Bringing Foundations into the Classroom as Learning Partners

It’s summer but teachers are still hard at work creating lesson plans for the next school year. It just makes sense. Something else that makes perfect sense is the pairing foundations with education. Educators all over the country are reaching out to various foundations to become learning partners in their classrooms. The reasoning behind this decision is that by allowing foundations to bring their knowledge and passion for community into the classroom, children get real-world, hands-on experience. In short, it’s a way to connect the classroom to the outside community, giving children the opportunity to practically apply learned lessons.

Hood River Middle School in Hood River, Oregon, is just one of many schools trying out this teaching method. And it’s working wonders so far. Students are engaged and enthusiastic about projects and are receiving what seventh grade science teacher, Laura Haspela calls “a real gift.”

The team at GrantWatch is over the moon that there are connections being made between what our kids learn in school and doing your community a service by bridging the gap between learning institutions and the communities that house them. In fact, there are a few categories we’d like to mention dedicated to education. While there is the general category of education, there are also several other categories that offer a breakdown of what kind of education is included. These categories include preschool, elementary education, secondary education, students, and teachers. To refine you search even further you might add a keyword search using keywords like foundation, nonprofit, classroom, and project.

Lesson Learned From Hood River Middle School

Hood River Middle School is implementing this teaching method with great success and benefits to all involved. Teachers collaborate with learning partners in the classroom to co-teach and also engages with them to enhance her own subject knowledge. For example, when Ms. Haspela wanted to improve her geology knowledge before teaching it, she consulted with a local geologist and integrated what she learned into her lessons.

“The quality of student work improves when they have a genuine audience,” says Michael Becker, another teacher at Hood River and director of the Food and Conservation Science (FACS) program. Becker invites community partners, including local chefs and even the mayor, to judge his seventh-grade students in their Iron Chef competition. This event is part of the FACS curriculum, which also involves operating cafes and obtaining food handler’s cards.

Learning Partners Have a Lot to Teach

The wonderful thing about community engagement in our classrooms is that the benefits are shared between students, teachers, and learning partners. It’s a boon for all. And what’s more, this method is applicable to any age, any skillset, and any academic setting. Daycares can engage with the community and plan tours and day trips to local nurseries. Dairies, urban farms, and even parks make excellent stops for grade schoolers who are just learning about the power they hold over the physical world.

Middle school kids who need to learn more complex concepts can partner with local businesses, museums, and science centers. These collaborations can involve hands-on projects, such as building models with engineers, conducting experiments with scientists, or exploring historical artifacts with museum curators. Such interactions make abstract concepts tangible and inspire curiosity and critical thinking.

High schoolers can benefit on an even deeper level from community engagement through internships, job shadowing, and service-learning projects. Partnering with local hospitals, law firms, tech companies, and non-profits provides students with real-world experience in potential career fields. This not only enhances their academic learning but also helps them develop essential life skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and professional communication.

Finally, at the college level, community engagement can take the form of research partnerships, co-op programs, and community-based learning projects. College students can work alongside professors and community experts on research initiatives that address local issues. They can participate in cooperative education programs that integrate classroom study with practical work experience. This often results in better job prospects after graduation. Additionally, community-based learning projects allow college students to apply their academic knowledge to solve real-world problems. This fosters a sense of civic responsibility and social impact.

Grants for Schools, Teachers, and Learning Partners

  1. Experiential Education Projects – $1,000 to public schools to provide students with creative, hands-on learning opportunities. 
  2. Classroom Projects Related to Air and Space Travel – $250 to educators for classroom aviation projects and lessons. Grant funds may defray the costs of transportation, field trips, materials.
  3. Teachers to Enhance Wildlife Education – Up to $3,000 to teachers and educational professionals, including government and Indian tribe employees, to enhance wildlife education. Funding supports professional development activities and programs, projects, and field trips.
  4. Enhance Classroom Learning – Up to $600 to K-12 teachers, special needs teachers, itinerant teachers, and counselors to enhance the classroom learning experience. Funding is for innovative and creative programs, projects, and ideas designed to stimulate classroom-based education.
  5. Disadvantaged Children – Grants to nonprofit organizations for educational programs for children in eligible locations. Funding supports services, projects, and programming that benefit disadvantaged children age 12 years and under.
  6. Charitable Initiatives – Grants up to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations, agencies, and educational institutions for charitable initiatives.
  7. Enhance Learning Opportunities – $2,000 to public school teachers for opportunities to enhance classroom learning. Additionally, funding supports trips outside the school that are connected to the current educational curriculum.
  8. Outside Learning Experiences – Educators can get up to $250 to offset the costs of class trips. It’s supports field trips to state parks or reservoirs.
  9. Environmental Education Outings – $1,000 to schools for educational outings for K-12 students. Funding enables schools to provide students with interactive educational environment experiences. What’s more, grants may be used for transportation costs, destination entry fees, and educational tour guides.
  10. Nature and History Field Trips – Grants to schools, afterschool programs, and recreation programs for trips that expose children and youth to nature and history. This program supports visits to nature centers, environmental education centers, historic sites, state parks, fish hatcheries, and other outdoor recreation areas.

The Take Away

Here’s the takeaway. The integration of community partners in the classroom, exemplified by Hood River Middle School, highlights the substantial benefits of this approach for students, teachers, and the community at large. Connecting classroom learning with real-world experiences, students gain hands-on knowledge and develop essential life skills. This collaborative method enriches the educational experience across all levels, fostering engagement, curiosity, and a deeper connection to the community.

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