forth their very best effort on authentic learning projects, but it will also allow them to produce high-quality projects that will enhance learning for their peers in our school. Once completed student-created “Learning Kits” will be available yearly to enhance the learning for many students.

My students need a laminator so the “Learning Kits” they create can be used by other students in our school.

Can you help these students learn through teaching? There are only two days to go on this challenge.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Socks

All too often, the history of our country (and any other history really) is presented as a series of dates and battles. The people involved are cardboard cutouts, heroes and villains. One Donors Choose teacher is trying to change that for her class by using novels along with the class history texts.

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Socks”

Frank Long Elementary School in Hinesville, GA

My Students: Using the Social Studies and Science books would help my students connect to the skills being taught during that unit.

My students enjoy doing hands-on projects to include: edible ecosystems, simple machines, and solar system models. They also love to read! We are a Title 1 school, which means that our school is 100% federally funded and over 74% of our school meets the requirements for free and/or reduced lunch. Frank Long is one of many schools in our community that have transient military population.

My Project: These books would help enhance the visual memory of my students when learning about the numerous events that happened in the past. Many times students have a hard time drawing parallels to such events that have happened in the past and need more concrete examples. I believe each book will help to foster learning in my classroom. Please, help my students get these Social Studies books to complete Common Core requirements for the upcoming school year including George Washington”s Socks, Revolutionary War on Wednesday, and If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution Kay Moor.

I believe Social Studies is a very important subject for the students of tomorrow. By using different text, it helps to stimulate interest and vocabulary for my students. A well-rounded student, is a life-long learner.

My students need 30 copies each of 3 books, including George Washington”s Socks, Revolutionary War on Wednesday, and If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution Kay Moor.

Can you help these students out? There are only four days left to finish out this project. Every donation will help.