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How to Write a Winning Grant

By |2023-01-17T07:52:51-07:00January 19th, 2023|

ART WORKS FOR TEACHERS PODCAST | EPISODE 019 | 33:47 MIN

How to Write a Winning Grant

If you’ve wanted to secure a grant for an arts integration initiative, today’s episode is a must-listen. Arts Integration Specialist Alison Greenhouse won a large 3-year grant for her school’s arts integration program. Today, she shares specific strategies for writing a winning grant proposal and what you need to be prepared for if you get that grant you want.

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Susan Riley: All right. Well welcome Allison. I’m so glad you’re here today. 

Alison Greenhouse: Oh, thank you. I’m glad to be here. 

Susan Riley: Awesome. So can you please introduce yourself and let us know a little bit more about who you are, what you do, and your work? Sure. My 

Alison Greenhouse: name is Allison Greenhouse. I am an elementary school art teacher, and I have been an elementary school art teacher for 18 years, which is, Kind of hard to believe cuz I feel like I just graduated from college some days, but 18 years I’ve been teaching.

I live in Norris, Tennessee, which is not very far from Knoxville. So we’re in East Tennessee. And I last summer in June, I got my arts integration certification. 

Susan Riley: Yay. Yay. I know, right? It’s and it’s been a whirlwind since then, I’m sure. Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah. So talk to me a little bit about your journey with arts integration.

How did you, why, first of all, how did you find arts integration? I always think that that’s interesting. And then how did that evolve over time? Sure. 

Alison Greenhouse: So when my current, I teach at two elementary schools, one elementary school is really more focused on the arts, and that’s kind of been a goal for this specific elementary school.

So when I’m speaking today, I’m speaking about Norris Elementary. Both of my elementary schools are outstanding. I just wanna put that out there. But my principal at Norris came to me and we spoke about trying to find ways to infuse the arts into curriculum and into the student’s day more and being a very artistic learner myself.

Mm-hmm. and both her and I having our own personal children who are. artistic learners. Mm-hmm. . We thought this would be a really cool thing for us as a school to try and just research and see how can we infuse more arts into the day. We have a great art program. We have a great music program, but you know, let’s push it further.

Mm-hmm. , what does that look like? What does that what does that mean for. Our school. Mm-hmm. . And so I started researching, I, one of the first things I read was Shake the Sketch by Susan Riley . 

Susan Riley: You’re funny. I read it from Amazon. That’s great. Right? Yeah. 

Alison Greenhouse: And I read lots of things and I researched and I read articles and I was just looking arts integration.

Also, I attend the Tennessee Arts Academy every summer in Nashville, which is like mm-hmm. , the best arts training for 

Susan Riley: teachers. It really is. You guys have a phenomenal program in Tennessee. It’s 

Alison Greenhouse: phenomenal. It’s art, music, theater and they have an arts integration component there as well. So I was pulling things out of that training and bringing it back to our staff.

Mm-hmm. and just little nuggets here and there trying to enhance, you know? Mm-hmm. , the, the art and music program that we already had at Norris. And then I did the Arts Integration Bootcamp. Mm-hmm. with you guys. I think two years ago it was a virtual And I was like, oh my gosh, I wanna be a certified arts integration specialist.

So I went to my principal and I said, can we do this? And she said, yeah, let’s do it. So I signed up and I thought I knew what arts integration was. I really did. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. , I had no idea.

Susan Riley: But that’s so much. I wanna, I wanna piece this out a little bit because, and tease this idea out a little bit, because every single person who graduates from our program says that exact same thing, right? Literally on every single survey, everybody, I thought I knew what arts integration was and I had no idea.

So what, what does that mean? I know what that means, but what does that mean for you? How does, what does that statement 

Alison Greenhouse: mean? So one of the. I have several aha moments. Mm-hmm. throughout my year with you guys. And one of them was that, that continuum? Mm-hmm. with enhancement and then all the way to integration.

And then when Typh talked about the cupcake versus the jelly roll, like how to really. Tie the two standards and it was so much more academically based. Mm-hmm. , what I learned from the institute was so academic. Yeah. And it’s like, it’s undeniable. It, it is just, I can’t, I don’t even, I, I’ve lost my train of thought.

