Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) Project Awards

We invite Partners in the Arts Consortium teachers to submit a team-driven application for a PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) Award.

PIA ECT Awards support interdisciplinary projects that integrate creativity in the classroom while serving as models of partnership among schools, school systems, artists, arts and cultural organizations, university and community professionals.

The ECT Awards provide opportunities for teachers to reach all students across content areas, while developing critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship, preparing students to be “life ready.” ECT projects can engage a class, grade-level or whole school to connecting teachers, students, families, and the community.

ECT Award packages range from $1,500–$12,000 and include tuition to attend a Joan Oates Institute summer course at the University of Richmond, planning and consulting with PIA staff, project-specific professional development for your school, and direct funding for visiting experts and materials.

Grant and Program Contacts by Division

Please contact your grants office and arts/music specialist for your system’s guidelines when making application for PIA ECT Awards. ECT Awards are available only to PIA Consortium schools in good standing.

Division Grants Office Also Contact
Chesterfield County Deana Haggerty, Grants Specialist
(804) 639-8900 x1842
Michael Gettings, Art
Robin Yohe, Music
Goochland County Stephen Geyer, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
(804) 556-5601
Debbie White, Director of Finance
Hanover County Jennifer Stackpole, Lead Teacher Specialist Art
(804) 365-4564
Barry Flowe, Music
Henrico County Cheryl Gray Ball, Grants Coordinator
(804) 652-3370
Michael Kalafatis, Art
Rick Tinsley, Music
Powhatan County Dr. Tracie Omohundro, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction
(804) 598-5700
Tracey Ingle, Instructional Specialist
Richmond City Cheryl Bostick, Grants Manager
(804) 780-7791
Autumn Nabors, Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Christie-Jo Adams, Instructional Specialist

Application Overview

Review overview and local school division contacts below, then continue to complete the application using the Application button.

Applications are generally available in January for the upcoming academic year.

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  • Background

    PIA supports comprehensive ECT projects that align with our mission and achieve our outcome goals of sustainable, cross-curricular arts integration. We combine the Joan Oates Institute and the PIA ECT Awards to support sustained implementation of cross-curricular creativity in the classroom. Project funding includes advanced training in arts integration, consulting as you further develop the project, and implementation support.

    We have updated the ECT Award format to utilize the PIA Consortium with peer-to-peer best practices, sustained training and regional growth. The framework and funding levels will help provide more in-depth training, workshops and assessment tools that are specific to your school and all teachers: academic, arts, special needs and resource. 

    Projects may be implemented in a few classrooms, at one or more grade levels, or through the entire school. Project length can be a few lessons, a week or two, or, in special cases, a semester or the whole school year.

    Please contact us if you would like more information about the PIA ECT Awards or to have a PIA staff member come to your school to discuss project ideas with a team of teachers.

    We also advise you to contact your school system (contacts are listed below) to check on their guidelines for submitting grant applications.

  • Conceptual Frameworks

    Engaging Creative Thinkers (ETC) Awards will align with one of three conceptual frameworks.

    Community History

    Explore history, possibly of the school, local community or other defined area, and utilize a variety of tools to research, explore and engage. Funded examples include:

    • Binford Middle’s Centennial Project 
    • Chesterfield Community High/Carver on Record
    • Our Richmond: Sabot at Stony Point 
    • Armstrong High: Our Community

    Environmental Exploration

    Explore watersheds, climates and ecosystems. Funded examples include:

    • Designed by Nature: Steward School
    • James River: Robious Middle
    • Reedy Creek: Patrick Henry School for Science and Arts
    • Our Richmond: Sabot at Stony Point

    Community Inquiry

    Explore, research and solve a community problem or concern. Examples might include:

    • Food desert in east end/Henrico
    • Bridge Park RVA
    • Heritage/History
    • Baseball Stadium
    • Learner-directed stations
  • Funding Levels

    Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) Awards will seek one of three levels of funding.

    Emerging Award

    Emerging Award proposals seek initial funding to initiate a PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers project. Projects accepted for an Emerging Award will receive a comprehensive package that includes:

    • Scholarships for up to 4 teachers to attend a PIA course, such as the Joan Oates Institute — Up to $2,600 value
    • Project-specific teacher training, consulting, and professional development by PIA staff — Up to $3,500 in-kind
    • Visiting artist/expert fees and implementation expenses — $1,500-$5,000 sent to your school or system grants office

    Applicants should submit a general draft budget for the $1,500-$5,000 and estimated in-kind support with the proposal. A detailed budget for each awarded project will be developed with PIA staff during the consulting process.


