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: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…