Now it’s okay. But no, it’s just really more, 

Susan Riley: I don’t know. I’ve lost it now. It’s Well, and I think, so rigor, right? We, we hate the word rigor, but it’s so true, right? It’s rigor. And I think when, and, and I think this happens a lot, especially coming from the arts perspective, which correct, I was a music teacher, you’re an art teacher.

Typh was a dance teacher. Your coach Holly was a classroom teacher, but she has a theater background, right? So particularly from the arts perspective, when we say arts integration, Right. The, the common perception is it’s a very creative process based kind of approach, which it is, but the missing link is often in that academic.

Right. Which is what we were, you were just referring to is, is the connection to standards. Absolutely. Which, Can be scary if we’re, if we’re really honest. Yes. Yeah, yeah. , tell me about your standards journey, because everybody has a moment when they’re working on aligning standards where they’re like, this is hard.

This is really hard. So hard 

Alison Greenhouse: that sprint. Like, but now I know. Okay, so when you start trying to align your arts standard to your academic standard or to your core curriculum, you don’t realize until you really dive deep. Mm-hmm. , oh my gosh, now I know this is exactly what I want the students to do. Yes.

What are they doing and how are they gonna benefit from this standard? Yes. You know? And so it made me of course I can look now at core content and art standards and, and see them differently. Mm-hmm. , but it made me just a better art visual arts teacher. Mm-hmm. , because I’m like, what am I really asking them to do?

How is this going to grow them as students, as art students or any kind of student? How are they gonna grow? From beginning to the end of the project or the year. Mm-hmm. , because I really now know that verb in the standard is what I really want them to do. And so it’s very intentional. Yes, 

Susan Riley: yes. It’s purposeful, right?

Mm-hmm. , right? So your lessons are, are leading somewhere. They’re designed on purpose. Right. And your students have much greater success, I think, when you’re 

Alison Greenhouse: using it. Yeah. And I even as just teaching. in my own classroom. Mm-hmm. , and I’m designing lessons just for the art room. Mm-hmm. , I’m teaching with a lot more intention and purpose now than I ever did before.

Which is amazing. I mean, yeah, it’s 

Susan Riley: amazing. Amazing. It’s amazing because that’s, that’s the thing, as creative and wonderful as it as it was, it’s so much more now, right? 

Alison Greenhouse: I think so. Yeah. I definitely think so. I also have a new love for rubrics, thanks to 

Susan Riley: Oh my gosh. I know Tiffany and her rubrics . I love that she loves rubrics and I love that she has passed that love onto all of our students.

Right. . So you got, you went through the, the certification experience. Yes. And if you were to describe that to somebody who is just considering it, what are some things that you would advise for 

Alison Greenhouse: them? . Well, I would say if you’re considering it and you’re nervous about time, right? Mm-hmm. , cause, well, I would guess probably most of the students that you have in the certification program are working as full-time teachers.

Oh yeah. For the most part. So I did not feel overwhelmed by the amount of time it took in my week. Okay. It was really well. Laid out. Yeah. Good. Right. The pacing guide was so helpful to the point where when we had those, like four week or six week breaks, I’d be like, I missed my friends integration friends.

Are we getting back to it? So it, it was just paced so easily. Mm-hmm. And the con, I mean, there was some times when it was really hard, don’t get me wrong, like it was hard. . Yeah. And I had to give myself a chunk of time each week that said, this is the time I’m gonna work on this. You know, part of the sprint.

Like, you ha you have to again, be intentional about doing the work. But I never felt overwhelmed. I never felt like, oh my gosh, I can’t do this and my full-time job and, you know, raised my child and, you know, all the things. Mm-hmm. , it never felt overwhelming. It was a lot of work, but it was exciting work.

Mm-hmm. and I could immediately take what I learned in each sprint and put it into. in my job. And so because it was, I was learning and putting it into practice almost immediately, it was just mm-hmm. . It was just seamless, you know? 

Susan Riley: Ugh, I That makes me so happy cuz that’s exactly what we are striving to do for people.

Yeah. To get is super relevant and, you know, make it something that you’re going to use right away, which is awesome. 

