The Private Eye - looking closely and thinking by analogy with jeweler's loupes and inquiry method for hands-on interdisciplinary science, art, writing, math, and more

The Private Eye: Grants

Grants — Up and coming!

We are developing this grant resource page to provide information on how others have funded their Private Eye materials and professional development. Below you’ll find funding examples that have come via federal, state, community and private foundations. Many school districts now have foundations set up by their communities to provide grants for both educational materials and workshops.

Here you can read about some of these grants and excerpts from grant proposals.

                                    Toshiba America Foundation Grant Recipient

DONORSCHOOSE.ORGSee successful Private Eye grant proposals

"The Private Eye – Science Will Never Look the Same Again"
                                     Toshiba America Foundation Grant Recipient

SPARK: Art Infusion with The Private Eye"

JOAN DAWSON "The Private Eye and ALAHASP"

COLLEEN BEDICS"A Private Eye into our Natural World"

MEGHAN JOHNSON"The Private Eye Materials to Enhance Curriculum"

DUSTIN OOLEY"The Unseen World"

JANET KAHN — "Albuquerque Public Schools Fine Arts Foundation"

Madison Primary Center
South Bend, Indiana


Thinking creatively, solving problems, enjoying learning-surely this is a great recipe for helping all students ignite their passion, develop their creativity, and develop the STEAM skills they need for their future. The BEST place to start nurturing a child’s innate curiosity is in Elementary School. If the United States wants more math and science students we have to hook them early.

Urban Schools such as Madison STEAM Primary Center confront low academic achievement due to unengaged students. We intend to leverage the use of The Private Eye Loupes and digital microscope technology to further integrate science learning beyond the classroom walls and push key strategies that are proven to maximize student achievement. Research shows that students in poverty often lack exposure to the outdoors where this innate sense of wonder is fostered, focused and connected to science. Through this project we engage students with mobile technology and hands-on Private Eye techniques promoting instructional strategies such identifying similarities and differences. Madison STEAM Primary will be combining the methods from Harvard Project Zero

Classroom Thinking Routines-SEE THINK WONDER and Private Eye techniques of making the observation, asking the analogy questions, devising ways to test student’s theories or predictions, learning to draw and label scientific drawings accurately. Once the techniques of discovery, close examination of objects in nature, are introduced we will expand the program into visual and creative arts reinforcing the A in STEAM.

Purpose of this Grant

This grant builds on past grants at Madison STEAM Primary Center and our school improvement goals of developing a “Culture of Thinking and Wonder” with STEAM focus. The Private Eye process combined with Making Thinking Visible strategies from HPZ will be the driving force for developing the skill of identifying similarities and differences and then help enhance the students ability to communicate their thinking through collaborative discussions and scientific note taking.

Students will begin on a concrete level, exploring natural and manmade objects with the help of the jeweler’s loupe and the digital mobile microscope. The process will start with everyday objects in our classroom Discovery Centers (a leaf, shell, snake skin, rocks, pennies) to explore
and reflect on simple questions. These engaging tools will reveal hidden patterns and details that will engage and deepen a student’s interest in the object. The open-ended questions with no right or wrong answers, provides a non-threatening environment for our students. We will work with the equipment during the school calendar year by setting up an Exploration and Wonder Station in each of our Title 1 Classrooms during the school day. Teachers will check out our existing Ipad minis with the new proscope mobile microscope and loupes for their wonder centers or outdoor learning labs explorations.

Science Resource Coordinator
Longfellow Elementary School
Houston, Texas

I thought I would share another way to finance the acquisition of more The Private Eye materials for your campus. 

This fall, I applied for and landed a Toshiba America Foundation grant.  These are thousand dollar grants for the purpose of  enhancing science and math learning, making it interesting and going cross-curricular. 

The Toshiba America Foundation K-6 mini grants are relatively painless to apply for.  Due by the first of October, they can cover a wide range of topics related to math and science education improvement.  

