Schoolyard Habitat Improvement Grants
Four Winds Nature Institute is pleased to be able to offer a limited number of small grants (up to $500) to help schools enrolled in our program improve their school grounds or surrounding areas for outdoor science and environmental education. The primary goals of the grants program are to make schools better places to study nature year-around, and to promote school-community interaction. Any project that supports these goals will be considered. Projects may involve improvements to the school grounds, but other outdoor community spaces (parks, woods, streams, ponds, etc.) are also eligible. Projects that support a number of grade levels are preferred over those that help a single grade. Student and community involvement in the planning and execution of projects will strengthen the proposal.
Please note: Awards come from donations to Four Winds Nature Institute, not from program fees. The number of awards in a given year will depend on the success of fund-raising efforts.
Frequently Asked Questions (Mini-grants FAQ PDF)
Q: What kind of projects are most likely to get funded?
A: Four Winds is most interested in making it easier and more rewarding for teachers and Four Winds volunteers to take children outdoors to learn about the natural world. Some great projects are those that enhance the schoolyard habitat by adding native plants and trees to attract birds, butterflies, or pollinators; building nature trails; or providing access to water (ponds or streams). Student involvement and community participation strengthen the proposal.
Q: Are there things for which we should not ask for funding?
A: Computer equipment (hardware and software), salaries, and travel are not eligible for funding.
Q: Our school would like to put in a vegetable garden. Could we use one of these grants for that?
A: Usually not.A vegetable garden is primarily for vegetables, and insects and other plant-eaters are discouraged. Nature study is better done in a patch of un-mown grasses and native flowering plants (\\”weeds\\” to some), where insects and other critters can all do what they do best. There are other funding sources available for making schoolyard gardens.
Q: What do you mean by an “itemized budget”?
A: Just explain what you will do with the money. We understand that often these are estimates, and that’s OK, but we want to know that your project can be completed with the money we provide, or that you have a plan for raising the rest of the money to get the project done.
Q: Our fourth grade studies weather. Can we use a Four Winds grant to get a weather station?
A: We have funded weather stations in the past, but only when they were linked more broadly to the curricula of multiple grades. For example, that may be done by relating weather to stream studies or to plant and animal observations.
Q: Why does my principal have to add a statement?
A: We need to know that the school is in support of your project. A strong message of support from the principal assures us that the teachers and staff are behind your efforts.
Q: We want to build an “outdoor classroom.” Is that OK?
A: Children usually don’t need an elaborate classroom space outside. Keep it simple. A circle of logs or simple benches may be all you need.
Q: What about an interpretive nature trail?
A: We love the idea of a nature trail at or near the school. If you are adding signs to an existing trail, we want to see how multiple grade levels will be involved. We also want to hear how the trail will be maintained and used after you build it.
Q: Who can I talk to if I have more questions about my project or application?
A: Ask your Four Winds trainer, who may be more familiar with your school grounds.
Here are some examples of successful grant applications and final reports:
And here are a few final grant reports: