By Guadalupe Rivera
This is Part 1 in a three part series on how I’m using grants to redesign my classroom.
Last year my principal did away with desks! Each classroom received big tables where students would be working to help foster collaboration. I jumped right in and asked to be one of the first classrooms to test out these tables. I loved it but there were two big issues: my students didn’t always want to sit at a table and we lacked storage.
Because my little 2nd and 3rd graders carried all their books, the tables simply didn’t have enough storage. We tried a variety of things throughout the year to no avail: using lockers (too time consuming), book bags (they never stayed on the back of the chair), book baskets (so messy), and small bookshelves (took up valuable space). Inevitably, they always had towers of books spilling over their tables and onto the floor.
Secondly, the tables restricted my student’s ability to collaborate. They didn’t want to just sit at the tables, they wanted to work on the floor, sitting with legs crossed, pillows on their lap, and on the carpet claiming it was their “natural habitat” after they learned about habitats in science class.
After several hours on Pinterest, I realized I wanted alternative seating that was easy to move, versatile and provided storage. To do this, I needed storage stools, a whiteboard kidney table, and a new paint job to transform my classroom. Here’s how I’m getting it done:
Step 1: Get Buy In
I sent my new (yes I said new) principal this eager text message and followed up with a detailed email explaining the benefits of my alternative seating. I made sure to tell him what I wanted, why I wanted it, and attached links that provided the research that supported my claims. I also let him know that it would cost him $0, so he would not have to worry about it. His response was a hearty yes!
Step 2: Shopping list and budget
What did I want? What will the purpose of the item serve? How is this going to help my students and I? The clearer I was about my needs the easier it was to find the items/grants I needed.
I knew I wanted to change my seating and create more storage. I started by looking up chair pockets but found storage stools that served the purpose of both, alternative seating and storage.
I wrote down the cost and the store I planned to get it from. This was important because when I started applying for grants I knew I would have to apply to more than one to reach my goal.
After compiling my list I decided I needed about $4,597.
Step 3: Research Grants
I began looking for grants and found Donors Choose. This was a great place to start because they can get items at discounted prices and make applying for grants really easy. It works like this: you post what you want, and people make donations to your items. Sometimes big corporations help pay for all of it. To increase my chances of being funded, I post my grant request to social media and ask family and friends to help fund me.
I’ll be sharing my other favorite grant opportunities in my next blog post.
Step 4: Apply!
Donors Choose made it really easy for me to apply. They even had a tutorial for me to follow. I would have to apply for several grants and do it in small steps. I made sure to clearly and thoroughly answer all the questions. I thought about it as a rubric and I wanted to get the highest score possible. I made sure to be clear and specific about how I would use the money and how it would help move my students and teaching forward. And I was creative! I made sure to have an interesting, attention grabbing title and picture to make my grant more likely to be remembered or seen.
The next two posts in this series will share my favorite Teacher Grants and Freebies.
Good luck on your grant writing endeavors and don’t forget to share your success stories with us! We would love to feature you and your students on our blog!