Including Students in Your Grant Writing

By Anne Zimmermann

Cash-strapped teachers know that grants can bring much-needed monies into the classroom to enhance learning experiences and engage students. But teachers often lack the time to prepare and write grant applications. Incorporating the grant application process into your classroom is a viable solution.

If you have an idea for a project to increase student learning, and you have located one or two possible funders, consider using the grant application process to increase student engagement. There are valuable lessons in including your students in grant writing. Compiling an application includes lessons on how to manage time efficiently, logical and compelling argumentation, structuring thoughts and texts, prioritizing, collecting and compiling data, and budgeting.

Inclusive Discussion
View your proposed project as a starting point for a group discussion. To write an appealing grant application, you need to state a problem or a need that the project should address. Allow time for brainstorming and ask your students to develop creative and innovative ideas of how to define the problem and solutions.

Structural Thinking
The first step to getting students engaged in the process is to guide them in examining the application form and guidelines. Depending on the grant you choose, this process may be as simple as reviewing an online form and general guidelines. Ask students to determine if your project is eligible, let them find the deadline, and allow them to develop a timeline for writing and submitting the application.

Budget, Background Information, and Data Collection

This part of the application process can teach students invaluable research and investigative skills. There may be data that is out of their reach, but give them a task of trying to obtain such data. A group of students could, with your permission, approach the principal and ask how they could locate the required data.

Creating a budget for your project is a hands-on financial literacy lesson to teach students about the importance of developing—and maintaining—a budget. Challenge your students to determine the expenses required of your project and lead them through the importance of accounting.

Cover Letter
The cover letter of a grant application provides writing practice to increase college and career readiness skills. The ability to draft a concise, factual, and compelling cover letter will enable students to take that experience forward to future job opportunities and college applications.

Time Management
Creating timelines and sticking to them can be useful during the entire school year. Your students can learn how to use time efficiently and learn how much time certain tasks take.

Compelling Argument
Using students’ ideas in your argument about why the grant is needed, what it is for, and how it will benefit them is a creative way of showing a funder that you and your students care deeply about the project. Your students may be your strongest supporters and the funding organization will likely appreciate this.

Allowing students to be part of the grant-writing process teaches hands-on twenty-first century and job skills. Giving students a voice creates a creative and innovative way to approach a funder and an engaging learning experience for your students.

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