    Sustaining Award proposals seek funding to sustain an existing PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers project. Projects accepted for PIA ECT Sustaining Awards will receive:

    • Scholarships for up to 2 teachers to attend a PIA course, such as the Joan Oates Institute — Up to $1,300 value
    • Project-specific teacher training, consulting, and professional development by PIA staff — Up to $2,000 in-kind
    • Visiting artist/expert fees and implementation supplies/materials expenses — $1,000-$2,500 sent to your school or system grants office
    • Opportunity for stipends for select project coordinators and lead teachers to work with Emerging award lead teachers — $250-$1,000


    Leading Award proposals seek funding to expand the reach of an existing PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers project throughout a school, division or region. Projects accepted for PIA ECT Leading Awards will receive:

    • Scholarships for up to 2 teachers to attend a PIA course, such as the Joan Oates Institute — Up to $1,300 value
    • Project-specific teacher training, consulting, and professional development by PIA staff — Up to $2,000 in-kind
    • Visiting artist/expert fees and implementation supplies/materials expenses — $1,000-$2,500 sent to your school or system grants office
    • Opportunity for stipends for select project coordinators and lead teachers to work with Emerging award lead teachers — $250-$1,000
  • Eligibility & Criteria

    Teacher Team Eligibility

    Teachers from PIA Consortium schools are eligible for PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards. Current members of the PIA Consortium:

    Criteria for Selecting Awards

    The PIA Consortium Advisory Board seeks to fund projects that are process-oriented, not product oriented. In addition, proposed projects should:

    • Provide sustainable training to PreK-12 educators
    • Bring visiting artists into schools to work with educators and students
    • Provide supporting materials for classrooms, workshops, and residencies
    • Expose students to arts and cultural resources outside of the school

    Your proposal will also be adjudicated on including and committing to the following:

    • A lead team of 2-4 teachers/administrators attending the Joan Oates Institute or another PIA course
    • Integrating visiting expert/artist residencies, workshops, and planning time
    • Including additional project components such as field trips or other programs
    • Working with PIA staff to develop the proposal and JOI unit plan into a training opportunity for school staff
  • Proposal Requirements

    Project Narrative

    The key required element of the proposal is the narrative abstract. The abstract must succinctly describe the thematic and essential elements of your project, including what the project is, who the partners are, how you will implement it, and why the project supports arts integration in your school. Review details in the narrative format guide.

    Additional Requirements

    In addition to the application form and the project narrative, the following commitments are required:

    Administrative Commitment

    The principal or head of your school must have knowledge of the project and commit to providing planning and training time for teachers to prepare and implement the project.

    Training and Planning

    It is a strongly recommended of the Emerging Award level that a team of 2-4 lead teachers attend the Joan Oates Institute or another PIA course and participate in consulting and planning sessions for the project. Additional professional development sessions, workshops, classroom observation, and feedback are available throughout project implementation.

    Fiscal Responsibility

    To comply with applicable tax laws, regulations, and program policy, Partners in the Arts provides awards to your school and school district with the understanding that your school or school district serves as the Fiscal Agent and therefore accepts fiscal oversight responsibility for the funded project.


    It is a requirement that Partners in the Arts be listed as a funder in:

    • Program brochures
    • Press releases
    • Newspaper articles
    • Videos created by students, teachers, school system communications offices and parents

    The Partners in the Arts logo for both print and video is available electronically by request.

    Project Reports

    A final report is required upon completion of the award. Use the final report form for reporting.

    Suggestions for Excellence

    A strong proposal will:

    • Make the arts integral to the curriculum and use the arts to teach other subject areas
    • Help establish a sustainable integration of the arts into general education
    • Change the way students learn and expand teachers’ creative teaching strategies
    • Involve true collaboration among partners, including teachers, artists, and arts/cultural organizations
  • Application Guidelines & Timeline

    Recommended Application Steps

    Following these steps, and preparing these materials, will best prepare you to submit your application.

    1. Assemble Your Team. Build your collaborative team with a minimum of two members. Team members may be teachers and administrators from any discipline. Accepted proposals will fund a limited number of Joan Oates Institute or PIA course participants.
    2. Confirm Administrator Support. Confirm administrative support for the team and its project proposal.
    3. Select a Project Framework & Funding Level. Select a broad framework into which the proposal fits and determine the funding level. If this is your first proposal, you are submitting an Engaging level proposal.
    4. Draft a Narrative Response. You’ll be asked to attach a narrative response. Review the narrative response guidelines and prepare your draft as a Word or PDF document.

    General Application Timeline

    Specific annual timelines will be noted in the Application section of this page.

    Proposal Submission

    • December/January: Proposal application opens
    • February: Deadline for Emerging or Sustaining proposals
    • March/April: Accepted proposals notified

    Leading applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

    Implementation Timeline

    • Summer: Lead teachers attend the Joan Oates Institute or another PIA course
    • August-October: Consult with PIA to plan professional development, workshops, residencies, and assessments.

    The duration and timing of your project will determine when professional development and implementation occur. For example, a 4-week fall project would have the following schedule:

    • August-October: Staff professional development
    • November-December: Implementation