Are you a classroom teacher with big ideas for improving your students’ learning, but a small budget that prohibits you from putting them into action?
If so, don’t give up on your ideas due to limited funds. Classroom teaching grants are very readily available for original or worthy teaching strategies, and contrary to the expectation of many, they are not that difficult to find, apply for, and implement.
Classroom grant money tends to be used for a variety of purposes: funds for the enhancement of classroom technology, funds for field trips, funds for after-school tutoring programs, or funds for books and/or various types of supplies not normally provided by a school district. However, while one should search for and target grant opportunities that will provide money for an intended purpose, it is important to remember that the funding organization wants to hear about your instructional IDEA, not your funding NEED.
Too often, teachers focus on the “wanted” list of supplies and don’t put enough thought into describing the overall purpose of the grant. This is a common mistake that educators make when applying for grant money, but with just a little shift of focus, it is an easy mistake to correct.
When one applies for a K-12 grade classroom grant, one is really asking for the endorsement of a good instructional idea that will enhance students’ learning, not just for money to buy supplies. Instead of writing a grant to buy a classroom set of a popular young adult novel, write a grant to jump-start reluctant teen readers in a low income school and follow that up with several research-proven cooperative learning strategies that you will implement to get them actively involved in reading and writing. See the difference? You’re still asking for money to buy 25 novels, but by understanding how to write a grant, you will be placing your grant application above many others that are likewise trying to get money for books or supplies.
Want to take your students on a field trip to the zoo? You need to sell the concept that a zoo trip is a worthwhile educational experience, and one that is unique and should not be missed by your students. It might take a little research and creativity, but if you can develop your idea with enough convincing support that this particular zoo trip will make an educational impact on your students, you will probably find a grant that will fit the bill.
Where will you find such a grant? For smaller items (less than $1,000), start locally. Begin with your own school district, which may publish lists of teaching grants that are annually awarded. If a suitable grant does not surface, try extending your research with the internet: a quick Google search of “classroom teaching grants” returns over 8.5 million hits. Narrow that down by adding the word “zoo,” and I still find over 200,000 hits. If I add my state name, Google still returns over 100,000 potential sites.
Of course, local education foundations are not only great sources of grants, but they are also great sources of information about OTHER sources of grants. So even if your local school district does not have an appropriate grant for your purpose, they may be able to direct you to a source that does.
Remember the three key ingredients to writing a successful grant application:
1. Target the right grant source, making sure that your purpose matches theirs.
2. State the purpose of your grant in terms of its educational benefit(s) to students.
3. If at first you don’t succeed, contact the grant funding organization and have a dialog with the professionals who reviewed your grant. They may have suggestions for you about how to proceed to improve your grant application or where to turn for a better fit. If you are persistent and you have a good idea, you are certain to find the right match. The grant money is out there; find it!