Christmas came early and frequently this year for local schools, as Mountain View-based Google played Santa Claus -- donating money, computers and the time of its employees to both the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school districts.
"It's important for us to invest in science, technology and math education in our community, in order to inspire the next generation of technologists right here in Mountain View," wrote Jordan Newman, a Google spokesman. "That's why we support our local schools through donations and community service projects."
$1 million donation
The giving spree began in April, when the search engine giant announced its plan to give $1 million to the Mountain View Whisman School District to fund math programs for struggling students.
"We are extremely grateful to Google for making it possible to embark on this new era of instruction and student achievement," Craig Goldman, the district's superintendent , told the Voice when the donation was announced.
More than one-third -- about $350,000 -- of the money went toward funding a teacher-training program. Over the summer break, teachers learned a style of teaching called "explicit direct instruction," or EDI. With EDI, each student is given a small, personal dry-erase board, which they use to solve problem and then display their solutions to the teacher, who can immediately see who is having trouble with the lesson.
The idea is to address confusion the moment it arises, according to Cynthia Kampf, a consultant for DataWORKS, the company that developed the EDI system. "Instead of waiting for the quiz on Friday, we're finding out right then and there."
Over the summer about 400 Google employees gathered at Stevenson Elementary School to help clean classrooms and paint walls as part of the fourth-annual GoogleServe community service initiative.
On June 16, the crew of volunteers descended upon Stevenson with paintbrushes and cleaning supplies.
It was the "biggest GoogleServe project ever organized," according to Cady Kollen, an administrative assistant at Google and the project leader for the Stevenson site.
It was also the biggest year for GoogleServe on the whole, according to Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, a spokeswoman for Google. More than 6,000 employees from 60 offices around the world participated over 400 projects 11 of the projects being in Mountain View.
'Home, Sweet Home' grant
In September, Theuerkauf school was the recipient of a $15,000 grant from Google, which came as part of the philanthropic "Home, Sweet Home" initiative. The money was given to the school in support of science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM -- education.
"Supporting STEM education locally and early makes all the sense in the world to us," Spain said, noting that the company has a vested interest in building "strong foundations" in STEM education. "We really believe that is important and we really believe that it is important to do in our own backyard."
The grant to Theuerkauf was used to fund a once-a-week, after-school science club for fourth- and fifth-grade students, according to Principal Connie Vasquez-Sawdey.
"We're elated," Vasquez-Sawdey said of the grant. "We believe in extending our student's day for education in science and the arts."
In the club the students explore three branches of science: physical, life and earth, the principal said. They are also learning about alternative energy by working on hands-on experiments with the school's large solar panel, which was installed with money from the PG&E Solar Schools Program.
She said she was pleased to see Google reach out and help schools in Mountain View. Large companies have an obligation to contribute to their communities, she said.
200 laptops to MVLA
Google also pledged 200 laptops to the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District in September -- another donation aimed at improving STEM education in local schools.
Barry Groves, superintendent of the high school district, said that the laptops -- all of them IBM Thinkpads -- were exclusively for student use. The laptops were in good condition, sometimes better condition than some of the school's comparable machines.
"This donation will be used, and it will be used every day," Groves told the Voice.
The laptops were donated at the same time the district was becoming more Web-connected than ever before. With a new high-speed wireless Internet network recently installed at both high schools, students and teachers now have Wi-Fi access everywhere on campus, even out on the athletic fields.