My grant application requested funds to provide more Private Eye materials, an ideal way
(I thought) to enhance science learning and make it more fun.  
The Private Eye philosophy fits right in with the application’s Student Learning Objectives section. Things like developing higher level thinking skills, honing observation techniques, thinking by analogy and changing scale to solve problems all fall within the qualities of good science and math activities.
The Methods of Instruction section was very straightforward, discussing the established The Private Eye techniques of making the observations, asking the analogy questions, devising ways to test some of the students’ theories, and  learning to draw accurately and scientifically.  Once the initial procedures are introduced, they are easily extended cross-curriculum, into more individually creative language and visual arts arenas.  
Evaluation of Student Work will come from the students’ various products, assembled into portfolios, springing from the initial close observation of a specific, curriculum-appropriate item, such as a life science “biofact.”  Science learning (from initial loupe lists to a testable experiment springing from observation and inquiry), visual art experience (from scientifically accurate drawings to large-scale mixed media pieces) and   language arts development (from expository  science notebooking communications to creative poetry and essay compositions)  can nicely mesh into a cohesive, sustainable program year after year. The materials last quite a number of years, while the student experiences can last forever.
Take a look at their URL soon, so you’ll have all summer to toss around focus ideas and fill out an application in the fall. Easiest way ever to get more loupe sets, books and specimen boxes.

Director, SPARK
Cultural Arts Exemplary Project
Claremont Immersion School
Arlington, VA

[SPARK grant summary    … “We chose The Private Eye as an inaugural program to introduce our new exemplary project in the cultural arts.”
… The Private Eye is important because it provides a methodology for all teachers and students to embrace within individual classrooms while also providing the opportunity for interdisciplinary study throughout the school.” ]

In August, 2007 we had the wonderful opportunity to have David Melody and Kerry Ruef present an all day workshop about The Private Eye to teachers and staff at Claremont Immersion School in Arlington, VA.  Teachers naturally have a curriculum in place and The Private Eye allows for the teacher to work with students to look closely, (in this instance with a jewelers loupe) to slow down and examine the subject area, to question and as a result to become better thinkers, questioners, and problem solvers. This model embraces important learning practices and it was chosen because all teachers can benefit from the skills set.

While lessons that integrate areas of study and [The Private Eye] program have spanned the grades and disciplines —we are also enthused that teachers throughout the grades have been inspired to utilize The Private Eye for select lessons. Already fifth grade and Art are working together to examine science, poetry and art. They are incorporating the various aspects of The Private Eye methodology. Grade two has been inspired to work with a team that includes technology, science, art, poetry and Private Eye processes.

In December the staff at Claremont had an in service presented by our Exemplary Project in the Arts (SPARK) director, Nancy Libson. The objective of the afternoon was to review The Private Eye process, renew enthusiasm, and address additional aspects of The Private Eye. We chose The Private Eye as an inaugural program to introduce our new exemplary project in the cultural arts. We are developing partnerships with area cultural institutions and our goal is to partner each grade with a cultural institution. The Private Eye is important because it provides a methodology for all teachers and students to embrace within individual classrooms while also providing the opportunity for interdisciplinary study throughout the school.

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The Private Eye and ALAHASP

Since 2003 The Private Eye has been collaborating with ALAHASP, an Alabama statewide science reform effort whose goal is to help Alabama school systems reform their elementary science programs; ALAHASP (Alabama Hands-on Science Activity Program) is a consortium of 45 school districts and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It is funded in part by a federal grant under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) administered by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Over the years we have conducted numerous staff development workshops, and created custom programs for extending and enhancing existing kit-based inquiry modules (visit our galleries to see some of the art and writing from our ALAHASP workshop at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens).

Alabama Hands-on Activity Science Program
University of Alabama, Birmingham

The following is an excerpt from the recent Project Data Report to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education that refers to The Private Eye's impact on Alabama/ALAHASP partner school systems.

IV. Help partner systems become sustainable and independent by providing leadership development opportunities for teachers to deepen their science knowledge and prepare them to become peer trainers within their systems.

