Grant Writing for Your Classroom
Posted: Thursday, November 1st, 2012
by Laura Henriques
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if schools were funded at levels that would allow us to do everything we wanted to in our classrooms to support student learning? Imagine if we had the resources to do quality hands-on science, with enough money for equipment and all the necessary consumables. Remember when schools had money for field trips? Don’t you long for the days when there was a budget for your science department? While schools should be cathedrals of learning, and funded at levels that enable us to teach with technology and do inquiry investigations, the reality of today’s fiscal environment is quite different. With this in mind, I am hoping to inspire you to be proactive and look for grant funding resources to bolster your science classroom. Whether your dream is to plant a school garden, incorporate technology to engage your students, or buy materials for use in lab, the steps to obtaining a grant are the same.
What do you want to do? Your first step must be to have a project in mind and find a funding source that aligns with your goals. (There are some potential funding sources listed at the end of this article.) You don’t want to write a grant to get money for something you don’t really want to do. Remember, if you get the money you have to do the project. That’s no fun if it isn’t a good fit!
When you develop your project you need to identify goals, determine who the key people and partners are (ensure that you have their support and buy-in), determine a timeline and figure out what your deliverables are. What kind of budget is needed for the project to work? There should be a direct match between what you want to do and how you are going to spend the money. When you think of deliverables, think in terms of the life of the project. Develop a timeline and determine what you will have done each month/quarter/year. What data will you collect and how will you know you are successful?
Writing the Proposal: When you find a potential funding source, read through their materials carefully. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you have the best idea in the world, if it is not a good fit with their goals your proposal will get rejected. Reviewing the list of past grantees and their projects can provide insight into the types of programs the funders like. It may also give you ideas to incorporate into your own proposal.
At this point in the process you will want to be in touch with your school administrators to determine how the grant will have to be processed. Although the paperwork to get a project submitted can be cumbersome, many school districts have an educational foundation that serves as the fiscal agent for your project. Talk to your administration early in the process so that they know what you are trying to do, what you need from them, and when the deadlines are. Sometimes you can submit a proposal on your own, but more often than not you need administrators’ authorization.
Actually writing the proposal and putting everything together in a readable format is critical. Be specific enough that funders know you’ve thought through your program and know how the pieces fit together. Include data where appropriate, and indicate the type of data you will collect throughout the grant. Your district’s research office might be of help at this stage. Although it may seem obvious, it’s important to follow the granting agency’s guidelines in terms of page number, font size, etc. It would be a shame to lose funding because you didn’t get the proposal in by 5 PM or your margins were the wrong size.
I like to tell beginning grant writers to copy the call for proposals into a word processor and then write to each section. Use tools that will help the reviewer have an easy time reading your proposal. For example, bold or underline key points, use headers, restate key ideas from the proposal, and include diagrams or charts if that will help make your case. Perhaps most importantly, write your proposal early enough so you have time to have others read the it and give you feedback. A critical review from a friend can tell you where it’s not clear or needs more data to support a claim.
Submitting the Grant: Pretend it is due a day before it really is. Murphy’s Law tells us that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This is particularly true for grant submissions! The day you want to submit is the day the Internet will crash at school or the person who was supposed to send you a letter of support is sick. Plan well ahead so those glitches won’t be too stressful. Give yourself even more time if you need district approval to submit. If you are collecting data from human subjects you will need to talk to your district’s research office and seek IRB consent. The IRB consent does not always have to be done prior to submitting a proposal but it must be done prior to collecting data.
When you get funded, celebrate and start your project! Remember to thank your funders, and be sure to acknowledge them if you (or your school) do any press releases. Keep them informed of progress and be sure to submit a final report. Even if you don’t get funded you should try again. Read the comments from the granters (if there are any), make revisions, and try again next time. Again, looking at the list of the projects that were funded as this may give you some ideas about the agency’s priorities and help you tweak your proposal for the next submission.
Sampling of Funding Sources: Below is a sampling of funding sources. I have not included places like NSF or NIH, as most classroom teachers are not going to be writing a proposal of that scope. As you look at the different websites and proposals you will see that they vary dramatically: some literally take just a few minutes while others are more extensive.
