Assignment 4: A Proposal

Due: Three days after Session 19

Length: 1250 words (5 pages)

In this assignment, you will develop an idea for a summer short course to be offered at the Boston Museum of Science. You will then write a formal proposal, outlining your idea. The purpose of this assignment is twofold:

  1. To think about ways of communicating scientific ideas and information to a specific age group through various media
  2. To become familiar with the purpose, audience, format, and style of a proposal

Here's the imaginary (but realistic) scenario for this assignment:

The Boston Museum of Science is seeking to expand its Summer Science Short Course Program for pre-college age kids. The National Science Foundation is collaborating with the Museum in this endeavor, as part of its mission to promote science education, by guaranteeing funding for ten projects for the summer of 2017. Thus they are soliciting proposals for science short courses. Any current college undergraduate is eligible to apply. If your proposal is selected, it will be funded by an NSF grant. In addition, you will be awarded an NSF Undergraduate Summer Teaching Fellowship: either $2,000 or $3,000, depending on the length of the course.


  • 1 or 2 weeks (Mon-Fri)
  • ½ day (9-12) or full day (9-12 & 1-4)
  • Max 20 students
  • Any age/grade level (pre-college)

Assume the following:

  • Appropriate classroom/lab space is provided
  • Basic, standard equipment is provided: e.g., computers, microscopes, high quality amateur telescopes
  • Local field work/field trips are an option

You can request:

  • Other equipment
  • Materials
  • Teaching assistants (≤2, undergraduate)

The proposal should include the following sections, in the following order:

  • Title page
  • Abstract (~100 words)
  • Specific Aims (≤250 words)
  • Background & Significance (≤500 words)
  • Proposed Project (≤1000 words)
  • Budget
  • Bibliography (if needed)
  • Appendix (if needed)


The body of the proposal consists of the four sections: Specific Aims, Background & Significance, Proposed Project, and Budget. Those sections should be numbered 1-4. (You could also decide to subdivide the Proposed Project section, as shown below, depending on whether you think that works well for your proposal.) The other sections are not numbered.

  1. Specific Aims (∼⅛)
  2. Background & Significance (∼¼)
  3. Proposed Project (∼½)
    • 3.1 ---
    • 3.2 ---
  1. Budget (∼¼)

The headings should use this exact wording, and they should be highlighted in a larger font than the font than the regular text. The Abstract, and the optional Bibliography and Appendix sections, should not be numbered. Remember that the Budget section must include a table that’s preceded with some text that briefly summarizes and justifies the requested funds.

The title page should look like this. You should give the proposal an engaging and informative title, followed by the phrase identifying it as a proposal.

Title: A Proposal for a Boston Museum of Science Summer Short Course

Submitted by:

Submitted to: NSF


Developing and Writing the Proposal

  • Decide on a subject and age group for your short course
  • Develop a sketch of your preliminary idea
  • Conduct any necessary background research
  • Write up a draft of the Proposed Project section first; then work on the other sections. Write the Abstract last.
  • Finally, revise and edit the whole document

Who is Your Audience? What is the Purpose of Your Proposal?

Assume that your audience is a National Science Foundation review board that includes an NSF administrator; 3 or 4 college professors from various fields of science and engineering, with an interest in K-12 science education; 2 or 3 middle or high school science teachers; and a representative from the Boston Museum of Science. Your goal is to convince the review panel to select your proposal. To accomplish that goal, your idea must be well thought out. Moreover, you must show that it’s well thought out by communicating very clearly the content, design, and value of the course you’re proposing.

These will be the Criteria for Selection:

  • Scientific and educational value of the course topic
  • Potential interest in the topic
  • Feasibility: likelihood of achieving the stated aims
  • Suitability: appropriate fit between the content and age/grade level