Alison Greenhouse: Also, I’ll tell you, can I pop back in there? Yeah. The coach, our, our coaches, my coach was outstanding , but they give so much grace, like Yeah. They understand that. Mm-hmm. . We are full-time teachers and they understand that we are parent, a lot of us are parents and you know, have spouses and all, you know, all the things.

Yes. And I felt like there was times when I was like, oh, I forgot we had a, a zoom. And just the grace that’s given was very, very helpful to not feel like guilty if some, you know, if you missed a deadline or you know, everyone’s. Kind of like understands this is life, you know? Yeah. That’s really. Professors in college that weren’t like that,

Susan Riley: Oh, I know. But see, like that’s, I, I know we all have the college professors stories that are like that, but the wonderful thing about our coaches is that they have gone through the program themselves. Correct. And that they know. They know exactly what you’re dealing with and all of the overwhelm. And of course, you know, it’s, and it’s our entire organization.

Everybody needs. Everybody needs a little space, so I’m glad that that was your experience as well. Yeah, so on the flip side, Now that you’re finished with certification I heard that you secured a grant and it’s not just a little small grant, like you got yourself a good size grant girl. Yes. So, and it’s for arts integration, right?

Alison Greenhouse: Correct. It’s an arts integration grant. Mm-hmm. , it came from the Tennessee Arts Commission. Mm-hmm. . And it’s a three year grant. So every three years they reopen applications. Three years ago, I tried to apply for it and they said, don’t even bother. You’re not a Title one school. Our school is not a Title one school.

Right. And so we will only accept applications from Title one schools. So I kind of like stopped that Grant , I’m, I’m gonna write it, I’m gonna try again. And so this past year it reopened, it was the, the cycle had come around again. Mm-hmm. and it reopened and they had taken the title one requirement. They did say that priority would be given to Title one schools, but you didn’t have to be a Title one school to apply.

And I was like, hot dignity dog. We’re, we’re going for it. . 

Susan Riley: And it’s, so talk to me about the, the purpose of the grant. How much was the grant for? What are you using it for now? Gimme all the deeds. 

Alison Greenhouse: Okay. So it’s through the Tennessee Arts Commission. It’s called the Arts 360 grant, and it is to help school-wide arts integration programs.

Mm-hmm. and. , it’s $55,000 for three years, but we have to provide a half match. So, which is a whole separate challenge. . Yep. But, which is fine. I’m learning so much about grants, but it’ll be 80, a little over $80,000. Wow. Over the course of three years, all for arts. Integration and arts programming in our school.

Susan Riley: Amazing. That’s amazing. 

Alison Greenhouse: Okay, so how am I gonna use the money? Yeah, me. How are we gonna use the money? Some pretty exciting things this year. We have of course, purchased a lot of. Materials. Mm-hmm. like art supplies and things like that and mm-hmm. , we are very proud of our new arts integration resource room for teachers, which is Yes.

So exciting. Cause when they have the things they need and they know how to use them, they can just go grab what they need for their lesson. It’s so much easier. Our, we bought a school-wide. Subscription to the accelerator. Yeah. Which is awesome. Yay. We and, and like, a really big thing is we have started a dance program at our school.

Oh, that’s awesome. And we have the most special dance teacher. She, she comes twice a month, teaches the whole school. And she went to our, she went to this school. She’s an alumni of this elementary school. Oh, that’s great. And the thing that I think is so special, bringing dance to our school. Mm-hmm. is, and one of the things I learned while I was in the certification program is you have to still have art and music and dance to teach the students the base.

Right. So then when one of our classroom teachers does an arts integration dance lesson, those kids are comfortable with chore. and they know that she’s teaching lots of terms and she’s, you know, so that base and dance is something that the my, my principal and I, we have really been wanting, we actually got mirrors in the gym before Covid.

Mm-hmm. hoping to start a dance program. And then of course Covid happened and we kind of went on survival mode for a couple years. But now we’re, we are able to fund this visiting artist to our school, which is. like, 

Susan Riley: so exciting. Yeah. Well, and especially at the elementary level, dance is not common and it’s not like as a class, as a standalone class.

Correct. And I think it’s one of the things that is such a shame for. all children because movement is so central to who they are, especially at the elementary grade level. Yeah. So the fact that you have that now is phenomenal. I’m so glad that this grant has enabled you to kind of work and have that with, with them.