A. Over the past 4 years, many ALAHASP Lead Teachers have asked for more opportunities to apply the thinking skills and habits of mind sparked by The Private Eye® process. Their initial participation in the basic, 2-day Private Eye workshop helped them learn new and exciting ways to deepen their own understanding and to develop in their students the higher order thinking skills, creativity, and scientific literacy.

To that end, in the spring of 2006, Kerry Ruef and David Melody, creators of The Private Eye®, developed a workshop especially for the ALAHASP Leadership Institute (ALI). This particular Private Eye experience concentrated on content and research while still using the loupes and the questioning process.  The two-day ALI was held in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Joan and Beverly consulted with Kerry and David to provide a tailored workshop incorporating George Washington Carver’s thought and work (science habits of mind) in addition to looking closely at the gardens through a botanical timeline, from primitive plants to the flowering plants. A garden journal of drawings, literary writings, and scientific observations made by the participants was published and provided for each of them. This was reported in the Project Data Report dated September of 2006.

In November of 2006 (this grant-reporting period,) ALAHASP was able to bring back to the Botanical Gardens this particular workshop to provide more lead teachers with the opportunity to participate. Participants were Lead Teachers from UAB region schools, Talladega County, and Gadsden City schools. ALAHASP was given permission to share with ACHE some pages from the guide that was expressly written for these workshops. Subsequentially we had Botanical Garden Workshops in 2008, 2009, and 2012.

Some pages from the Botanical Gardens Private Eye teacher guide1:

Sample pages from Botanical Safari with The Private Eye at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
1 Botanical Safari with The Private Eye® at The Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Copyright © 2006 by Kerry Ruef/The Private Eye Project

B.  With the help of its partners, ALAHASP provided a total four, 2-day Private Eye® workshops for emerging teacher leaders in Mobile/Escambia, UAB Regional area, Jefferson County, and Trussville City Schools. This is the same basic The Private Eye® workshop that inspired the ‘In the Gardens’ workshop noted above. It is hands-on and investigative and builds communication, problem solving, and concentration skills not only in science but in subjects across the curriculum. Teachers were delighted with the results as evidenced in their written comments about 3 big ideas they will take away from the workshop:

  • Analogy is a habit of mind, takes you into another world. This process has a way to reach students at all ages, all levels. It breaks down stereotypes and focuses students.

  • Writing about observations by way of poems. Drawing field of view. Questions

  • Look closely at everything.  Use the loupe to strip away everything except the true object itself. Get past the surface. Question – “What else? What else? What else?”

  • Everyone/child will be successful from beginning to end. Question students more – deeper thinking – what else… don’t let them quit. Loupe Drawing – Love It – my Kindergarten class will have a field day with drawing.

Here are responses to the question, “What is one point that you will continue to ponder after you leave today?”:

  • I want all teachers to be as excited about science as I am

  • The interconnectedness of all things with so many possibilities and avenues to thinking, problem solving, hypothesizing, etc.

  • How amazing nature and science are.
Birmingham News article covering The Private Eye teacher leadership workshop.
Birmingham News article covering The Private Eye teacher leadership workshop.

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Education Coordinator
Aldridge Botanical Gardens

Excerpt from a grant proposal, titled "A Private Eye into Our Natural World," to the Legacy Inc. Partners in Environmental Education, that provided funds for the purchase of a Private Eye Class Kit, a World in a Box®, a Do-It-Yourself World in a Box®, an Introducing Pre-Kindergartners to The Private Eye, four Table Team Sets, and 24 Acrylic Box "C" (pond box).

“The Private Eye” is an efficient, researched-based strategy for inquiry-based instruction.  Using natural objects, a jeweler’s loupe, and questions that evoke thinking by analogy, students will examine their world on a new scale.   Participants will develop a greater sensitivity and personal relationship with the environment, increasing the likelihood they will take protective action.  The Private Eye field trip will be offered throughout the school year.  Content will be varied to meet the needs of public, private, and home school students in kindergarten through grade 6.  Teacher training will be offered for Professional Development and The Private Eye materials will be available for check-out from the Garden.   Summer “camp” classes taught by the Education Coordinator and other certified teachers will apply the instructional strategy to integrate creative writing, art and science.  Finally, we will provide family seminars for our community to promote awareness and appreciation of the natural world.

