Running an Elementary Science Olympiad takes more than elbow grease, popsicle sticks, marshmallows and volunteer hours; it takes money, too! However, these programs are usually very inexpensive, in many cases it costs less than $2 per child for the supplies needed. Here are a few ideas of potential sources of funding and how to approach each one:
PTA or PTO
Your school's Parent Teacher Association or Organization (PTA or PTO) can be an excellent partner for your ESO event. In the beginning of the school year, interested parents can attend a PTA or PTO meeting and present the ESO program for discussion. Once everyone agrees it's a good fit for the school, the PTA or PTO can form an official committee, making Science Olympiad eligible for line-item funding. The ESO Committee should formulate a budget plan (think about supplies needed and number of students served) and submit that figure to the PTA or PTO for approval. At a meeting following the budget submission, the line-item can be put to a membership vote -- and presto, you've got your funds!
Each building principal in a district often has a small discretionary fund for extra supplies, field trips, club stipends or special events. Be bold and ask the principal directly if he or she would be able to fund the ESO program in tandem with any science education initiatives planned for the year, such as a trip to the local Nature Center, a new set of science kits for a classroom, or a scientific speaker. Timing your own ESO event in conjunction with one of these activities can really make for an all-school science theme!
Science Club funds
Each school typically has funding for a specific number of clubs in each building. If there is already a Science, Ecology or Recycling Club, perhaps they have funds that could be used toward an ESO event. Build in hands-on events that tie into the club (like As The Worm Turns for the Recycling Club) and you've got a great partner!
Local community groups, corporate or individual sponsors
Many parents in the school have their own businesses or work for a company that has a scientific angle, and those are great sources of revenue for an ESO event. If mom or dad works at a research lab, not only can they help with supervising an event, they might also be able to secure $100 or more toward the event. Don't forget to ask for fun items to give away, like pencils or squishy balls, with the corporate logo. Local membership groups also might like to contribute to a school event like the Elementary Science Olympiad -- they could provide volunteers, too! Every pair of hands helps.
Student fundraisers like car washes, bake sales
Be creative and have students bring in treats for a bake sale during the lunch hour; set up a few hoses and fill some buckets with suds and sponges for an after-school car wash; make rubber bracelets, stickers or pencils and set up a Kid Mart -- these ideas could net you enough to put on an exciting ESO event -- and serve as a way to advertise the upcoming event. When people ask what the sale is for, you can do a marketing pitch!
Apply for grants
For around $500, you can host an enriching and rewarding Elementary Science Olympiad program. Many local associations, foundations and corporations offer education grants in small amounts. If you don't know where to look, try doing an Internet search of grants in your town by Googling "grants" + "your town" and see what comes up! For instance, in Elmhurst, IL, we have the District 205 Foundation which accepts grant proposals for events, supplies and initiatives which support the curriculum and educational needs of our school district. Parents, community members and teachers can apply for these grants which are given annually. A grant application co-written by a parent and teacher guarantees success! Be sure to include testimonials, photos and press clippings.