Yeah. You, you said that you’re learning all the things about grants. Can you tell us a little bit about how you navigated that grant process? Like, how did you make sure that this was gonna. Like awarded as much as you possibly could. What sets you up for success and what are some maybe things that people need to know on the flip side when you get the grant that you were not aware of before

Alison Greenhouse: Yeah. So I. Gathered my best writers in the building, the other teachers. Mm-hmm. one is my academic coach and she is like such a good writer and she can massage a sentence, , you know, she can, she’s really good at it. So I started by building a team to help me write the grant to, you know, to work together.

Yeah. Also, gave us plenty of time. Mm-hmm. , we had to gather letters of support from the director of schools, the principal community members. So that, making sure that those people who had to have a part in writing the grant had plenty of time. Mm-hmm. Was important. We also broke down the grant cause it was really big to write, and I said, okay, this, in the next two weeks, we’re gonna just focus on this.

and let’s get together. I will write. Right, right, right, right. And then we’ll get together and we’ll massage . Yep. Smart. Get into ready. And so just giving yourself plenty of time. You can’t look at a grant and say, well, let’s do next week. I bet I can knock this out. You, you really can’t do that. And so there are some small grants that maybe you could.

you know, get pulled together in a week. But this took us several months of working as a team and having plenty of time for people to edit and having other eyes look at it. Mm-hmm. . And then on the flip side, now that we have the grant, I am not a bookkeeper , so you’re trying to keep up with how the money’s spent and how we then put it back into the grant portal.

That has been a new. an interesting challenge for me. Mm-hmm. is trying to keep up 

Susan Riley: with all that. If you had to write it again, would you write somebody like a bookkeeper in there or a part-time position of some 

Alison Greenhouse: sort to be able to Well, we have a fabulous secretary at our school and she has helped me tremendously.

So she kind of keeps up with a lot of it for me. . Oh, that’s great. 

Susan Riley: That’s great. Sometimes when grants are awarded, like you said, there’s, there’s paperwork that maybe you weren’t anticipating or filing systems or deadlines that for submission of evidence, right? Yes. That you’re, that you’re sharing.

Right. And I think. We oftentimes think you’re gonna get a grant and then that’s it. That’s, you get the grant, you get to spend the money, and then, but there’s so many other things that go into it. Yeah. Do you have an end of three year project that you have to work towards? 

Alison Greenhouse: So the grant requires two visiting artists, at least two visiting artists per year.

Mm-hmm. Hmm. and Tennessee Arts Commission has a teaching artist roster from which you choose from. So we’ll do, we did one. Fall with this amazing Nashville based children’s author and performer, and she came and did amazing programming with us. And then, well, every year we’ll have two different teaching artists off that roster.

Mm-hmm. , we have to submit a variety of different things throughout the year to the Tennessee Arts Commission. I don’t think that there’s anything specific that they require, like as a culminating project. Mm-hmm. . But for me, for us as a school, my next goal is to figure out how to continue funding after the grant money runs out. Especially for the dance program. Yeah. So that we’re able to continue that. So I’ve been talking with our education foundation locally.

Yeah. They provide grants, small grants to local teachers. But I’ve been just talking with them, talking with our pto. Mm-hmm. and different, trying to find different avenues to continue funding after the grant ends. Yep. 

Susan Riley: Smart. Because, and that’s, that’s the other thing that gets a hangup is that we get to the end of a grant cycle and then there’s not any money that has been.

you know, secured after that grant. How do we sustain something, which I think, you know to your, to your point, what you’re setting your teachers up for at the very minimum is for them to at least understand the arts integrated process themselves. Right? Yes. And how, what a good quality lesson looks like.

How to implement that in their classroom so that even if there’s no money afterwards, you have at least that that base, which I think is really, I. . Yes. So what are some challenges that you’re seeing with your, the program as it is right now, and how are you, this is the part I’m really curious about.

How are you overcoming those challenges? 

Alison Greenhouse: So, I thought about this. One of the challenges is in our school system, we have really good, we have really good core curriculum. Mm-hmm. , and it’s the same curriculum countywide. So elementary has one core. ela, we have one core math curriculum and we have a very tight pacing guide.

