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The teachers and specialists in Provo City School District are our innovators. They are innovators, companions, and caretakers. The Provo City School District Foundation wants to recognize and support their efforts to make our schools a better place.

Each year, the Foundation awards mini-grants to a few of the many deserving district teachers. To receive the grant, teachers must submit a two-page application detailing their concept for an innovative project to their classroom or school. After receiving the completed application, the Provo School District Foundation Selection Committee picks the mini-grant recipients for the year.

It’s a process that isn’t required of teachers, but each year, many go the extra mile for their students.  

This year, we’re speaking to a few teachers who have received mini-grants to ask them about their classroom’s perceived need, their mini-grant product, the classroom impact of their mini-grant, and lastly, advice for new and struggling teachers on how they can differentiate and extend learning in their classrooms.

We spoke with fifth-grade teacher Provost Elementary Mary Wade this week about her hydroponics kit. Wade is an exceptionally sharp teacher; she noted a shift from the previous science curriculum over the past few years. While the new fifth grade science curriculum is far more aligned, there was a decrease in hands-on projects — and that’s where her mini-grant application comes in. Read our conversation below to learn more about her end-of-year hydroponics project and advice for other new teachers looking to apply for grants.

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Q: What was the perceived need for a hydroponics kit?

A: Fifth-grade science has changed a lot in the last few years. It used to be more hands-on, which was fun but could have been more cohesive. I like this new “seeds” storyline approach, which is more aligned and streamlined. But one downside we’ve found is that it’s less hands-on and more conceptual for fifth grade. There’s still a lot of investigation and experiments, but we wanted to find more tangible connections for kids. As we thought more about it, we realized that a hydroponics kit connects to all the units: earth’s systems for the first strand, conservation of matter for the second, and finally photosynthesis for the third. Hydroponics kits are a perfect fit to tie it all together, and our grade level team is excited to use them.

Q: How might this make a change for your students?

A: I think it’ll make this concept more real for them. They’re observing these concepts in their classroom throughout the year. These concepts of matter and energy from previous units—it just makes it all tangible. I believe it’ll help them see how all the concepts connect and function in the real world. 

Q: You’re a great grant writer. What advice or recommendations might you give to grant writers? 

A: Find a specific need first. Don’t try to make a shiny resource fit your students; find the need, and then seek out resources that can support your students. This will be much more useful for your students. I’d also say don’t be intimidated by grant writing. The majority of the time, it’s simpler than you’d think, taking less time and energy than you’d expect. DonorsChoose.org is a great place to start. This district mini-grant system was straightforward, too. Just go for it.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei
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