Chris Carman admits he's not some expert grant writer.
"I've been really fortunate," he said.
Fortunate to the tune of about $77,000.
A science teacher at , Carman has either helped administer or apply for grants totaling almost $80,000 since 2007. Each grant included an environmental component.
This year, Carman got a $5,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation for his submission "Water, Water Everywhere." He used the award to expand on his first grant — a $5,000 gift from the Kent Environmental Council in 2007 — for water quality testing.
The KEC money bought LabQuest probes to teach students how to measure water quality in any body of water. The kits were used on Breakneck Creek and Fishcreek. The Dominion grant then paid for additional LabQuests to expand the program. Thanks largely to the grants, students now can apply the same water quality indexes used by the Ohio EPA and other government agencies.
"These are basically handheld computers," Carman said. "The water quality index is something that’s usually only done at the college level, so for us to have it at the high school is pretty cool."
The big grant this year totaled about $13,500 and comes from the Toshiba America Foundation. The grant will be used to build a model eco-house in partnership with students in Kent Roosevelt's remodeling construction and woods career education classes.
The eco-house will be about 150 square feet and built on a trailer so it can travel to different schools. It's being built in similar fashion with a movement called "tiny houses" designed to be small, efficient living spaces. Components in the Kent model will include solar panels, a wind turbine, a battery back-up system, cellulose insulation and lots of windows for natural light.
"It’s going to be a home that you could live in,” Carman said. “And the idea is that it will use all of these LEED standards for environmentally friendly construction and energy conservation."
Carman said his goal is to have the house finished and on display for the in downtown Kent in April. If not by then, it will be finished and displayed at the Kent Heritage Festival.
Last year, Carman worked with Tracy Foreman's first-grade class at Davey Elementary School on a video entry in the . Their submission earned the district $50,000 total. It netted the schools 24 laptops, two laser printers, $25,000 in Microsoft software and a $1,000 grant from DirecTV.
Also in 2011, one of Carman's students received a $500 grant to build a frog pond on school property. In May, the school's urban forestry class helped by digging the main trench, and juniors in Carman's environmental club shaped it with shovels to create terraces, installed a liner and plants.
"We went from just a Bobcat trench in the morning to the liner down and rocks holding it and everything, and then we got one of those torrential downpours we had last May and the entire thing was full," Carman said.
At one point, more than 20 frogs populated the pond.
Other grants included a $3,000 award from Kent State University’s Personalizing Education program in 2009 that he applied for with fellow teachers Mitch Lambert and Chris Knopick. In seven years at Kent Roosevelt, Carman has administered or helped apply for an average $11,000 per year.
Every grant has a strong environmental component, and many have included components for elementary students.
"I think that’s been one of my drives is that obviously I have a strong interest in environmental issues and wanting to make students aware, and they get up here to the high school and there are things I thought everybody knew and they just don’t know anything about," Carman said. 'So I figure, well we just need to get to them younger so they’re aware of what’s in their environment, what sort of stresses and challenges there are for maintaining a clean environment and tie it into where they live. So when they look around Kent, they take some pride for what it’s like to live in Kent and take care of it."
Carman said he's not just been lucky with the grants. He submitted several grant applications multiple times to different sources before winning an award. And it doesn't hurt that the school district's administrators support his "crazy ideas" he comes up with.
"Which is the nice thing about Kent. Not every district is that way," he said.