Mm-hmm. . And so a challenge for the classroom teachers is finding space in that tight pacing guide to feel comfortable bringing in an arts integration lesson. Yeah. And so what I have been working with them on is making that exchange. Yes. What can we remove? out of what you’re already doing and put something else in its place.

And a great example is the kindergarten curriculum. They read the three little Pigs and they do the retelling of it during, they have like a whole fairytale unit. Mm-hmm. . And in the workbook, in the ELA workbook, there’s a page that you tear out and there’s like a picture of a pig and you cut the pig out and you glue the pig to a Popsicle stick.

And then they use it to retell the story. And I’m like, That is terrible. , and roll that page away. Thanks. And let’s let the kids design their own pig puppet. Yeah. From start to finish. And we did it this year and by golly, those kids were so proud of those pigs. , like, which pig are you gonna make? You know?

And they had all kinds of loose part supplies. You know, they had foam and they had, and they had paper, and they had markers and they, I mean, and they talked, we talked about how they would put it together. You know, what, what other supplies are we gonna need to make this happen? And they’re gonna remember that way more than cutting out the face of the pig

Yes. Oh my God. And that was an exchange, right? Yeah. So that’s just taking out one lesson. that is not a very strong Yep. Lesson and then exchanging it with something else. And the teachers were super excited about that opportunity. The kids of course loved it. Of course. So J, things like that. The challenges of finding places to infuse the arts when you already have a really tight.

Curriculum, a really tight pacing guide. So that is one challenge. And then I had another one, but now I can’t remember what it was. . 

Susan Riley: Well, and I, I’m gonna piggyback haha piggyback off of what you just said. I literally just finished creating a mini course as a bonus for this upcoming certification season called, time bender in terms of how do you find time for arts integration?

And that that is one section that we talk about is the, is finding the spaces in your curriculum where there’s either reteaching or extensions mm-hmm. or multiple lessons on the same concept that are happening that you could maybe take out, right. Like two of the reteaching because you’re just, you’re reteaching the same concept.

And what, what kills me about reteaching lessons? . I understand their purpose, but what kills me about them is that the kids who didn’t get it the first time, they’re not gonna get it by the third time that you reteach because you’re reteaching the same way. 

Alison Greenhouse: But if you reteach it in an arts integration way, those kids that didn’t get it, now they’re gonna get it.

Cause they’re learning to hands on. 

Susan Riley: Yeah. So if you can remove, like usually there’s at least two, maybe sometimes three reteaching lessons to a core lesson. If you can take out two of those and replace it with one arts integration lesson, you’ve saved your. One additional class period that you get as a bonus now.

Yeah. Which I think sometimes we, we have to get creative in those, in those tight pacing guides, which I understand the pur the purpose of them. And they’re, they do serve a purpose for those who need them. Right. But Right. If we can, if we can do that exchange like you shared, I think it’s so powerful because it, you’re right, it’s, it’s a different modality.

The kids who didn’t get it the first time, at least have a chance Yes. Of getting it this time. . 

Alison Greenhouse: Yes. I have one teacher here at Norris. She lo she’s, she loves the accelerator. She’s so excited about it. She’s a math teacher and she really likes to do a, a culminating arts integration. Project at the end of modules.

Like she’ll put other things in there, she’ll do little strategies in, but making these nine and, and she’s, she’s so good at aligning them with like your Christmas break. Yeah. And kids wanna do something hands on movement more anyway, you know, and so she, she really has done a great job planning and looking at where she can fit it in, you know?

Yeah. And that does take some pre-planning. You can’t just say, okay, I’m gonna do it this week. Just like the grant you. , look at the timeframe you have. Like what am I doing for the next nine weeks? Mm-hmm. , and sit down and really make a plan. And where can I fit this? . Yeah, it can happen. It totally, for sure.

Susan Riley: You have to, you have to plan. I mean, yeah, you, you have to invest the time upfront so that you can save yourself time in the back. Absolutely. Yeah. So what mindset shifts have you had to make as you’ve been working towards this new program and building this amazing piece from scratch? Really? 

Alison Greenhouse: So my biggest mind shift, I think is.

Change takes time. Mm. And change in education takes time. And I get really excited. Mm-hmm. And I’m like, oh, we’re all gonna do this, . It’s gonna be great. And it’s not gonna happen overnight. And if you are working, if you’re a teacher and you’re working towards making some changes, if you are a classroom teacher and you’re like, I really want to try to teach in this.

