Grants In Place

Innovation and Impact

Community-focused learning with a public purpose

Since 2015 the Rural Schools Collaborative and its Grants in Place partners have awarded $500,000 in place-based education grants to innovative rural teachers.

The Rural Schools Collaborative's Grants in Place program consists of two primary components: RSC's Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellows program, which was reorganized in 2019, and the National Signature Project Award in collaboration with the National Rural Education Association. The Fellows program is limited to teachers who teach in public schools that are located in the geographic regions of RSC Regional Hubs, and the National Signature Project Award is open to any rural public school teacher in the United States of America.

The Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellows work with their students on place-based projects. Each Fellow receives a grant which will support the place-based project, shares a professional development presentation, and earns an honorarium for the educator.

The Grants in Place program is funded through the generous support from Celia and Mark Godsil in honor of Celia's career as a public school teacher and their belief in the importance of classroom teachers to rural communities. Please check out the 2021-22 Celebration of Learning that features the work of previous Godsil Fellows.

Learn more here.

In Partnership with NREA

Meet Our 2022 National Signature Project Award Winner

Lara Belice

The National Rural Education Association and Rural Schools Collaborative are proud to announce Lara Belice, a lead teacher at Cooke City School, Cooke City, Montana, as the 2022 National Signature Project Award recipient for her place-based project, "U.S. History Through a Bison Lens."

This year, for the first time and due to the vast amount of incredible place-based education project proposals received, Rural Schools Collaborative and the National Rural Education Association have chosen to award two additional rural teachers with $1,500 toward their individual place-based education projects as National Signature Project Award runner-ups: Abby Jones and her project, "Flavors & Foliage - An International Greenhouse at Our School” as well as Christina Robinson and her project, "R.U.R.A.L. from Farm to Fork."

Belice is the fifth National Signature Project winner, following last year's winner, Haley Salitros Lancaster of Lincoln High in Vincennes, Indiana with her project on "Building and Sharing Community Knowledge." Connie Michael of Crow Agency Elementary on the Crow Reservation in Montana was the 2020 recipient; Devon Barker-Hicks of Meadows Valley, Idaho was the 2019 recipient, and Andrea Wood, from Moorcroft, Wyoming received the award in 2018. Belice will receive an award of $2,500 which will be applied to her outstanding place-based project!

Learn More About Their Projects

2023 Grants in Place Fellows


Caitlyn White

Alabama & the Black Belt

The aquaponics project will be completed in phases during the spring semester. Caitlyn’s class will use the greenhouse on Demopolis’ campus and transform it into their aquaponics center. Her students will be able to grow and take care of fish populations and grow crops from the cycling of nutrients from the fish to plant.


Kathryn Vaughn


Kathryn's place-based education project is to stage a STEM based community art show featuring student and community member artwork. Kathryn's project will use design thinking in the development of the STEM/Art centers for the Art Night. The art night will be learner centered with the students acting as the hosts and engaging the community in art making. The community will also be engaged in the school space by the art/STEM centers with the hopes of promoting the arts and growing the community interest in STEM.


Theresa Nigg


Kid City will allow her students to design, run, and sustain a classroom mini-city while striving to gain success in the "private" and "civic" areas of a community. Her students will learn the economics of local government and public entities. “Citizens” plan the city’s geographical and political structure, elect officials, appoint individuals to city positions—such as bank president, police chief, and postmaster—and learn to manage money while buying and selling property in order to replicate the governmental workings of a modern city.


Paula Tonn


As a Fellow, Paula will be assisting The Lodi School District with accessibility improvements to the existing school forest by adding a trailhead and parking lot, porta potty, and wayfinding signs. Accessibility to the school forest will foster a breadth and depth of diverse learning experiences for the students of the School District of Lodi ages preschool through grade 12, as well as surrounding community members.