I. Project Outcome:  By using the “Private Eye” instructional technique, our program will provide an opportunity for participants to create an emotional and personal tie to the environment. The program will meet state standards while developing attitudes of concern for the environment.  Using jeweler’s loupes, analogies, and theorizing, docents will guide students to develop a greater sensitivity and awareness of their environment.  A better understanding of the interrelated systems of nature may increase the likelihood of protecting the future of our natural world.

Goal: Present “A Private Eye into Our Natural World” field trips to K-6 students-This new field trip will be added to our existing offerings.   It will be publicized through a new field trip brochure, articles in the Birmingham News, the Aldridge Botanical Gardens Website, and newsletter.

Goal: Train volunteer docents to present “A Private Eye into Our Natural World” field trip-Docents will be recruited from Master Gardener groups, teachers (retired or on-leave), and garden members.   All will be trained using the “Private Eye” instructional materials, State Science Standards and “Ecological Literacy” materials.

Goal: Provide Professional Development to teachers in use of resource kit and technique-Programs will be offered to K-6 teachers to support the use of the “Private Eye” resource kit.

Goal:  Provide “Private Eye into Our Natural World” resource kit for checkout to local schools-The kit will provide all materials teachers will need to continue using the “Private Eye” technique over longer periods increasing the positive culminating effects. Check out length may vary depending on teacher’s need.  Reservations will be taken at training sessions, via email or by phone. 

Goal:  Provide summer program “Private Eye” class to Pre-K-6th grade student-Six, one week summer classes will be scheduled in June and July. “Private Eye” investigations will be a new offering.  All classes will be taught by certified teachers and assisted by high school students.

Goal:  Provide 2 Family “Private Eye” seminars to increase environmental awareness-Two seasonal seminars will be scheduled and targeted to area families with a desire to learn together about an unseen and unnoticed environmental world.
V.  Environmental Community Benefit: “The Private Eye” is a powerful program that fosters ecoliteracy.  Using the loupe, analogies from personal experience, and the questioning strategy participants easily connect with the environment.  This connection gives participants the opportunity to create an emotional and personal tie related to their own individual experiences with the natural world.   Analogies are derived from the question “What else does this look like?” The participants no longer see the world in the same way, once they have a chance to see the world with an uninterrupted view from the jeweler’s loupe.  Distractions and stereotypes fade away as the participants see a dramatic, fresh perspective of objects from the natural world.  Participants create theories by answering the question: ”Why is it like that?” They will draw, write from analogies, and explore ideas as they continue through “The Private Eye” process.  The world from the loupe’s view has enormous beauty and intrigue unnoticed before.  A greater sensitivity and awareness of the environment develops as the participants gain an understanding of the interrelated systems.  From here, participants can begin to care about how survival works, about balance, and about environmental impact.

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Camas School District No. 117
Camas, WA

Excerpt from a grant proposal to the Camas Educational Foundation that provided funds for the purchase of a Private Eye Class Kit, Do-It-Yourself World in a Box®, Simple Steps to a Magnified Mind, Introducing Pre-Kindergartners to The Private Eye, and an Inquiry Poster Set:

This program will enhance our curriculum in many ways. For example, one of our science EALR’s is “Application: The student knows and applies science ideas and inquiry to design and analyze solutions to human problems in societal contexts.” The Private Eye allows children to study nature, and try to apply what they learn into their own lives, to assist with problem solving, such as looking at those seed pods that get stuck to your socks and using that idea to create a solution to a problem (Velcro). It also will assist in our writing curriculum, as it is a catalyst for descriptive writing, as well as explores the form of poetry and analogy. Lastly, it is an enhancement to our art curriculum, as students look at plant structures, or shell shapes and details to add details to their art.

