Mar 06, 2020 2020-03-06
By Suzanne Costner
People often ask how I became interested in writing grant applications for my school. The answer is simple—there are many interests I want to foster in my students that often require additional funding to achieve. Here’s how I went about making that happen.
I started small by choosing an activity that I knew students would enjoy and that also met our curriculum standards. Several years ago, I attended a workshop for teachers sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol that focused on STEM, particularly aviation and aerospace. The activities were enriching and I wanted to provide them for my students, but the school library had not received funding from the district budget in years. I was left wondering how I could purchase the materials I needed.
Find the Right Solution
That’s when I turned to GetEdFunding.com and discovered a grant from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The grant was specifically aimed at STEM and aerospace education. Bingo—I found the right match!
Know the Grant Requirements…
The grant process was straightforward—I had to apply for membership to AIAA first in order to complete the application and be eligible for funding. I consulted with our fourth-grade science teacher to select a topic for the grant. We chose a unit from the textbook that addressed inventors, with an emphasis on the Wright Brothers. It was a perfect fit for the grant parameters and for my own desire to include aerospace in the curriculum. The funding was approved and we were flying high.
…And Read the Fine Print
But there was fine print to be aware of. The grant was structured as a reimbursement so I had to plan ahead and pay for the initial costs until the reimbursement funds were issued. (Some larger grants send the bulk of the funds, but may hold back 10 percent until all final reports are done.) To offset the costs, I used funds from a recent book fair to buy videos and balsa gliders for the class. Working with the science teacher, I used the videos to teach the history and progress of aviation during library class, while she taught inventors and inventions. The students assembled their gliders during library and then the entire grade went outside for a grand launch.
Reflect on Results
The results were outstanding. Students retained what was learned in class (both in science and in the library), and our science scores were our highest area of improvement and growth that year. The students also enjoyed learning and participating in a hands-on activity to internalize the concepts of engineering, design, and aviation. They especially enjoyed going outside to fly their gliders and being able to take them home.
After the project, I wrote a report on the activity and sent it in, along with my receipts, so that I could receive funds to reimburse our expenses. We now have the videos in the library for teachers to use every year, and students have a great memory of their learning experience.
Capitalize on Momentum
Due to our continued involvement with the AIAA and the Civil Air Patrol, our school hosts two annual STEM days in which every student participates in hands-on learning all day—launching rockets, designing an egg drop, building model bridges, and more. Since that first grant, we have maximized our momentum and received funding from other grantors, as well as another grant from the AIAA. We continue to expand our STEM program and this spring even took our third–fifth graders to the Smoky Mountain Air Show.
Don’t be afraid to start small—it’s only a start. You can build on your success and it gets easier as you gain experience and confidence.
Suzanne Costner has been an educator for 29 years. She is a school library media specialist, STEM coordinator, and book review blogger. Her library is full of books, robots, and other materials purchased through grants. She wrote her first grant for a class assignment in graduate school and has never looked back.
Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared on the Discover GetEdFunding blog in 2016.