As an elementary physical education teacher in the Bronx, NY, I’m always looking for ways to stretch my PE budget and introduce my students to new physical activities. Over the last few years, I have won quite a few grants. They really have made a difference for my students.
Here are some examples of the types of grants I’ve received, along with my advice on how you might find similar grants for your physical education classes.
Grants For Tennis Equipment
In fall 2021, I attended a virtual workshop that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) hosted. If you apply through them, they will give you a free bag full of tennis rackets, two types of balls, and tape to create your own “nets.” I had the equipment, but what really resonated was the opportunity to have a tennis professional come and work with the students. I spoke to the director and told him I was interested.
That same month, tennis pro Steven Mingo came to my school. He then won a grant through the USTA to come back the following April to June 2022. Steven was a joy to teach with and so very knowledgeable. He even ran some stations at our field day last year.
In May 2022, I applied for my school to play exhibition matches for NetGen at the U.S. Open —and we were accepted! In fact, one of my students at that event was featured on the cover of a 2023 USTA Eastern Conference publication (see below).
Additionally, the USTA introduced me to PHIT America. They have an amazing lap scanning program called EZ Scan. It came with a top-notch Bluetooth speaker, subscription to the service, and the Billie Jean King Eye Coach (think batting tee for tennis).
I was so ecstatic that we got to go to the U.S. Open, I told some other New York City physical education teachers in a Facebook group. One of the teachers was really excited about the information about the U.S. Open and PHIT America — and she then shared information with me about a company called CYCLE Kids. You could say we “traded” resources.
The CYCLE Kids grant (valued at $25,000) provides schools with 10 new bikes, helmets, a bike pump, and textbooks that teach cycle basics as well as nutrition. I reached out to them and mentioned how I had heard about the company.
In September 2022, I applied for the grant by filling out a brief questionnaire. A few weeks later, I received the confirmation email that we had won the grant. The bikes, helmets and books were all delivered by late October.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I invited my fifth graders and their classroom teachers to my gym for a special event. CYCLE Kids had Belgian waffles (“wafels”) from Wafels & Dinges delivered to the school. They also had some bike mechanics attend to help us put the bikes together.
News12 The Bronx even came to do a story on one of my classes using the bikes. You can watch it here. We have the bikes at my school for as long as we use them and teach the nutrition curriculum. My school has a large and spacious gymnasium so we can use the bikes inside. And, I have a large closet inside my office where I can store the bikes.
Riding abilities varied greatly for my fourth and fifth grade classes. Some students worked on balancing on the bike and using it as a strider bike (bike with no pedals). At first, we focused on just going in a straight path, striding without pedals before then getting a feel for using the pedals. To maximize time on task, some students worked with the bikes while others worked on fitness games that didn’t require a lot of space or set up. The grant came with helmets, which the students enjoy wearing.
Tech Grants for PE
Last August, I learned about a company called CREA Interactivity, which is based in New York City. The owners have children in New York City public schools. You may have seen or heard of schools that have large projector screens with sensors that detect and register movement from a student.
These are awesome but often expensive. I had numerous conversations with the owners of CREA Interactivity who were willing to not just give me equipment, but also build a partnership. After our DonorsChoose project was funded, the screen was installed in late October 2022. Fundraising websites like DonorsChoose.org can make a difference, but it’s hard to say when a project will get funded. If you can ask your school’s PTA or local businesses, that’s a good start. It took about a month and a half to raise the money.
Truthfully, I thought it would never work out. If it takes some time, don’t give up. Using social media is effective to promote your project. My students and even my principal LOVE using the game and screen. The current game is space based, where students throw beanbags at asteroids and comets on the screen. You can have students use pool noodles instead of beanbags.
You might be thinking, “Wow, Jim. That’s cool you won a grant but how can I?” It’s opportunities like these that I am grateful to share because something like this shouldn’t be kept a secret. I used similar strategies for receiving other materials and grants. It’s always great to talk to a person, not just send an email.
I called the New York Mets in May 2022 and simply said, “I work at an elementary school nearby. We love the Mets and I want to teach baseball. Is there any equipment you can possibly donate?” To my surprise, they gave us four batting tees, four plastic bats and 14 baseball mitts.
Here are some additional tips:
- Facebook PE groups, your state association, and SHAPE America are chock full of colleagues who have won grants. I have found it never hurts to ask and have a conversation.
- If you have an idea for equipment or something you want to bring to your program, just ask!
- Rather than relying only on email, talk to someone on the phone — even if it’s just to ask a question about the process. That can help someone put a name to an application.
- Ask a colleague or someone with great writing skills to help with the application.
- Know what you want and what your budget is.
If you’re curious about rewards programs, you can also reach out to the governing body of most sports like the USTA or the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). For example, as a professional bowler, I asked and was named a Bowler’s Ed Curriculum Specialist.
If you have any questions, I am more than happy to help. I still keep in regular contact with the companies I wrote about. My motto is “Don’t just look for a grant, look for a partnership.” That way you can build your PE program for years to come.
Jim Hambel is a grateful elementary physical education teacher in New York City. He has a teaching license in PE as well as general education and special education for grades 1-6. In 2021, Jim received the Dr. Doris R. Corbett Johnson Leaders for Our Future Award from SHAPE America. He is a member of the Professional Bowlers Association and the U.S. Bowling Hall of Fame. He can be reached at email@example.com.