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Science Grants 101

Parents, students, and teachers all want the best in education. Teachers invest countless hours inside and outside the classroom to ensure student success, but an especially challenging element continues to be funding.

As a former science and technology teacher and technology coach, I can’t tell you how many times I had ideas for classroom projects and ongoing learning opportunities that would be engaging and provide  ideal learning moments for my kids. But I didn’t have the money to fund the project. While you can earn money on platforms such as Teachers Pay Teachers, that  takes many hours to build and add your content. Then you have to market your paid materials so other teachers know about and purchase your products.

For me, grant writing was  a better way to get money for classroom projects. I wrote seven grants in my teaching career; of those seven, six were awarded. This gave me over $20,000 in classroom supplies, including iPads, computers, and a classroom library. 

Here’s how to find the right grant for your science classroom and apply for the science grant that can give your classroom the tools you need and give you recognition from your administration for taking the initiative and winning big for your students!

What is a Grant?

A grant is a form of financial assistance awarded to you for a specific purpose. Grants can be provided by a government agency, foundation, corporation, or other organization that supports a specific project or initiative. Grants are typically awarded to individuals, organizations, or institutions for a specific purpose, such as research, education, community development, or the arts. 

Grant recipients are usually required to provide reports on how the funds were used and the outcomes of the project or initiative, and unlike loans, are usually non-repayable funding. So while you don’t have to repay the money granted to you, you may have to show evidence of using the money or provide receipts after purchasing your classroom supplies. Requirements are different for each grant, even if you’re applying for a grant from the same institution.

Where Can I Find Science Grants for My Classroom?

Organizations such as STEMfinity provide a large list of science grants from different companies and nonprofits. You’ll find their grants catalog useful in starting your search to see what types of grants are out there to fund your STEM science classroom project.

Many nonprofit foundations offer science grants for teachers. One foundation is Snohomish STEM, whose mission is to “increase STEM awareness, skills, and impact for all students. We engage with community, education, government, and industry to foster a STEM-skills learning pipeline for the 21st Century workforce that supplies businesses with local talent and drives opportunity and prosperity for all in our county.” You can look through the grants they offer and find one that fits your project.

You can also find grants awarded through specific states, such as this STEM grant through Oregon State University for computer science. In addition, finding age or grade-specific grants such as those offered by STEM Grants can fit into funding your project either partially or fully.

PLTW funds grants for K-12 teachers who teach or want to add computer science skills to their classrooms. The NEA National Teachers Association funds underserved schools with STEM classroom grants.

Some STEM companies will provide a list of grants that can fund projects when you use their equipment, such as Kinderlab Robotics. I’ve used this product in my first-grade classroom to teach programming. Kids absolutely love using these fun little robots (they’re also learning code at the same time while they are “playing” with robots). If you have a STEM tool you want to use in your classroom, contact the company and ask them if they provide grants or if they know of an organization that has given grants to STEM teachers for their products. The representatives from these companies are familiar with funding and budgets. They are usually very helpful in aiding teachers to find money to purchase their STEM merchandise.

In addition, you can ask the Science Curriculum Director at your school district if they know of any STEM grants for the classroom. I’ve been awarded grants that are available through my own school district. Develop a relationship with your science director or administrator and let them know you are interested in applying for grants. They will be excited about your interest and usually send any grant information via email.

The Process of Grant Writing for Your STEM Classroom

As teachers, we’re used to writing lesson plans, often designing them “with the end in mind”. The basics for grant writing are similar: start with your STEM idea in mind, and using your project goal, start from the expected end results and work backward through the applications. Here’s how.  

Keep Your STEM Science Classroom Grant Research Organized

When you’re in the process of creating ideas for your project or classroom grant, make sure to keep all your work in one place for easy access. Many companies will ask for a part of your information more than once, and you want to get back to them quickly with the information they need. Keep all your research and information in a Google folder, a desktop folder, or a pen-and-paper notebook that only contains your grant research and information so you can keep track of what you’re applying for, especially if you’re applying for more than one grant to cover the costs of your project.

Choose a Grant to Apply For

You’ll want to choose a grant that aligns with your purpose and goals as closely as possible. Organizations that give grants want to give to projects which they believe will further their mission. Therefore, you’re better off applying for fewer grants that are more closely aligned with your project than applying for more grants and throwing mud against the wall, so to speak.

Design Your STEM Grant Proposal

Your STEM grant proposal is your introduction, handshake, and first impression of you as a science teacher. You’ll want to ensure you have your ducks lined up in a row and that you are clear in your classroom goals, funding, and learning goals for your science STEM classroom project. This is an excellent way to show that you’re serious about teaching your science students at the highest level and that your project hits learning targets that will advance your student’s knowledge base.

Write Your STEM Grant

First, you need to choose an NGSS Science Standard or your local science curriculum standard that your project will be based around. Then, if you have a project in mind, see how you can legitimately tie in your project learning towards your school district’s science curriculum goals. You’ll need to show what the kids are learning and how the learning ties into a learning goal, or you’re dead in the water before you even get out of the gate.

Next, you’ll need to design a lesson plan for your science project based on your learning goals or outcomes. What processes and activities will your kids do to achieve the learning goals? You can save time by using Propello's standards aligned, phenomena-based curriculum to form lesson paths, activities, labs, and assessments. With free access to the curriculum and embedded scaffolds as a teacher, this is a great resource that can help you in this step of your grant-writing process. 

Third, figure out which tools you are going to use in your process. While it’s tempting to add other gadgets and gizmos that you want for another project, if the committee looking at your grant sees that you have a variety of instruments that don’t have a purpose in your learning goal, they can easily dismiss you as a candidate for their grant.

Fourth, put your tools and lesson plan together in one succinct draft version. Create a spreadsheet with each item you plan to purchase with your grant, the website link where you will purchase the goods, and the price. You may want to make a second column for shipping costs to see how much money is needed for  shipping. This may be an expense your school can pick up. You’ll want to find out what components of your grant application will need a purchase order (similar to an invoice for the school district), so you can be prepared in advance of receiving your grant.

Meet with your administrator to show them what you’ve come up with and how you plan on applying for your grant. They may even know of someone on campus or in the school system experienced in grant writing who can help as you’re writing your application, especially if it’s your first one.

The grant application will have a variety of prompts and questions that need to be answered. Make sure to be as pointed as possible in your answers and refer back to standards and learning goals as much as you can when you are writing your science grant application. The more you can tie your project components and activities to their mission and vision statements, the better your chance of being awarded your STEM grant.

While writing a grant may be a task you place several hours into as a teacher, winning a grant is extremely rewarding. You get the recognition of your colleagues, and you’re also setting an excellent example to your students on how to choose and reach your goals.