Your school is looking at re-designing an underutilized classroom into an impactful Makerspace with the goal of engaging students in 21st century STEAM skills. You see budget as a challenge. There are solutions. Take advantage of various grant opportunities to help you get started.
The interest in bridging the skills gap and getting young people the technical skills needed to work in our new economy has never been higher. Government and Industry are stepping up to assist educators in helping develop STEAM learning programs to fuel their need for highly skilled technical professionals. One of the ways this is happening is through various grant programs to help grow interest in technical disciplines.
First, the basics, keep in mind that the grantor has an agenda, it is not just about handing out money. They are looking to solve a problem or effect behavior in a certain way to drive a desired outcome. So, when writing for your grants, be prepared to tell the story of how your project helps them meet the grantor’s stated goal. This means be selective, the grant writing process is not simple and takes time, only write for grants with goals that align well with your project. (This means if you are planning a Makerspace, you need to develop your mission & vision on why you are building it, before you write for grant money.)
You can simplify the process by developing some solid “Boilerplate” material. Common items and data that you should have readily available include: location, demographics, curriculum information, district financial information, any unique characteristics of the district, strategic planning documents, regional education partnerships, business & community partnerships, staff bio’s, any statements or commitments to STEM/STEAM education, and long-term goals – mission – vision. Develop a grant writing folder where you store these documents and data so you can respond quickly to a variety of opportunities.
So, where do you start? Begin locally. Are there major industries in the region that require technical talent. Many corporations have foundations or programs set up for corporate giving and would be interested in supporting programs that help them develop a future technical workforce. Various state agencies and local school foundations also have interest in developing more interest in STEM careers and can be a source for funding with a well-planned proposal. When looking at federal programs, start with Grants.gov. This website is where you can search through hundreds of grant opportunities to find the best match for your project. It also has training and tips on working through the process to help you become successful in your applications.
Remember, be prepared, thorough, and targeted. This is your best chance to secure funding for your project.