The Lost City of Gold: Funding to Support Computer Science In Your School

Top STEM Ideas to Keep Your Students Engaged at the End of the School Year!
May 22, 2017

It is amazing to see the evolution in schools today, from implementation of project-based learning, to the wide-spread adoption of maker-spaces within school walls, 1:1 programs where all students have the opportunity to have a device in their hands, to now, the drive and push for computer science within all classrooms. Each of these initiatives not only enhance the way we teach and learn, but also changes the environment in which the students spend their daily lives.

The growing concern within schools is, how can we as a school afford to implement the tools and resources that we know benefit our students, without affecting our operation and curriculum budgets. Decisions by school administrators often come down to the “bottom-line,” and in this case the bottom-line is the added cost. Administrators are educators as well, they know from years of being involved in education that tools and resources that enhance the curriculum can greatly affect the positive learning outcomes of students. However, in many schools throughout the world, bringing in these tools and resources comes at a cost. In many cases, administrators and teachers may not know where to look beyond their school or district walls for additional funding support.

There seems to be a big secret, a city of lost gold if you will, that many schools often dismiss as an opportunity because of the amount of work it often takes to find this secret. This secret has never really been a secret, but more of a conglomerate of loop holes and confusing wording; an onslaught of questions and paperwork, but with a little bit of perseverance and guided direction, you can uncap the potential to bring amazing opportunities to your schools.

Funding these opportunities can come from many places — private companies, state or national grants, donations, fundraisers, and all have the potential of changing your school if the time is put into acquiring them.

Many companies have put aside funds to support schools and their technology initiatives. They may vary in awards being offered with certain requirements, but all are designed to be provided to K-12 institutions. School leaders may not be aware that some of the largest companies like Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and Texas Instruments have dedicated funds to education, and generously award schools for their innovative growth and strategic plan initiatives.

Two worthwhile, private funding opportunities to bring Dash and Dot to your school include:

Texas Instruments Foundation — The Texas Instruments Foundation is a non-profit organization providing philanthropic support for educational and charitable purposes primarily in the communities where TI operates. Its primary focus is one providing knowledge, skills and programs to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Motorola Solutions Foundation — The corporate foundation gives around 100 grants for science education annually, with recipients ranging from museums to universities to after-school programs. The foundation’s STEM grants fall under its Innovative Generation Grants program, which has given more than $34 million to hundreds of programs in the United States and Canada.

State and federal grants have a very particular set of guidelines that are to be adhered to in order to complete the application process. Because of this, many schools are afraid to even attempt the steps necessary in fear of the magnitude of the actual process. Those schools that truly understand how these programs work, creatively find and explain the ways their initiatives will fit within the boundaries, are often the ones who are awarded the grants. The first step is don’t be afraid to go through the process of application. You may not be approved the first time you try, but as you learn the steps required, your work will prove to be bountiful.

Many schools discount applying for many state and federal grants because they can not understand how computer science can fit within the boundaries set forth by the grant. As an example, let’s take a look at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 611.

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) funds are used provide education in the “least restrictive environment” for children with disabilities. IDEA 611 funds supports school-aged children ages 5 to 21. Expenditures must benefit eligible students who are receiving special education services; however, funds may be used to purchase services and aids that also benefit nondisabled children. Funds are permitted to be used for the costs of special education and related services, and supplementary aids and services, provided in a regular class or other education-related setting to a child with a disability in accordance with the IEP of the child, even if one or more nondisabled children benefit from these services. (section Sec. 300.208 (1))

After reading this description of the funding requirements, many people ask how can computer science even fit? Well, let’s take a look at two of my favorite coding robots, Dash and Dot. These adorable robots offer an engaging, tangible experience that enables those learners with kinesthetic or visual learning differences, and those with limited verbal abilities, to demonstrate their knowledge in non-traditional ways.

The apps that go along with Dash and Dot, like Go, Blockly and Wonder, to name a few, provide authentic opportunities to develop their needed critical thinking and fine motor skills. Implementing apps like these now allows all learners, regardless of learning differences, to have the opportunity to learn and succeed. Wonder Workshop has designed lessons that are meant for small groups, so a special needs student can collaborate with peers and have a successful experience while contributing at his/her ability level.

When educators understand how computer science can fit into their school and seek out the help of experts in the field, or others that have been awarded grants to assist in this grant writing process, it makes the steps required a little less scary. Explore the newfound city! Learn what is available in your local area in terms of matching grants, or privately and federally funded grants, and don’t be afraid to take that leap and go through the process. The outcome only comes with rewards that will not only enhance your school, but will bring amazing learning tools and resources to truly excite your students.

On May 23, Wonder Workshop will be hosting a webinar — Funding 101: Grants to Bring Dash and Dot to Your School. Two experts from the RedRock Reports will be sharing private, state, and federal grant opportunities for schools. When you sign up for the Wonder League, you receive an exclusive invite to this event. In addition, club leaders will receive access to a full matrix of grants available as well as a template for writing grants for your school.

Sign up now at http://clubs.makewonder.com

Originally published at blog.makewonder.com on July 7, 2016.

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