Spark: (n) anything that activates or stimulates; inspiration or catalyst; (v) to send forth gleams or flashes
Spark Grants, a competitive grants program conceived of and funded by Letitia and John Carter, offer third grade teachers up to $1,000 for projects that engage students through unique experiences and creative learning methods and stimulate student interest in relevant educational topics.
The initiative is based on a simple premise: students learn best when given real-life opportunities to engage in academic content in meaningful, non-traditional ways.
And classroom teachers know best how to provide those opportunities.
Exemplary projects from previous years
Carmen Rodriguez teaches third grade at Providence’s William D’Abate elementary school. To compliment an upcoming social studies unit on the importance of active citizenship, Ms. Rodriguez proposed to take her students on a series of field lessons outside of the city. The field lessons ranged from a trip to the Scituate Reservoir where students learned about the importance of watershed conservation to a visit to a local nursing home where students had the opportunity to meet and learn from community elders.
Mary Falcone is a STEM specialist at Newport’s Clairborne Pell Elementary School. In support of the district’s new STEM curriculum, Ms. Falcone used a Spark Grant to invest in submersible design kits and two remote controlled miniature submarines. This equipment allowed Ms. Falcone and her students to map the depth of the ocean floor at an ocean access location near the Pell school.
Louriann Mardo-Zayat teaches visual arts at the Ella Risk Elementary School in Central Falls. Troubled by vandalism in the student restroom, Ms. Mardo-Zayat used a Spark Grant to engage her students in a mural painting project that communicated the importance of shared responsibility and respect for the school community. According to Ms. Mardo-Zayat, the project turned a school-wide culture challenge into a positive learning experience for all students.
Learn about other Spark Grant projects.
- All fulltime teachers of third grade students in Rhode Island public schools, including charter schools, may apply for these competitive grants. This includes teachers of special subjects like visual arts, music, or physical education so long as the proposed project is designed to be used with a cohort of third-grade students
- Eligible expenses include classroom equipment and materials, field trip expenses, software licenses, and other resources that would not otherwise be available. Teachers must make a compelling case about how their proposed project will advance student learning in the classroom and integrates into existing or future units of study.
- Proposed projects can serve several students or an entire classroom.
- Multiple applications from one teacher are not permitted; teachers should submit their best idea.
- While multiple teachers may collaborate to submit a joint proposal to pool funds, please keep in mind that this grant program is intended to support creative projects at the classroom level. Projects that are designed to serve a whole school community will not meet the criteria of this grant program.
- Spark Grants are for one-time expenses and cannot provide ongoing funding to sustain projects.
- Supplies alone are not eligible, unless the teacher makes a compelling case for how the supplies would engage and stimulate their students in a new and unique way.
- Note: Previous Spark Grant recipients are required to submit a one page report on their project prior to applying for the 2015-2016 school year. Download the Spark Grant report form here. Please email your completed form to TShepherd@RIFoundation.org.
Please check back for information on applying for a 2016-2017 Spark Grant.