This program is a perfect fit for the targets of the foundation. It is a program where science, art, and writing collide. It has the ability to incorporate each and every learner every year. Its hands on, engaging approach assists those who traditionally struggle with the abstractness of writing. The loupe narrows the physical focus of students, blocking out distractions.

My proposal includes the purchase of an entire Private Eye classroom kit, that consists of a set of jeweler’s loupes, specimens for kids to explore, extra magnifying boxes to continue to grow the kit, teacher’s guide, posters, video, microscope, and resource books. I am also asking for an empty specimen box so we can continue to grow the kit, as well as a set of posters and two resource booklets.

This program is an equal mix of science, art, and writing. Basically, students look at natural objects through a magnified lens, [then create pictures and] analogies…and theorize about them. This writing progresses into poetry, riddles, or simply metaphors that can be used in later, larger works (bones for poems). It sounds simple enough, but the writing and creative thinking that takes place, based on this program, is top notch.

I volunteered at the TAG conference earlier this year, so that I could attend the Private Eye training. The Private Eye integrates art, science, and writing. Students look at nature to make analogies and theories. They take time to draw the details that they are seeing at a closer look, as they are able to zoom in with the jeweler’s loupes. I purchased a few starter items to get us started. It is a wonderful experience, when students get lost in their own fingerprints. One of my friend’s students wrote, ”The wrinkles of my knuckle look like my grandpa’s forehead when he laughs”. We also wrote riddles about our fingerprints after taking a closer look. Here are some of those excerpts: “It is a field that has just been plowed;” “It is a never-ending tunnel;” and “It is the rings of a tree.”

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Everett Public Schools
Everett, WA

Excerpt from a grant proposal, titled "The Unseen World," to the Everett Public Schools Foundation for the purchase of a Private Eye Class Kit.

Content Standards:

The following standards are the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for the state of Washington in the area of Science.

EALR 1; Component 1.1 Properties:  Understand how properties are used to identify, describe, and categorize substances, materials, and objects and how characteristics are used to categorize living things.
          Component 1.2 Structures:  Understand how components, structures, organizations, and interconnections describe systems.
EALR 2; Component 2.1 Investigating Systems:  Develop the knowledge and skills necessary to do scientific inquiry.
          Component 2.2 Nature of Science:  Understand the nature of scientific inquiry.
The following standards are the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for the state of Washington in the area of Writing.

EALR 2; The student writes in a variety of forms for different purposes.

The following standards are the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for the state of Washington in the area of Communication.

EALR 2; The student communicates ideas clearly and effectively.

EALR 4; The student analyzes and evaluates the effectiveness of formal and informal communication.


The assessments will be conducted through teacher observation and collection of student work.  Student expectations will be communicated through the use of rubrics.  Students will successfully use the jeweler’s loupes to observe the different characteristics of objects after magnification.  Overall, student understanding will be probed in a variety of ways.
          Students will also be expected to categorize magnified objects into groups that follow a certain rule.  Student work will be collected and evaluated to see if the rule applies.
          Student poetry will be evaluated by the teacher to see that it meets the criteria of explaining the world through the use of analogy through metaphorical language.  Thinking by analogy is a mark of many great thinkers because it allows them to make connections between ideas.
          Student scientific sketches will be assessed to ensure that other students can use them as aids to help explain concepts in science.  A scientific sketch rubric will help guide students to do drawings that are clear and informative.
Overall observational understanding will be assessed through their presentation of the lessons.  A presentation rubric will guide students in their preparation of lessons for other students.

Description of Project:

The students will prepare lessons for younger students and present those lessons.  Through lesson presentations, students will more firmly establish the concepts of observation, using scientific diagrams, and classification.  There are many opportunities for student learning through this innovative project.
The students will develop their observation skills through exploring the world in ways that are not typical.  The project is designed to allow students to be creative in making observations and inferences.  Using pictures designed to change how students see the world, the project will lead to activities that establish a base of inquiry for a student led project.  The students will develop and carry out an investigation in which a central, guiding question is used to maintain focus.  Questions are likely to vary widely.  Some examples of possible student questions are as follows:

      1. “How do different types of paper look when magnified?  Why are they different?
      2. “Do living things have different characteristics than non-living things that are observable through magnification?”
      3. “How does magnification change things?  How is it useful?