You know, in this way I want to use arts integration strategies. I want like give yourself some time, say, you know, this year we’re gonna do one arts integration lesson. Mm-hmm. in the fall and one in the spring. Yeah. And see how it goes. Yeah. And then if those are successful, then next year. do four. Mm-hmm.

and then research some other drama games that you can, you know, stick in between that are quick, easy strategies. Yeah. You know, and so feeling like I want all to happen right now. Mm-hmm. , it just can’t, it can’t . Yeah. And so I think that’s my biggest mind shift is like, Patience and time . 

Susan Riley: The power is in the pause.

Yeah. There’s a, there’s a moment that you have, and Tiffany reminds me of this a lot, that it’s not the change that is hard for people. It’s the transition. It’s going from what they knew. to a future that they have not yet envisioned for themselves. Right. And that transition’s hard. And so, and it does, it takes time.

So I know when, when people get into the arts integration, they get so excited and we so wanna get everybody on board. And it just, sometimes it takes a little bit longer , and that’s 

Alison Greenhouse: okay. Yeah. Yep. And celebrate the, the wins that are happening. Yes. Like, and make sure everyone sees like, look what we’re doing.

Wow. We have done a lot this year. Like think about all the great things that are happening and just, you know, celebrate and, and root for each other. 

Susan Riley: Yeah. That’s powerful. And, and it reminds me of the last podcast I did with Amy Sandler who talked about. Have a, I’ve got your back. Yeah. Like having that culture of I’ve got your back.

Even if we’re going slow. I’m, I’m here with you. Yeah. I’m in it with you and I’m excited for you. Right. It’s such an amazing culture to have. So, before I close out, this is a question I always ask everybody, what is one thing that you want people to know about creativity? 

Alison Greenhouse: Okay. So, I knew you were gonna ask this cause I’ve listened to your other podcast so I have a lot of teacher friends who say I am not creative. I wish I was creative, but I am not. Okay. Lies, teachers are the most creative humans on the planet. They come up with creative solutions in their classroom all day long. Mm-hmm. , they don’t realize how creative they are. But what I will say is that, creativity in art, which is different than just creativity in life, I think.

Mm-hmm. . But creativity in art is a skill that needs to be, to be built. Mm-hmm. . And so I think that you have to spend time, you know, teaching yourself to be creative and building that skill. When my son was in kindergarten, his teacher asked him to read 20 minutes every. Because that she wanted him to become a better reader.

And so I ask a lot of adult, my adult learners and, and coworkers and things what do you do for 20 minutes a day to build your creativity or if you wanna be better at painting? Yeah. Do you spend 20 minutes a day? Because we ask kids all the time. Yeah. To spend 20 minutes a day reading or do this, or do you know?

Well, as adults we don’t give ourselves the time to grow as creative. humans. Mm-hmm. , you know, I wish I was more creative. Well, you gotta work at it. 

Susan Riley: True. So true. Just like you, you gotta 

Alison Greenhouse: work at like, if you wanna be a basketball star. Yeah. You 

Susan Riley: gotta practice . Yeah. Well, and you like, you just sparked an idea for me for next winter that.

I think about when my, when my daughter was in elementary school, how many times she brought home a math packet for Christmas break, like over the right, over the 14 days. Ha. She had to do a math problem every single day on that calendar, right? Yes. Wouldn’t it be great if as adults we got a calendar of like creative ex exercises to do?

Yes. Over? Absolutely. Yeah. I. Oh, that’s awesome. So how can people stay in touch with you, Alison? How can they find you? 

Alison Greenhouse: So my Instagram and Facebook are both GHouse. Studio Greenhouse is too long, so I shortened it to GHouse. GHouse. Studio on Instagram and Facebook. 

Susan Riley: Awesome. All right. Well thank you so much.

It’s a pleasure getting to speak with you today. I really appreciate. Yeah, absolutely. All right.

The Art Works for Teachers Podcast helps teachers crack the code of creativity and use it as a hidden advantage in the classroom. Each week, we’ll use “creative clues” from authors, artists, and teachers to unlock the power of the arts and where it can take us in education today.

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