If you have an interest in math or science, then you’re probably aware of the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE)-Energy Act, which would establish new K-12 grant programs if it becomes law. Three of the components of this legislation are: (1) establishing specialty schools for math and science; (2) creating experiential learning opportunities for middle and high school students in the areas of math and science; and (3) establishing math and science summer institutes.

If you’re looking for funding to address the math and/or science needs of your students, here are some steps you can take now to prepare for the possibility of these new grant programs in the future:

(1) Go to the Library of Congress’s THOMAS web site and read the two versions of Senate Bill 2197. Becoming familiar with the legislation behind a grant program gives you a clearer understanding of the program’s purpose and sheds light on the information that might be included in its Request for Proposals (RFP). If there is any eligibility information, pay close attention. If your district doesn’t meet the eligibility requirement, consider the possibility of partnering with a district that does qualify and then sharing available resources.

(2) Evaluate your students’ performance in the areas of math and science, and correlate their needs with the information included in the bill. The PACE-Energy Act is targeted to middle and high school students, so look at these two groups in particular and clearly identify their needs.

(3) Evaluate your current math and science curricula, and identify areas where they can be improved. (If you need help, you might want to contact the National Education Association, National Science Teachers Association, and National Council for Teachers of Mathematics for more information.) Although this might not be a specific requirement of any new grant program, it will certainly strengthen the “Needs” section of your proposal: When it comes time to write your proposal, you can discuss the areas in your curriculum that need improvement and then use this information to support your request for funds. Because experiential learning opportunities might be a part of any new grant program, examine the extend to which you provide these opportunities and determine whether more are needed for your middle or your high school students–or both.

(4) If you haven’t done this already, start project development discussions with your middle and high school faculty to develop possible project ideas that could address the science and math needs of your students. Identify potential partners for projects, and start thinking about project budgets. Identify, too, the types of math and science resources that exist in your community, and how these might be used in a project. (For example, maybe you have a planetarium or local science museum in your community–or a business that hires a large percentage of college graduates with degrees in math.)

(5) Start looking on the internet for possible resources that you can use in your project. Be sure to check out the U.S. Department of Education’s FREE (Federal Resources for Educational Excellence) web site, and look at agencies such as NASA for lesson plans that could be helpful and that are available at no cost.

As I have stated in previous columns, it’s never too soon to begin the process if you intend to apply for a grant. Many people wait until it’s too late and end up putting together a lackluster proposal. Assembling a proposal for a federal grant can easily take three to four months of solid, hard work; by acting now in anticipation of future grant programs, you can get a leg up on the competition. And even if these programs never come to fruition, the work you do now will serve you well for other math and science-related proposals down the road.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.