Grants: Where to Look and How to Win One
Now that you’ve figured out all the supplies you need to effectively implement 3D printing into your curriculum, you’re ready to pitch your principals, superintendents, spouses, or boards of directors with what funds are required to integrate this amazing 21st century technology. We know education funds are tight and sometimes the answer is “we can’t afford it” or “not yet” and so we’ve compiled a resource toolbox for educators to not only find grants, but also how to increase your odds of receiving the necessary funds.
Let’s start with some of the places you ought to look when raising funds. Keep in mind, you can submit to multiple places and programs to increase your odds of successfully acquiring the necessary supplies.
Don’t live in Florida? Use these as a springboard to find comparable websites for your state.
- Florida Teacher’s Classroom Supply Assistance Program
- Florida Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- Florida Association of Science Teachers (F.A.S.T.)
- State Department of Education
Other Grant Programs/ Resources
- Foundations (ex. Gates, George Lucas Education Foundation)
- Local Philanthropists
- Staples Grants – Must be a registered 501c3 to apply
- S.E.C.M.E. (South Eastern Consortium of Minorities in Engineering) – Must have minorities
- IGT After School Advantage Program
- Toshiba K-5 Teacher Innovation Grants
- American Library Association “I Love My Librarian Awards”
- Varkey Foundation 2017 Global Teacher PrizeDigital Wish
- School Advisory Council (S.A.C.)
- Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.)
- Title 1 Funds
Companies Which Have Supported STEM & Maker Education
Consider reaching out to these companies with your proposals.
Traditional Fundraising Techniques
Specialized Notes – Get your students excited at the possibility of new technology and have them write and/or draw specialized notes to potential donors including parents, local businesses, and larger corporations asking for help raising the funds to build their STEM lab. Perfect beginning-of-year activity where the students can share what career they want to pursue and how having a 3D printer can help get them there!
-A-Thons – Whether it’s reading, spelling, writing, drawing, running, or jump-roping, there are so many options for activities that can be hosted to raise funds. Depending on the -a-thon you tackle, students could be sponsored for number of pages, laps, or pieces of artwork completed. Want to give it a STEM theme? Host a STEM-a-thon where students have to answer simple math and science questions and raise money from sponsors for each correctly-answered question.
Events – Family carnivals, dances, charity auctions (silent or live), talent shows, and trivia nights are all fun ways to encourage parents and the community to get involved in fundraising for your school. Simply charge a small entry fee or sell tickets for raffles and/or activities. For competition-themed events, remember to entice participation with a small prize. This, as with auction items, can be requested of local businesses to allow every cent raised to go to the funding of your new STEM resources.
Restaurant Nights – Many restaurants host charity-based nights where schools can earn a percentage of their sales that night. Look around to find which ones in your community offer that option and what percentage of the proceeds you’ll make to optimize your earnings. Then be sure to advertise it to your parents and community to make the most of your fundraising night.
Community Yard Sales – Ask your students and staff to donate goods and then host a massive community yard sale where all purchases go to the funding of your new STEM lab. Perfect end-of-year activity when people are in spring-cleaning mode anyway. Any left-over items can often be picked up by local charitable organizations at the end of the event so you’re not left with any of the unsold items. Alternately, allow each participant to keep their own earnings, but pay a simple booth space fee.
Parent’s Night Out – Parents need a break. Offer to supervise their school-age children for a few hours for a small flat rate. Get a few teachers to help watch the kids and host a fun movie-night or game-night with the students while the parents get to relax.
Special Days – Everyone loves the chance to be silly and show some personality. Whether it’s hat day, pajama day, dress like an animal day, or Halloween in May, let students break the dress code and show some creativity with theme days. Each student must pay a dollar to participate and can be given a sticker to show that they’ve paid.
Cook-Offs – Nothing brings people together quite like food. Challenge the parents and teachers to themed cook-offs with small entry fees for the competitors or judges (aka those enjoying the cuisine). Depending on where you live, you might opt for a Chili cook-off, Gumbo cook-off, Roast cook-off, or Crawfish cook-off. The opportunities are endless. And delicious.
Selling Things – Tried and true, the coupon books, cookie dough, and miscellaneous gifts catalogues continue to be a fundraising staple for schools. Alternately, send out a letter to parents asking them for a check in lieu of having to deal with one of these fundraisers. The parents will likely appreciate the break.
As you can see the opportunities for fundraising and grants are numerous and varied, so find the one that works the best for you and your community. Once you’ve figured out what approach you want to take, it comes down to planning, marketing, and pitching your idea.
Below are a few of the important focal points you may need to cover during your grant-seeking or fund-raising process. Each grant will have slightly-different requirements, but use the text we’ve provided below as a starting point for writing your grant application.
Grant Application Resources
Please alter this text for your particular envisioned use-case and environment, as grants will notice multiple submissions copy-pasting this exactly in their submissions. A great way to do that is to pull from the other articles in this series for examples, specifics, and numbers. You will have better results if you personalize your submission to your students and your school.
Explain in detail the relevance of your proposal.
What we hope to accomplish with this grant is to engage students at all levels in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and to build a love for these fields integral to the success of our students. To do this, we propose integrating a 3D printer into the learning environment and supporting the technology with 3D printed kits backed with standards-driven curriculum. As cutting-edge technology, 3D printing offers many benefits to schools previously unavailable. 3D printers are capable of bringing the factory directly into the classroom, eliminating excess red tape and allowing schools to access exactly what they need when they need it. Many 3D-printed items can be produced in-house for cheaper than they can be purchased at a traditional manufacturer. Furthermore, certain hands-on learning tools can only be created using this new technology.
To get the full benefit of the 3D printer, we plan to pair it with a subscription to education-focused company MyStemKits.com. MyStemKits.com offers subscribers access to their library of 3D-printable kits as well as the vetted curriculum that comes with it. By using their library of over 200 STEM kits, we’ll be saving ourselves time in developing kits and curriculum specific to the technology. Instead, all that work will be accomplished through the purchasing of the subscription to MyStemKits.com. Their product is a combination of vetted 3D models which can be created using a 3D printer as well as standards-driven curriculum written by a team of teachers and content-area experts. The curriculum team is based out of the Florida Center for Research in S.T.E.M. at Florida State University. The curriculum they write is research-based, standards-driven, and tested in classrooms. Their problem-based curriculum includes Teacher Guides, Student Handouts, and Student Assessments. Each kit comes with detailed pictorial assembly instructions as well as any additional information teachers may need to use the kits.
Moreover, the MyStemKits.com platform integrates STEAM Design Challenges, which focus on developing the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. These interdisciplinary activities get the students problem-solving, modeling, printing, and testing designs to solve real-world challenges, all while integrating a variety of math and science topics, career opportunities, and real-world situations where engineering design is vital. This develops their critical thinking skills and creativity as they work to understand the problem and find an appropriate solution. Working in groups to solve such problems also increases their skills at communication and collaboration, which are necessary skills in the workforce. MyStemKits, together with a 3D printer, provides an end-to-end solution to integrating this technology seamlessly into classrooms.
Calculate the individual cost of all the elements needed for your program. This will determine the size of the grant you will need. Refer to our articles on The Robo Lineup: Choosing the Right 3D Printer, Tools of the Trade, and 3D Printing and Everyday Objects to determine all the supplies necessary.
Evidence of need
Provide your need and the reason your need warrants the assistance of a grant.
The US Department of Education website outlines the demand for proficiency in STEM fields globally as well as the need for America to not fall further behind in these fields.
“In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects collectively known as STEM. Yet today, few American students pursue expertise in STEM fields…not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers…[O]nly 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. Even among those who do go on to pursue a college major in the STEM fields, only about half choose to work in a related career. The United States is falling behind internationally, ranking 29th in math and 22nd in science among industrialized nations.”
How does this program generate interest in STEM?
As a new technology, 3D printing is interesting to students. Just knowing the objects come from a 3D printer engages them in the process. By seeing the objects created from nothing and from assembling the pieces into a usable object, students become invested in it and subsequently in what it can teach them.
Additionally, the curriculum offered by MyStemKits.com is based on the newest research in what works and how to engage students. The in-classroom testing also helps the designs become optimized for learning. Because they offer kits Kindergarten through High School, their program builds a solid foundation in STEM topics from the ground up to support education at all levels and in all circumstances. Furthermore, many of the kits they offer are interdisciplinary, integrating STEM topics together in a real-world fashion. Thus replicating the complexity of the world, they are not only training students for the challenges they will face in the workplace, they are also able to reinforce science concepts in math class and vice versa to further reinforce cross-curricular concepts.
Moreover, research shows that students do not all learn in the same fashion. Integrating kinesthetic and visual learning methods for concepts that are generally reserved for lectures or book-learning allows for alternative learners to better grasp the concepts.
Finally, by allowing the students the opportunity to showcase their own creativity and problem-solving abilities through the STEAM Design Challenges, students are not only learning useful technical skills such as 3D modeling, but also they are developing lifelong skills in iterative design and critical thinking to complex problems. This hands-on approach where the students get to engineer and test their own solutions adds a level of ownership to the materials being taught.
Student Learning Outcomes
Increased number of students expressing interest in pursuing a STEM career.
Increased standardized test scores.
Reduction of students failing STEM courses.
More hands-on learning lesson plans implemented during the year than previously.
“Team MyStemKits ROCKS! Thanks for being the joy of our day. I can never repay the team for all that you gave to my at-risk students to ensure their understanding and love of STEM study.”
– Jocelyn Y. Johnson, Educator