San Jose Councilmember Kansen Chu presents RAFT Founder and Executive Director Mary Simon with the proclamation

San Jose Councilmember Kansen Chu presents RAFT Founder and Executive Director Mary Simon with the city’s proclamation.

RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching), a leader in providing advanced, hands-on educational materials, is marking its twentieth anniversary today with a celebration for educators at both RAFT Bay Area sites: San Jose, from 9:30-4:30; and Redwood City, 9:00-3:00. The city of San Jose has proclaimed the day “Hands-on Learning Day” in honor of the organization’s impact over the past two decades.

RAFT’s milestone is highlighted by steady growth in educators’ use of RAFT’s collection of popular products for the education marketplace, which consist of uniquely effective learning materials that “engage, inspire and educate” students and complement the new Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and STEM education.

“There is no greater feeling than knowing that we have impacted education for an entire generation of students. Everyone at RAFT is excited about our anniversary, and looking forward to the next 20 years,” says Mary Simon, a former teacher and the organization’s executive director. “RAFT will continue to focus on equipping classrooms with cost-effective teaching materials that meet the needs of 21st Century learners.”

A non-profit organization Simon founded in 1994; RAFT’s mission has always been to provide classroom materials that push the envelope and go beyond the merely traditional. “If kids don’t learn the way we teach—then we have to teach them the way they actually learn,” adds Simon.

For the past 20 years, RAFT learning kits have influenced how students learn, how teachers present core concepts, and provide a rich teaching tapestry to core educational programs. Since its inception, RAFT has attracted a steady wellspring of dedicated volunteers and educators supportive of RAFT’s mission in myriad ways. Read the History of RAFT.

RAFT currently supplies 12,000 educators in schools and after school programs, primarily in California and Colorado, with valuable teaching tools. Its online store features more than 100 products including low-cost activity kits, free idea sheets, and unique materials. RAFT also provides professional development and educator mentoring to improve education outcomes for learners in every age bracket.

To provide its learning kits and materials at low cost, RAFT originated a supply chain process which meets a robust Green Initiative. Every day, RAFT diverts 400 cubic feet of discarded materials destined for landfills and converts them into teaching resources, including its collection of more than 100 hands-on Activity Kits—assembled with the help of volunteers and community-oriented businesses.

In the next 20 years, it will be essential for RAFT to continue filling the void in the educational process. Given the growing demand for RAFT’s hands-on tools, as demonstrated through the assembly of its 500,000th Activity Kit last month, the contributions of volunteers and donors are more important now than ever. Many more volunteers and donations of supplies and funds are crucial to support the growing utilization of RAFT’s tools which will impact a new generation of students.

“Over the years, RAFT has become my lifeline for supplies and standards-linked teaching materials: everything from paper to science equipment, project supplies, and math manipulatives,” says Julie DiMaio, a primary school teacher and Cub Scout leader. “RAFT’s Activity Kits are just what the kids need to bring a concept to life. They allow me to engage an entire classroom at a fraction of the cost of creating projects myself. I’m able to use limited budgets and personal money to quickly obtain extremely helpful teaching tools.”

“For me, RAFT is an invaluable resource,” she adds.

What’s your RAFT story?
To celebrate the anniversary, RAFT members, volunteers, and donors are encouraged to share an inspiring short story of personal learning or teaching with hands-on teaching resources from RAFT. Visit www.raft.729solutions.com/20 to share your story.

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