18 November 2010

Free money means more stuff for your classroom

There’s free money out there. However, it seems that many teachers are reluctant to go after that money for their classrooms. I’m surprised that many find the grant-writing process intimidating so they just don’t apply. In my district we have an annual round of grant applications from the Ed. Fund and by now most people have heard of Donors Choose. There are also places where you can just post a list of items you’d like. Digital Wish allows teachers to register and post tech-based lesson plans to be entered into rolling grant pools. At any rate, here’s my primer on writing your first classroom grant application:
1.    First, think about the project you want to do in your classroom, but you don’t have the equipment or supplies to do it.
2.    Next, look at your standards. Does this project meet the standards? If not, no matter how cool it is, let it go. If you don’t teach English/Language Arts, see what ELA standards your project meets. Add those standards to your subject standards.
3.    Think about the needs that this project meets. What will your students get out of this experience? How will their success improve as a result of this activity. Ponder this item until you can effectively articulate what needs are being met.
4.    Create a list of essential items for the success of your project. Are you doing a video project? Find the video cameras that will work best for your students. If you know ahead of time the specific items you need, the quicker the application process will go.
5.    Check your local school district for available grants or create an account at a site such as DonorsChoose. I’ve had great luck at DonorsChoose, which is why I mention them.
6.    Read the application carefully. Even sites such as DonorsChoose will allow you to go back and make changes to your application before you submit it.
7.    Fill out the application. Our language has become very informal, but this is no time to write in a casual tone. Use complete sentences. Read back what you’ve written. Read it again. Revise it. Read it again.
8.    Fill out the budget form. DonorsChoose has you fill out the form using their vendors which is fine (and also why it is so important to know what exactly it is you need ahead of time).
9.    Re-read everything and submit your application. Pay attention to the due date if your grant doesn’t have a rolling deadline.
10. Sit back and wait. If at first you do not succeed, try, try again! It never hurts to have more than one application out at a time.
An article published in THE Journal on November 10, 2010 also provides some tips for grant applications. Lana Bellew’s suggestion to not go after grants that have only a few awardees or ones that don’t meet the needs of the district she works with are especially relevant.