KDT! Ithaca’s 10 Years Possible Due to Community Support

December 17, 2014


In the last ten years, 25,000 Ithaca City School District (ICSD) students have visited the seven Discovery Trail museums and the public library thanks to Kids Discover the Trail! Ithaca (KDT! Ithaca) and all of the educators and supporters involved with the program. Over its history, KDT! has relied on generous donations to the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) by many individuals, foundations and businesses.


Mary Grainger, IPEI’s vice president and Development Committee chair, is also a donor to KDT!.“We are very glad to support IPEI because KDT! ensures that all Ithaca elementary students have the same chances to learn with the educators of the Discovery Trail.”


Emma Loiacono, a 5th grader at Caroline Elementary School remembers her trips fondly. “Kids Discover the Trail! is fun because we get to go places that we might not have gotten to visit with our families. I liked that we got to see that kids from other schools have the same interests, including kids from other cultures. It will be fun to see the kids who were our buddies when we go to the same middle school next year.”    


KDT! is a collaborative project between IPEI, ICSD, and the Discovery Trail. Through KDT! all 2,900 elementary school students district-wide are given the opportunity to visit one of the Discovery Trail sites every year from Pre-K through 5th grade. Sites include the Johnson Museum of Art, Museum of the Earth, Tompkins County Public Library, Cornell Plantations, Sciencenter, Cayuga Nature Center, Eight Square Schoolhouse of the History Center, and Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell. Each student is paired with another from the same grade level in a different school; they jointly participate in both pre- and post-visit activities.


The Ithaca High School Interim Principal Jason Trumble believes KDT! aligns with the overall goals of the ICSD. “The KDT! program epitomizes our unrelenting goals of community and learning here in Ithaca.  As a long-time secondary administrator I continue to marvel at the deep impact KDT!has had, and continues to have on our youth preparing them for middle and high school and beyond.”


To participate in KDT!trips, teachers don’t have to seek outside funding and the students don’t have to sell candy bars or fundraise. It’s all paid for by IPEI’s sponsors and donors while the ICSD provides transportation for all 150 trips annually.


Julie Wells, a teacher at Caroline Elementary School, said: “Teachers do not need to be concerned with the logistics of fundraising to bring our students to these great sites. Instead, we are able to focus on the important tasks of building relationships between students at partnering schools, the teaching of new content and quality lessons, and helping our students truly experience the field trips.”


At a per student per year cost of approximately $30, KDT! requires extensive fundraising by IPEI,  a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Donors can make tax-deductible contributions to support the program. According to Grainger, “KDT! depends on the generosity of community members and businesses so all costs can be covered without charging individuals for each and every KDT! activity.”


The majority of KDT!donors are individuals from around the community who are interested in enriching the education of our district’s students.  Of the donations received by IPEI for KDT!, 40% is contributed by about 30 individuals with gifts ranging from $5 to $10,000.

Some donors have been giving for the entire ten-year history of KDT! while others are just learning the importance of the KDT!mission. Ann Marie Bleach is a donor to KDT!.“I love seeing all the smiling faces. [KDT! is] doing such great work and accomplishing so much for the children.”

Corporate and Foundation donors gave more than $33,000 last year to make sure these trips can continue year after year. Organizations such as BorgWarner and the Adams Foundation have long been supporters of KDT!.  A representative of the Adams Foundation commented: “We are very proud to support such a productive and well run organization helping Ithaca schools and community!”


Funds raised for KDT!cover the cost of keepsake books for all students, the programming at the  Discovery Trail sites, and the overall logistics and coordination. KDT! creates experiences that are truly memorable for ICSD students.


IPEI Board President Jennifer Engel explains, “KDT! Ithaca is vitally important because it can provide all students with the same access to the experiences maintained by the Discovery Trail. It promotes understanding and respect among elementary students from different towns and neighborhoods by offering opportunities for outside classroom learning and positive social interaction.”


Founded in 1996, IPEI is committed to connecting school and community through collaboration, engagement, gifts and grants. For more information, see www.ipei.org or contact 256-IPEI (4734) or ipei@ipei.org.


Marshall McCormick is an IPEI Board member and KDT! Steering Committee member.
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