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About RAFT

To learn 21st century skills — critical thinking, creative problem solving, and collaboration — kids need to be actively engaged in solving meaningful problems. RAFT Colorado connects thousands of Colorado teachers with the inspiration and affordable resources students need to work, think, innovate and learn creatively.

 

What is RAFT?

RAFT connects thousands of Colorado teachers . . . 

At RAFT, teachers come first. RAFT serves a diverse group of educators working with all ages of students in a wide assortment of educational settings. Some of these educators come into RAFT needing as little guidance as being pointed in the direction of a certain material, while others need as much support as creating lesson plans for the next month.  No matter what the member requires, RAFT’s warm and knowledgeable staff can provide them with personalized coaching and support and we treat each member with gratitude and respect.

. . . with inspiration and affordable resources . . .

When teachers visit our vibrant resource center in the heart of the Denver metro area, we inspire them with endless rows of practically free materials, creative project ideas, and a staff who treats each member with gratitude and respect.

Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money every year on classroom materials. RAFT keeps its services affordable by creating amazing community collaborations that benefit both educators and the environment. RAFT gathers unwanted items from local businesses and upcycles them into interesting and unique learning activities. Last year, we diverted almost 30,000 cubic feet of waste from landfills in Colorado. Each year, hundreds of volunteers provide thousands of hours of time sorting these materials and packaging them into engaging activity kits.

RAFT offers personal coaching, practical workshops, inspiring institutes, and interactive events. These professional learning experiences are designed to help teachers unlock the magic of everyday materials to provide kids with hands-on learning opportunities that are fun, engaging, and academically rigorous.

RAFT is deeply committed to investing the time and money necessary to employ a highly trained, incredibly talented and innovative staff of current and former educators to create curriculum and ideas and to provide personalized coaching.  RAFT is unique in that it provides teachers with high-level coaching and support at no extra cost.  We serve thousands of teachers from all walks of education who have benefitted from this informal professional development program.

. . . to help students work, think, innovate and learn creatively.

RAFT activities and materials reached over 200,000 students last year. RAFT serves educators across the educational spectrum, meaning kids of all ages and backgrounds received the benefit of our innovative programming. RAFT’s vast array of content-rich activities and practically free materials save teachers time, energy, and money, allowing them to focus their resources on their students. By making high level projects and supplies so incredibly affordable, RAFT is able to ensure more students are exposed to quality hands-on learning opportunities, including those from under resourced schools and districts.

While our primary focus is certainly supporting teachers, RAFT also does some work directly with kids. Through our student field trip program, appearing at educational events, workshops for home school families, and more, RAFT directly works with hundreds of kids each year. Whether through our members or directly, RAFT makes a powerful impact on Colorado kids.

 


 

History

RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) Colorado is an expansion of a proven business model that has been operating successfully for 20 years in San Jose, California.

As an elementary teacher with an affinity for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) topics, RAFT Founder Mary Simon personally experienced how effective hands-on methods were for teaching her students.

Then, in the early 1990s, she ran an exhibit she called “The Doodad Dump” at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. She was struck by how powerfully students and teachers alike responded to the hands-on activities she had created from donated materials. Aware of the many challenges teachers face in trying to bring these activities into their classrooms, she decided to create a resource for other educators, and RAFT was born.

RAFT’s growth in the Bay Area was nurtured by Silicon Valley companies such as Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Google, and Yahoo! Mary just recently retired, and Grainger Marburg is now at the helm of the “Mother RAFT.” Today, RAFT has Resource Centers in San Jose, Redwood City, Sacramento and Denver.

A visit to RAFT San Jose inspired John and Carrie Morgridge of the Morgridge Family Foundation to provide seed funding to replicate RAFT in Colorado as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. They assembled a search committee and hired Stephanie Welsh to be RAFT’s founding executive director, and have been thoughtful and generous supporters ever since.

In August 2009, RAFT Colorado opened its doors to educators to provide them with the resources they need to make learning interactive and fun, all at very low cost. RAFT’s original warehouse was located at 2875 Blake Street in the BallPark neighborhood. In 2014, RAFT relocated to its current facility at 3827 Steele Street.

2009 Grand Opening with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

RAFT’s unique business model has brought together Colorado business, non-profit, and education communities. In a very short time, they have donated tons (literally!) of materials and logged thousands of hours of volunteer time to innovatively transform and adapt everday materials into fun educational activities that help kids learn abstract concepts and acquire 21st century skills.

Today, RAFT Colorado creates engaging, relevant, and interactive learning experiences in public and private school classrooms, before- and after-school programs, and community programs in 28 counties across the state.