|John Scalici, STOMP|
Well, I have nearly completed a grant I wrote over a year ago to the state department. My principal came rushing in one morning, handed me a form, and asked if I would be willing to try for the grant. Little did I know the amount of work that would be involved!
Myself and the music teacher decided to collaborate. Our grant was wrapped around character education, visual art, and music; we wanted to create a program with our 4th and 5th grade students. We were inspired by the group STOMP, so, before we began I put a post out on Facebook; “Does anyone know anyone connected to the group STOMP?”
The world is small you know…why not? Social media reaches so many…lo and behold…I got two responses ...about the same person! Turns out there was a guy from Alabama who actually went to the same University as me and was friends with a guy I went to high school with. Huh! Who would have thunk it! I reached out to him and shared our idea. Needless to say, he was amazing and agreed to work with us. This prompted many hours at my house with my coworker, Melissa Thomason, planning and writing.
We decided if we were going to write a grant we would dream and we would dream big. We asked for $11,000.00. We asked for a laundry list of materials including visual art poster programming, videos, character education programming, equipment for our PE department that would encourage dance, visual aids for our counseling department, technology, a new sound system, a trip to NYC to see the cast of STOMP, to fly STOMP cast members to Alabama to perform with our kids, field trips, programming in the arts with the Birmingham Museum of Art and John Scalici. The list goes on. Why not? Needless to say, we won! But we won $19,400.00!! Whooo hoooo!
The work then ensued. Myself, Melissa Thomason (Music teacher), Counselors (Cortney McKinney and Rebecca Poe) and my visual arts director (Staci Jacks) all flew, in the summer of 2014, to NYC and spent four days. We spent an entire day with the cast of STOMP. We were able to watch their show and interview them afterwards. Our counselors were able to take our video back and show all our students. The cast spoke to us about how they got started in the arts, their backgrounds and wrapped everything around character education words our students are familiar with. I mean, who doesn’t understand perseverance when you take a leap of faith and try out for the cast of STOMP in New York when you live 100’s of miles away?
The cast spoke candidly with us about being bullied growing up and how the arts inspired them to reach high. Then we got to visit many wonderful sites while in NYC, such as the MoMA museum and the Natural History Museum. There we were able to gain a copy of a wonderful computer program that incorporates sounds and art to create a visual musical piece. Just amazing! Then we also were able to see the Blue Man Group live, which also heavily influenced our show.
We made instruments for several months while the students started learning rhythms in music and the counselors started teaching our character words. They reinforced the raps they were learning and began relating the character words to real heroes.
We also had Miles College come and do a workshop with 5th grade on stepping and using their bodies to create sounds. They created routines based off of their character education raps they were learning in music and counseling. These routines were incorporated into our final show.
In my classroom we were wrapping drumsticks in florescent duct tape, painting 5 gallon paint cans, paint can lids, wooden poles, aluminum paint cans, spray painting and splattering (My students loved- parents hated. I received many hate emails from parents that week.) etc. Meanwhile my students were learning about Adinkra symbols and what they mean.
John Scalici came to our school to work an entire day with students. Which was amazing. He was awesome and really reached the kids. Melissa and I began working with students heavily the month before the big performance. During all this we were writing press releases, being interviewed on the local news, designing sets, dealing with lighting and sound issues, installing a new sound system, coordinating a show of 150 students, writing and copying show programs, arranging parent volunteers, designing and creating costumes, trying to accommodate teachers, dealing with mad teachers, trying to make our principals happy, teach our normal classes, and most importantly not go crazy.
We had made arrangements in our grant to fly two of the STOMP cast members down for two days. The first day was to do a program at a local high school in the evening. A short demonstration, lecture, and group participation. The following day the performers would spend the entire day with us and our students working with them on the show and running through our practices. Drama hit us during this time frame. New York was covered in an ice storm….it didn’t even look like our friends were even going to make it out of New York. They missed flights, hit delays. Only one of them made it in time for the evening show at the high school. The other one got there much later that evening. It was highly stressful for us and them.
However, the evening was a huge success. They managed to get rest that evening and our students ate up every second with them the following day. Our program rocked. Our kids were amazing. We could not have been happier. I even choked up at the end and became the stereotypical blubbering teacher thanking everyone and everything. I was delirious. Exhaustion had set in.
Our grant had many problems. I’d like to share what I learned. Due to the fact that we received a great deal more money than we asked for originally, we had to basically revamp our grant. Please know ALL financial parameters when you write a grant, down to specifics of: where does the money get put? Meaning, who has control of it? How will you be able to spend it? Do you have restrictions on vendors? If you ever have the ability to NOT have your money go into your district accounting department I highly recommend this. We had to jump through massive hoops. The state department had different regulations than our local district. See if your district has any sort of arts account you can operate out of instead of a general fund.
When we went to NYC we wound up losing roughly $1,000.00 of our personal money that should have been reimbursed to us. The state didn’t have caps on how much airfare should cost, but the county did. Also, it took FOREVER to get reimbursed!!! Nothing could be paid to us until the actual service was completed. So for example, tickets were purchased at the end of the school year (May). We went to NYC in July. We did not get paid back until August so our hotel and air was put on one person’s credit card and sat there for four months accumulating interest! UGH!!!!! This also happened to our visiting artists from STOMP; however theirs was even longer getting money back. Money wound up being our biggest headache. Everything took at least a month to process once turned in.
Nothing was fast. Vendor issues specifically were a pain. The state would take some things but the county would not. I must have written and rewritten it felt like 80 purchase orders. In the end we lost about $800 of our grant because we had a deadline of when all money had to be encumbered that we were unaware of.
That was the other thing…understanding what, when, and how the money had to be spent. This proved very difficult to deal with when it came to getting visiting artists approved as vendors and backgrounds checked. We had to have multiple documents turned in for each person. (Have a clear understanding of all documents required.)
Another big issue to consider, as horrible as this sounds, how will this grant negatively affect your classroom teachers. Will they be inconvenienced any? If so how much? What is your faculty like? Do they view you as a glorified baby sitter? If this pulls away from their normal break time, consider the headache you may be facing. This does not mean do not apply or do not do the grant. Just be prepared for some backlash. Always keep the original thought in your mind that you are doing this for the good of your students. Sometimes that is hard for other faculty members to embrace when they are thinking about losing planning time due to you having to cancel classes for special things.
Also, how willing and accommodating will your principal be during the ENTIRE duration of your grant? Before you submit, I suggest you run EVERYTHING past her/him and get their approval. No grant is a quick process. I encourage you to have a clear outline in mind and be as crystal clear as you can be with administration. I cannot stress enough how important their support is to you during something of this nature. Our principal had to call several times on our behalf to certain people to try and help things along.
Our grant is still not over. We have a field trip with 5th grade left to go to the Birmingham Museum of Art. Then the museum is coming to school to do an African Art program/assembly. John Scalici is also coming back to do a drumming circle during our annual art gala. It became important to me during this process to document visually this whole process. I have been making a video of all stages including our trip to NYC, the interview with the cast of STOMP, working with John Scalici, making the instruments, practice and rehearsals, our final performance, the art gala with John Scalici, our field trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art, the art program at our school, and final words and interviews with us on the completion of the grant. If you would like a copy of this video when it is done please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org You may purchase one and I will ship it to you. We are not making money off the videos, just covering the cost of making them and shipping expenses. I can also include a copy of the actual grant document we submitted.
Best of luck to you in your grant endeavors! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need suggestions on your own grant.
Blessings- Shelly Bailey