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HP Hands-on Grants Details

HP’s $90,000 Hands-on Science grants are provided on a competitive basis to applying school districts in communities where HP employees and their families live . Each grant spans a three-year period, although HP’s partnership with grantee school districts is expected to continue beyond that.

Evaluations of the program have indicated that the program is successful in moving partner school districts to modular hands-on science curriculum supported by materials replenishment systems, professional development of teachers, assessment, and administrative and community support. HP plans to have an independent evaluator look at the program’s progress.

As a precondition to receiving a HP grant, a school district must formulate a leadership team of school administrators, teachers, and at least one HP scientist or engineer representative for training for one week at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in an National Science Resources Center’s Leadership Institute. The grantee school district also agrees to adopt a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum for its K-6 science program, including appropriate instructional materials, to engage in professional staff development to help its K-6 teachers learn how to teach in a hands-on, inquiry-based manner, and to create for itself or in collaboration with other school districts a science resources center to refurbish the materials in instructional kits.

In addition, the American Physical Society’s Teacher-Scientist Alliance Institute provides HP scientists with an opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of science curriculum reform issues and the roles scientists and industry partners can play in supporting local reform. HP education philanthropy officials say that one of the most important contributions that HP makes to its partner districts is providing opportunities to attend regional meetings and workshop that allow the districts to come together to learn, network, and share best practices. For example, over 100 teachers and administrators attend HP-sponsored events in the Bay Area each year. Presentations have included sessions on assessment, how children learn, and the nature of hands-on science.

To date, 29 teams representing 45 school districts in eight states have received HP Hands-on Science Grants:

  • 14 in California, in Cupertino, Los Altos, Menlo Park and Redwood City, Mountain View and Whisman, Newark, Oceanside (San Diego), Palo Alto Unified, Ravenswood (East Palo Alto, East Menlo Park), Rincon, Bennett, and Kenwood (Santa Rosa), Rohnert Park and Cotati (Santa Rosa), the Roseville Consortium, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa School District, and Sunnyvale
  • 2 in Oregon, in Corvallis and in the combined school districts of McMinnville, Amity, and Dayton
  • 2 in Washington, in Battleground (near Vancouver) and the North Clark County Consortium (outside of Vancouver)
  • 1 in Idaho, in Meridian (the Boise area)
  • 6 in Colorado, in Academy SD#20 (Colorado Springs), Cheyenne Mountain and Lewis Palmer, Colorado Springs SD#11, Fort Collins Poudre R1, Harrison SD#2 (Colorado Springs), and Thompson (Loveland)
  • 1 in Massachusetts, in Lawrence (near Andover)
  • 1 in Georgia, in Atlanta
  • 1 in Texas, in Arlington (the Dallas/Las Collinas area)

NSF Grants Won. Beginning in 1997, eight of the California school districts that have worked with HP will receive a total of $5.6 million in NSF grants to continue improvements in their K-6 science programs. The eight school districts are Cupertino Union, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto Unified, Redwood City, Santa Clara Unified, and Whisman. All are part of HP’s Bay Area Schools for Excellence in Education (BASEE). In addition, five school districts near Vancouver, WA received grants totaling $2.7 million to help them continue to build a regional Hands-On Science professional development program for teachers. Keep an eye on HP's K-12 Program & Activities Page for more updates.

Prize-Winner. HP’s K-6 Hands-on Science Initiative in the Redwood City and Menlo Park School Districts won J. Russell Kent Program Awards in 1996. Named for a former superintendent of schools in the area, the awards are designed to publicize outstanding teachers and programs in the county. HP and the school districts were recognized for working together “to equip all our elementary students, regardless background, with the skills and experiences needed to enter high school prepared to enthusiastically excel in science.”

Specific features of the Redwood City/Menlo Park program accomplished to date include identification, selection, and implementation of hands-on, inquiry oriented materials, development of a materials replenishment system, staff development, parent education, and volunteer “Science Partners” programs.

On-Line Teacher Resource and a Sample Curriculum. Palo Alto Unified School District has created an on-line guide for its teachers designed to help K-6 teachers “facilitate exciting and effective science learning experiences for students.” The address for the site is The district’s science curriculum kit matrix can be found on line. The titles of the units are as follows:

Grade K: Life Lab; Wood
Grade 1: Organisms; Pebbles, Sand, and Silt; Balls and Ramps
Grade 2: Insects; Air and Weather; Liquids
Grade 3: Baylands; Earth Materials; Sound
Grade 4: Animals Studies; Water; Electricity
Grade 5: Human Body; Solar Energy; Levers and Pulleys
Grade 6: Experiments with Plants; Landforms; Mixtures

Many of the hands-on science units in use in HP grants schools were developed as part of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) or the Science and Technology for Children (STC) program.

HP Science Materials Center Innovations. HP has come to believe that the most effective way to keep a hands-on, inquiry-oriented science education program alive is by supporting teachers through a centralized materials handling system for printed materials and course software as well as for living and non-living specimens and other needed equipment. HP money has helped initiate materials centers in some districts. Some districts have instituted their own innovations.

In Santa Rosa, for example, nearby high-school students are helping the district maintain the kits used to teach hands-on science.

“Past experience with kits had taught Santa Rosa that after the consumable parts are used, kits often just sit and gather dust,” says Ridgway High School business teacher Charlotte Imboden. It was decided that the district would maintain the kits, but it was clear that district employees wouldn’t be able to do all the work involved, such as ordering materials, organizing them in supply bins, re-stocking science kits, and scheduling and arranging to transport kits to and from schools. The district wondered whether the high-school students could help out.

Today, Ridgway High students not only maintain supplies, but they learn the science activities and present them to one another so that they can become familiar with the materials and how they are used. The students are also working with a computer teacher to computerize the inventory.

In the San Francisco Bay area, HP retirees have created a nonprofit corporation called Coalition for Excellence in Science Education (CESE). The retirees are devoted to refurbishment of kits for 10 school districts in the area where HP has provided grants to train teachers to use the kits. The volunteers comb suppliers across the state and sometimes across the nation to find just the right replacements.

“Some items are hard to get” says Pat Castro, HP retiree and CESE board member. “One kit has to have 40 pieces of 99% aluminum wire, and I found that there are only three suppliers in the country.”

Then there was the time a teacher asked Castro to load new kits with 25 gumdrops per student for an experiment. For five classes of 30 students each. Castro wiped out six Safeway stores’ supplies of gumdrops to meet the 3,750 gumdrop quota only to find out later that the need was for 25 gumdrops per class, not per student.

“There are still gumdrops on our shelves at the center,” says Castro.

In Roseville, the Dry Creek/Roseville School District partnership with HP has resulted in a sharing of books along with hands-on science materials. The Roseville center ships “book tubs” with each kit so that students and teachers can integrate reading and science topics. For a list of the books, contact Kathy Vortmann at

HP Maintains School District Relationships. Although Redwood City/Menlo Park was one of the first grant recipients in 1992 and the grant ended in 1995, HP has maintained a relationship with the school district by supporting the main HP scientist contact there, Jim Vanides, in delivering professional development workshops for teachers. This activity is also supported by an Eisenhower grant.

Redwood City/Menlo Park has also hosted three or four visits to their materials center from school districts as far away as Ft. Collins, CO, and Boise.

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