“Our teachers will never have enough funding to meet even the basic requirements necessary to provide for a quality education for our students.” What is most interesting about this statement made by a District Superintendent in a recent interview is that this is not a new phenomenon: this has been the reality for teachers for decades.
Teachers have been digging into their own pockets to supply resources for their students and classrooms since, those averages are estimated at between $400 to $1,500 dollars per teacher per year to a total tune of somewhere near $1.6 Billion. Most of this investment is directed toward classroom materials according to a report published by the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA).
Yet in education circles there is constant talk about available grant funding. The Grant: that great mythological creature that will solve all classroom ills if it can only be discovered and captured. Grants come in all shapes and sizes, from huge federal investments to private endowments or even free software offers from startups in the education space. The money is there … but can you access STEM funding on your own as a teacher or counselor?
The answer might be yes, but the path to that yes means answering yes to a few additional questions first.
Do you know what STEM is?
We’ll give this one to you, even though we know you all are here because you already know what it means: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. But beyond the basic concept, do you have a good sense of what the GRANT thinks STEM is. This is critical as there is an increasing variety of definitions of what STEM is. Our upcoming training series for teachers and counselors will unpack the various views and concepts of what STEM is in relation to the classroom.
Can you relate what you teach to STEM?
For some of you, this appears an easy answer because you are teaching a math or science class. For others (art and music teachers?) you are already yelling for me to include the A and make it STEAM. Which is another post coming soon.
If you’re not sure exactly what STEM is or how to apply it to your classroom, you may want to sign up for our free Teacher’s Guide to STEM. Regardless, STEM is where the money is right now. It may well shift to other areas in the future (though for the foreseeable future that is unlikely), but for now, if you can tether what you are doing to STEM, you stand a much better chance of getting a grant.
Do you have a plan for how you would spend the STEM funding?
Not an idea … and actual written plan with what you would buy, when you would buy it, how much it costs, how you are planning to implement your plan …. lot’s of detailed stuff. If your plan is just an idea, it’s probably time to start writing some of that idea down.
Can you outline exactly how the invested money will benefit student outcomes?
Grants are all about measuring outcomes, which means first having measures to differentiate between success and failure, and how to measure the difference between when you started and when you finish. Whether it is a federal organization or private group, they like to know their money was well spent. You pay them back with good data.
Does your plan address any of the following outcomes specifically?
Students will demonstrate stronger math and science proficiency.Attract women and minorities into STEM programs.
These form the core of where most STEM grants are targeted in terms of outcomes. If you can help make a difference in any one — or ideally more than one of the above areas, you have a better chance of being selected.
If you can answer yes to these questions then there’s a better than good chance that you will be able to access available funds. That process, and which funding you should target will be contained in a series of educational webinars and posts to come – largely because it isn’t an easy process. In fact, the process of gaining grant funding is incredibly tedious, so prepare yourself for not only tedium, but incredible time pressure. Grants are usually released with short time windows and often require turn-around in less than 90 days.
Competing for grant funding is not easy … it’s a big deal. And like any big life goal … like losing weight or balancing a budget or preparing for an entire school year of content for students that would rather be anywhere else … it is going to take a significant amount of effort. But since you’re an educator, I’m pretty sure you already have what it takes.
If you’re interested in learning more about STEM funding and how to win it for your school or classroom, be sure to sign up for our Teacher’s Guide to STEM and check the STEM Grant box to get on our notification list for upcoming webinars. And by the way, thank you for your service to our communities and for empowering the STEM generation!