Funding Your MWEE
Many MWEEs can be built around local sites (i.e. school grounds or nearby parks and streams) and/or existing resources (i.e. planned field trips or events, or materials and equipment in classrooms or storage facilities), so they may not require additional funding. For those MWEEs that incorporate new off-campus trips, specialized supplies, or other resources not currently available, additional funding may be required. Long-term project funding also needs to be considered. MWEEs take time and effort to develop, so building something sustainable makes sense.
“MWEE implementation with K-12 students is most effective when the teachers, themselves, have experienced MWEEs during professional learning opportunities, often provided by local colleges & universities, resource agencies, and EE non-profits.”
— Tamra L. Willis, Mary Baldwin University College of Education
The school and local community can be a great source for funding. Field trip fees can often be paid by parents, and when this is not possible, the school PTA can sometimes help defray the costs. Many PTAs have budgets for special projects and are often supportive of hands-on field experiences. They may also be able to help out with funding of supplies or equipment. Even if a PTA does not have the funding to support the MWEE, parents can have excellent ideas about how to reach out to the broader community. When looking to the broader community, neighborhood organizations, local nonprofits, and local businesses will often donate supplies, equipment, or time, and may offer easy-to-manage small grants with very little paperwork. It is also useful to build support at the school district level. Districts can incorporate MWEEs into the curriculum and expectations for schools. This can create the space, permission, and sometimes even funding for schools and teachers to implement MWEEs. Partners at this level include superintendents, members of boards of education, and central office staff, such as curriculum and facilities managers, and staff. Invitations from schools to attend press events, community outreach events, or other celebrations are often met favorably by these partners. Students can deliver powerful testimonials at these events or at school board meetings.
For larger or ongoing projects, teachers and principals are encouraged to look to school district budgets. Many school districts support the installation of schoolyard projects, support system-wide field trips for students, or otherwise provide ongoing, reliable funding for components of the MWEE. And if a school happens to be planning construction, staff can sometimes work with facilities staff to incorporate green elements, including outdoor classrooms and other schoolyard projects that can be used by students for authentic research (i.e. that stormwater retention pond can be a great wildlife habitat if planned appropriately).
In addition to school and school district funding, there are many opportunities to secure funding from external sources, including grants from federal and state government, businesses and corporations, and private foundations. Some school districts have grants coordinators to assist in these efforts. Students may even be able to assist with grant writing as part of their MWEE to further develop their 21st century skills.
While grants are wonderful to help kick-start a project, they are not meant to provide long-term support. In fact, many grant makers ask for a sustainability plan as part of their application process. The information from the previous section on Building Awareness can also be used to put together a communications plan that generates the excitement and momentum that can lead to longer-term support for the MWEE.