Donor’s Choice – you post a request for your classroom and donors give directly to you.
Digital Wish – submit a technology lesson plan be eligible to win a grant
Target – funding for field trips
BestBuy – funds technology for the classroom
Lowe’s Toolbox for Education – funds project with permanent impact (indoor/outdoor facilities, landscaping, gardening projects, etc.)
American Chemical Society’s Hach High School Chemistry Grants provides support for supplies, lab equipment, instructional materials, professional development, field studies, and science outreach activities for secondary chemistry teachers/programs.
EPA’s 2012 Environmental Education Grant Program funds environmental education projects that enhance the public’s awareness, knowledge, and skills to make informed decisions and take responsible actions towards the environment. (application due 11/21)
Westinghouse provides schools grants emphasizing innovative math and science programs
NSTA has a list of grant opportunities on their website as well.
Good luck and let me know if you submit (or get) a grant as a result of reading this article.
Posted: Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
by Jessica Sawko
For many months our members have been requesting clear information from the state department of education (CDE) regarding the purpose of the “science CSTs” that are being administered this year in grades 5, 8, and 10 and well as how the test scores from those assessments will be used for accountability purposes. The following was excerpted from a letter from the California Department of Education released on April 22:
California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for Science
As educators from across the state begin or continue to implement the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS), questions have been raised regarding the role of the summative science assessments which students in grades five, eight, and ten will participate in during the spring of 2015.
During the transition to the new science standards and assessments, the federally required science assessments in grades five, eight, and ten (i.e., California Standards Tests, California Modified Assessments, and California Alternate Performance Assessment) will continue to be administered until an assessment aligned to the CA NGSS is developed and approved by the SBE. A new assessment is currently under development and scheduled to be operational in 2018–19.
Because the current science tests are not aligned with the new CA NGSS, the results will not be used in any accountability reports; however, the scores will be publicly available. As in prior years, AYP is based only on ELA and mathematics. Science is not included in AYP calculations.
As reported by CSTA previously, API will not be calculated for the 2014/2015 school year. More information about the suspension, what that means for reporting in 2015/2016, review this letter dated March 17, 2015 that was sent to administrators.
Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
CSTA’s counterparts at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has been actively representing the voice of science teachers in Washington D.C. This morning they sent out this call to action:
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are currently working to reauthorize (rewrite) No Child Left Behind. Please contact your members of Congress immediately, and ask them to make STEM education a national priority. At the Legislative Action Center of the STEM Education Coalition website, you can send a letter to your elected representatives, asking them to
- Maintain a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
- Continue the focus on math and science as required elements of any state’s accountability system.
- Provide states with dedicated funding to support STEM-related activities and teacher training.
It is urgent that educators take a moment to write to your elected officials, and send this message to colleagues and networks in your school or district.
Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
by Jessica Sawko
On March 31, 2015 participants from the Science Assessment Stakeholder Meetings held in July 2014 were invited to participate in a follow up meeting to provide input on what a formative component, a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Digital Center, should look like for California. This NGSS Digital Center could include formative assessment tools similar to that of the Smarter Balanced Digital Library for ELA and mathematics. This meeting will take place at the end of April 2015. This is very exciting news as it gives some insight to the direction the state may take with the future statewide assessment system to support the Next Generation Science Standards. Learn More…
Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
by Laura Henriques
Women are far less likely than men to earn pSTEM (physical Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) degrees or work in the field. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has gotten a bit of press lately. US News and World Reports had an article highlighting a Clinton Foundation Report showing women in developing countries have less access to cell phones (and therefore the internet) than men. This results in decreased access to health care, fewer job options, a lack of flexibility with work and childcare related issues, and a lowered sense of empowerment. That article linked to several other articles about the lack of diversity in STEM fields in the US, the leaky pipeline and more. Learn More…
Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
by Sara Dozier
Like me, you are probably excited about the opportunities that the Next Generation Science Standards offer students and teachers. For the first time in 17 years, our science standards are asking us to engage our students in science learning that is engaging, meaningful and just plain fun. In addition to our excitement, though, there is also some apprehension. Learn More…