Jeweler’s loupes are included in the Private Eye kit (see Budget), which magnify objects five times their original size.  Through the use of the jeweler’s loupes, students will learn to think by analogy.  Writing skills through the use of similes will be practiced through observation which will be employed in writing activities.  The students will also write ‘observation poetry’ that discusses real life through analogy, which leads to the discussion of our world and its characteristics.
The jeweler’s loupes will be used to develop student skills for drawing, providing practice of making labeled scientific sketches.
Students will present lessons designed to teach observation skills to younger students within the school.  This kind of activity allows students to practice the scientific method, reinforcing their skills through explicitly teaching others.

Timeline and Budget:

Week 1:  Begin using the World in a Box (see Budget) to establish expectations for student observation and discovery.  Use close-up pictures to shift student focus toward different methods of observation.
Week 2:  Present project specifications to provide students the opportunity to begin thinking about questions they have related to the Unseen World.  Allow more time for discovery using the World in a Box and begin free exploration of things within the classroom.
Week 3:  Begin exploration of the world outside the classroom.  Introduce the observation of living and nonliving things.  Talk about developing rules for categorizing things in our world.  Student inquiry questions due.
Week 4:  Students use their inquiry question to guide their exploration.
Week 5:  Students answer their inquiry question by using observations and data, including sketches and notes they have taken regarding their observations.
Week 6:  Students present their questions and discoveries to the class in the form of a PowerPoint, skit, or presentation using a display board.  Parents will be invited to attend the presentations.
Week 7:  Students develop exploratory lessons for younger students.
Week 8:  Students present exploratory lessons to younger students.

The project will be done over an 8 week period in the winter of 2006.  The required budget for the project exceeds the grant offer of up to $500.00, but the additional funds will be covered out of pocket by the author or through Penny Creek PTA money.  The Private Eye Kit is $570.00, which contains a class set of loupes (5x), the world in a box (36 specimens to get the looking going fast), 50X Blister microscope, Teacher Guide, Resource books, The Private Eye Tub, The Private Eye Poster, Video Introduction.

Additional Information:
Given the limited school budget, this project would not be possible without outside funding.  I believe this kit contains valuable resources that promote student learning through exploration and observation of the unseen world around us.  Additionally, Penny Creek would greatly benefit from having this resource to use and share throughout the building.
Student diagrams will be displayed in the office.  This will give others a chance to see the work we do in science as it relates to observation, diagramming and classifying.

Writing and Science are two areas of focus in the School Improvement Plan at Penny Creek Elementary.  This unit will lead to higher student achievement in science and writing.

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Director, Fine Arts Program
Albuquerque Public Schools
Albuquerque, NM

I am the director of the Fine Arts program for the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). We have 70 elementary art and music teachers in our district of 42,000 elementary students (83 elementary schools). Each summer we do a workshop for elementary classroom teachers on arts integration. [The workshop] is presented by art & music teachers in our program. We purchased one loupe for each of the 70 workshop participants (2 sessions of 35 teachers each) - and one for each of our presenters because they're pretty cool to have!The [Private Eye] lesson where we will use [the loupes] has to do with observation of the world around you through art. We use a variety of fruits and vegetables and observe them [through the loupes] whole, and then cut in progressively smaller sections. Students draw their 'subject' from a variety of perspectives and use the loupes to get a progressively more detailed look at what their 'subject' looks like up close at the various stages of being cut. We will be using oil pastels to do some final renderings.

APS, like many school districts, has a Foundation that can raise money for discretionary projects in schools and with district programs such as ours. In our case, a trust was set up for use by our program to enhance what we do in schools. We use a portion of our funds at the Foundation to pay for the supplies we use for this workshop - rather than paying for it out of operational funds.

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This is a wonderful granting organization — we really like the way they work. If you are thinking about writing a grant—check this site out!

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