Carlin Smock


Carlin's project, A Walking Tour of White County History, inspired by her students - will include creating short video tours of 5 of the most prominent historical sites in Carmi, Illinois. Once completed, these will be uploaded online and connected to QR Codes that will be printed on plaques and placed outside of the various locations. Carlin and her students’ vision is that people can visit the locations, and even if they are not open, and can scan the QR code to learn more about that particular historic site.


Heather Comer

Indiana & the Great Lakes

Heather's project will be two-fold. The first problem the project addresses is the lack of students entering the teaching profession. The goal is to expose as many students (enrolled in early childhood education) to a classroom teaching environment as possible, to allow students real-life field teaching experience. Through field experience and hands-on opportunities to teach, students can live real-world professional careers. The second problem that will be addresses is the low literacy levels currently in preschool through 1st grade.


Isabella Myers


Isabella's project will cross-disciplinary coursework between Coon Rapids-Bayard Secondary School’s art and science departments. The visual arts classroom can often be overlooked by students in rural Iowa as a potential space to collaborate with the sciences. The goal of this project is to highlight the symbiotic relationship between art and science. This relationship helps to incorporate creative thinking and applied arts into real-world scenarios. The integration of visual art in the science classroom can help to model and develop explanations, as well as encourage critique and evaluation, all of which are underemphasized in the context of science education.


Shane Fuller


Shane and his students will work on maintenance and upkeep for their approximately 25 year old greenhouse on campus. It serves the school allowing special education students, and at-risk students to have hands-on work experiences to prepare for life after school.


Amy Sampson

Missouri Ozarks

Students will be researching and designing historical markers to be erected around our city of Monett. Currently there are not any historical markers for many places of historical interest or where a historic event took place. Students will work with three local historians to ensure the information on the signs is historically accurate in both location and content. Students will also be designing a “scavenger hunt” to be put on our local Historical Society websites, social media, and possibly an app.


Ginger Martin

New England

Ginger and her students will be making improvements to their school's greenhouse which was originally built in the 1960's. These improvements will help develop a more robust program of study in food, nutrition and the sciences. Students will research various types of plants, produce, trees and test the soil nutrients necessary for the plants to flourish. Students will learn how to use different laboratory techniques, equipment and software to build their knowledge of science to become healthy contributing members of our local and global community.


Elizabeth Kruger

North Dakota

Elizabeth will be doing a school-wide project with her students where they work to identify areas of interest and historical sites around Fort Ransom. The students will take pictures, interview community members, and record observations/experiences of the point of interest throughout each season. The students use an online program called Story Map to publish and make the information available to the public. A goal of Elizabeth’s during the project is to work with the state parks department to install permanent markers at each site with a QR code taking visitors to the Story Map site.


Michele Zollars

Northern California

Michele will work with her students by using online resources as well as expert guests, to research what fruits, herbs and vegetables grow best in which seasons and conditions, plan the best use of available space, best pairing of plants to resist disease and competitive plants, how to optimize nutritional value, student appeal (for serving at our free breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school), and sharing the harvest with community members in need.


Mark Roy

Northern Rockies

The purpose of the project is to establish a natural sagebrush community on Mark's school campus to be used as a study area for science and as a cultural resource. Applying native ways of knowing with western science practices, Mark and his students will gather seeds and plant a sagebrush community in the only remaining unmanicured area on campus. The sagebrush community provides habitat and an ecological niche for many traditional medicinal plants, as well as birds and animals.


Michele Engle

Pacific Northwest

As a Fellow, Michele's "Cemetery Tombstone Rescue Project" is focused on utilizing leadership skills within the community to build strong community partnerships, while saving the "sinking" tombstones at our three local cemeteries. Students will research the best way to reset the existing headstone; in so doing, students will be working closely with our Cemetery Board and families to implement the updates needed on the headstones listed on the "rescue" list. This project is something that the Leadership students have wanted to work on but funding is an issue in this very small rural area of Eastern Oregon.

Since 2015 the Rural Schools Collaborative and its partners have awarded more than $500,000 to rural classroom teachers in support of innovative place-based projects. We invite you to check out our roster of Grants in Place projects: