Best practices and lessons learned from cash-winning schools
WINNER: LISA MIELKE, EIGHTH-GRADE HISTORY TEACHER AT BURNET MIDDLE SCHOOL, AUSTIN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, AUSTIN, TX
Grant won: Lowe's Toolbox For Education $5,000
Grant Description: Purchase of Ignite Learning's digital curriculum hardware "brick" and related software that attach to a PC will supplement the curriculum in social studies classes. Videos and other interactive elements create engagement and interest among students. Kids love it.
What was the best part of your experience winning this grant? I have wanted this product for a long time. I've been the squeaky wheel on my campus advocating for its purchase, but it was just too expensive. This grant from Lowe's made it possible for me to purchase it for my department.
What could you have done better? I would like to have been able to get more of the Ignite Learning "bricks" for each grade level on my campus, but because of its cost, six teachers will be sharing. I also procrastinated and wrote this at the last minute, but I guess I did OK. You should start working on a grant as soon as you learn about it, but I learned about this one right before the application deadline.
WINNER: DEE GUARINO, SCIENCE TEACHER AT LINWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL, NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ
Grant won: BUILD-IT: Expanded from Toshiba
Description: This grant expands upon a project funded by the National Science Foundation to design underwater robotics. Working with Stevens Institute of Technology, students learn about programming, communication, motion, forces, electrical circuitry, and buoyancy as they design, construct, and program underwater vehicles. The original funding from the National Science Foundation provided materials for a group of 20 students. The Toshiba grant allowed about 100 students to participate.
What was the best part of your experience winning this grant? Being able to expand the program so more of my students could experience this hands-on problem-solving type of learning.
What could you have done better? I would have liked to have Toshiba officials visit more often to experience the excitement of learning as students went through the program. We participated in a BUILD-IT competition in May. My student team was the only one of 32 teams to win top awards in all three categories of the competition. I am sorry I did not invite Toshiba to the competition to see this.
WINNER: DAVID BROCK, BIOLOGY TEACHER AT ROLAND PARK COUNTRY SCHOOL, BALTIMORE, MD
First grant won: Captain Planet Foundation Grant
Description: Now in its ninth year, "The Little Things that Run the World" is an ongoing investigation into the ecology of soil microbes that provides students with the opportunity to engage in real scientific research, requiring them to develop their own hypotheses, design and perform their own experimental protocols, and analyze and evaluate their own results for peer review.
What was the best part of your experience winning this grant? We just published our first lab manual based on the girls' work over the past decade and co-authored by three of them (Soil Ecology Lab Manual  available Flinn Scientific Inc.). We just received permission from the Board of Trustees to endow our soil ecology programs to ensure their long-term financial viability.
What could you have done better? Nothing comes without a price, and the biggest mistake I made was underestimating just how much Microsoft's new Vista was going to interfere with current digital technologies.
Second grant won: The Waksman Foundation for Microbiology
Description: Launched in July 2001, the Environmental Science Summer Research Experience for Young Women (E.S.S.R.E.) is a three-week summer internship in environmental field studies for ninth- and 10th-grade girls from the greater Baltimore area.
What was the best part of your experience winning this grant? The greatest thing about E.S.S.R.E. has been watching the girls as they have been transformed by the experience. Nearly one hundred ninth- and 10th-grade girls from a dozen schools in three counties and Baltimore City have participated in E.S.S.R.E., and of the ones who have already graduated high school, more than 50 percent have chosen to go on to pursue further training in the natural sciences and engineering.
What could you have done better? The Waksman Foundation kept E.S.S.R.E. solvent in a critical year for this program. Because our annual workshops at the National Science Teacher Association's national convention had been well received, we tried in 2004 to take E.S.S.R.E. to a national participant audience. But we weren't ready. If not for the Waksman Foundation, E.S.S.R.E. 2005 would never have happened, and it is because of their generosity that we only stumbled for a year before being able to rebuild the program as a successful regional one.
(Editor's note: Brock has won more than $50,000 in grants and awards for "The Little Things that Run the World" and Environmental Science Summer Research Experience for Young Women projects.)
WINNERS: SANDRA HALL, INTENSIVE READING TEACHER, AND LINDA WHITE, MATH TEACHER, AT SPRUCE CREEK HIGH SCHOOL, VOLUSIA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, DELAND, FL
Grant won: NEA Learning and Leadership Grant
Description: This grant was written to help improve the achievement and personal development of ninth- and tenthgrade students by integrating the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" in core academic classes. I attended a five-day workshop and became a facilitator to teach both adults and teens the 7 Habits. I facilitated monthly lunch meetings to teach nine core academic course teachers and support staff. Teachers implemented the 7 Habits in their classrooms in a way that was comfortable to them.
What was the best part of your experience winning this grant? Winning this grant allowed me to grow as a teacher and conduct my first staff development workshop.
What could you have done better? First, make sure all participants were receptive to the ideas being presented and willing to implement them in their classrooms. Second, change the time of the workshop to after school and finish within six weeks. Third, I would have preferred to have more contact with the teachers and to observe how they implemented the 7 Habits in their classrooms.