Science in our school curriculum has often focused too much on paperwork and too little on real applications. Life science and biology in particular are subjects that have so much potential for hands-on activities and experiments. Gardening and plant care is an ideal venue to explore your biology or life science classes or curriculum. If you'd like to begin a gardening project in your classroom, there is grant money available to support your endeavors. Here are some areas to explore for grant funding.
- Write out the procedure, costs and format for your gardening unit or project. Be specific and clear about what you will need, how much it will cost, where you will purchase your materials.
- Define goals and objectives: Briefly explain how it will help your class and curriculum. Use clear, specific terms. Those who award grant money are not interested in vague, esoteric concepts. They want to see measurable goals.
- Correlate your goals with national and state curriculum objectives. Make direct references to your school's curriculum to show how your project will meet state or board identified goals.
- Develop a brief, punchy PowerPoint presentation which you can share with potential grant providers.
- Include your students in the presentation and research. These activities alone fulfill several state mandated objectives, in such areas as civics, core democratic values, budgeting, technology skills, persuasive writing, 6+1 writing traits, career preparation and exploration and more.
- Share your presentation. If you teach for a charter, private or parochial school, make a presentation for your school board or to the organization who holds your charter.
- Search the Internet, using terms like 'gardening grant money', 'science curriculum grant money', 'grant money for classroom plants' and similar terms.
- List the sources available in your state and county first. These sources will be more specific and appropriate to your local area.
- Contact local horticultural, floral and gardening societies. Often these society members make bequests and donations, which are set aside for horticultural education or scholarships.
- Explore state and local universities, colleges, trade schools and vocational centers. Many schools offer horticulture, botany, and biology degrees. They maintain extension offices which provide services to community and school functions.
- Research your state's Department of Agriculture program. Check out the USDA links as well.
- Correspond with these sources you've pulled up. Email your presentation to them along with a personal letter.
- Enquire directly about grant money available. Try to deal directly and personally as much as possible.
- Be very polite and professional: remember that in a way, this is a sales pitch. Grant administrators take this position seriously; they are responsible for an answer to the general public and tax-payers as well as simply to their supervisors.
- Write thank you notes with students. Even if you don't get any grant money, writing letters of gratitude is a good skill for students to practice. It helps students develop awareness of and appreciation for time and energy spent on their behalf. It also helps students learn about professional ethics and behavior.
I wish you well on your educational endeavors. I believe that you will find classroom gardening, plant care and life science experiments very rewarding.