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Home / Education / STARS Residencies / Application Process

STARS Residencies

Application Process

STARS Residencies (Students and Teachers working with Artists, Scientists, and Scholars) provides grants to schools to support creative learning residencies in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Cultural partners – teaching artists, scientists, and scholars – work with students on at least three days or more. Residencies take place during the school year to help schools bring creative learning to students, both in and outside the classroom.

How to Apply

  1. Review the program guidelines below and FAQs.


  2. Create an Organization Profile for the school to be able to access the online application.

    You will need an Organizational Profile – not an Individual Profile – to access the online application. (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted STARS applications can be used.)

  3. Use the sample application to prepare your responses before the online application opens.

    It is advisable that you craft your narrative text responses in a word processor (such as Word) before copying and pasting the text into the online application. Pay close attention to the character count limits on the narrative sections. The count includes punctuation and spaces. Save the document for your records.

  4. Complete and submit the online application by 11:59pm (ET) on February 3, 2021.

Questions? Contact Diane Daily at 617-858-2709.

Program Guidelines for 2020-2021 School Year

Program Description

STARS Residencies recognizes the vital role that creative learning in the arts, sciences, and humanities plays in the successful development of young people. The arts, sciences, and humanities provide students with much-needed opportunities to uncover hidden talents, discover and express their own ideas, build confidence, explore the natural world, and understand their place in history and the community. For many students, this creative learning inspires them to engage in their learning and their world.


In response to COVID-19 we have made some key changes for the 2020-2021 School Year, including the way grants will be awarded:

  • Grant application period: The online application will open at 9am (ET) on January 27, 2021. The application will close at 11:59pm (ET) on February 3, 2021. This is to accommodate applicants who may have difficulty accessing a device or the internet due to their COVID-19 circumstances.
  • Grant review process: This year, we will NOT be reviewing applications on a first-come, first-reviewed basis. Instead, we will review applications as follows:
    • If the total of all funding requests for eligible applications received is less than or equal to the STARS Residencies program budget, we will review all eligible applications.
    • If there are more applications than we can fund, we will use a random selection process to determine the order in which successful applications will be funded.

Additional changes are noted in the program guidelines below. Changes have been made to the planning and session rates in recognition of the additional work required by COVID-19 circumstances.

Applicant Eligibility

  • Massachusetts public, charter, and private schools serving grades K-12 may apply. The school must be recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) with a 2020-2021 ESE School ID.
  • Schools that operate school-based afterschool programs may apply on behalf of their afterschool programs. The application from the afterschool program counts as the school’s one application for the school year.
  • Schools that have not submitted a final report for a STARS Residencies grant for school year 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 are not eligible to apply for School Year 2020-2021.

Residency Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, the residency must:

  • Start no earlier than the beginning of the school year and end no later than June 30, 2021.
  • Involve a cultural partner who is the teaching artist, scientist, and/or scholar leading the residency – not the organization for which they work (if any).
  • Focus on the arts, interpretive sciences, and/or humanities.
  • Have a plan for fully-remote delivery if the residency is partially or fully in-person, should it become necessary to switch so that the residency can be completed in this school year. (New for 2020 – 2021 school year)
  • Articulate 3 clear Learning Objectives, one of which must be a Socially Conscious Learning Objective (defined below).
  • Have each artist, scientist, or scholar work with their core group of students for a minimum of one session on three separate days. One session is 30-60 minutes contact time between the cultural partner(s) and the students. 90-120 minutes of contact time is two sessions. (New for 2020 – 2021 school year)
    • Note: We encourage you to design a residency that is as in-depth and meaningful for your students as possible. While there is a limit on the grant amount so we can fund more schools, there is no limit on how long your residency can be.
  • Include planning time with the cultural partner prior to and during the residency. For the 2020 – 2021 school year, each grant includes a $250 stipend to pay the cultural partner for this planning time.
  • Be the one STARS application from the school for this school year. If we receive two applications from a school, the school principal will be contacted and asked to remove one application from the application pool.
  • Be for one, unified residency. A grant application that contains more than one residency will not be reviewed.
  • Be approved by the school principal and cultural partner(s).

Residencies that do not meet all the eligibility criteria listed above will not be reviewed.

Residency Design

Changes to residency design for 2020 – 2021 school year:

    • Remote residencies: All residencies must include a plan for fully remote delivery, even if the intent is to deliver a fully in-person or hybrid residency should the school allow it.  This is to ensure funded residencies can be completed in this school year.
    • Three-day minimum: Cultural partners must meet with their core group of students (rather than every student) for one session on at least three separate days.
  • Multiple Cultural Partners: We are not requiring that every cultural partner work with every student. However, we do require that each cultural partner work with their core group of students for at least one session on at least three separate days. We will continue to require that the cultural partners work on a single, unified residency for the school and have sufficient co-planning time to ensure that all students receive the same learning experiences, adjusted for grade level. Be sure your application narrative makes this clear, including how the cultural partners will plan together both before and during the residency.
  • Culminating Events: This year, we are not requiring culminating events.  However, we encourage you to create a capstone lesson or experience for your students to serve as a learning goal and to give students an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate their learning with each other.
  • Grant calculation:
    • Planning: The amount each grant will include $250 for planning between the school and cultural partner.
    • Session definition: We are defining a “session” for any residency to be a 30-60 minute learning experience with students. 90-120 minutes equals two sessions.
    • Session rate: The rate for a 30-60 minute learning experience with students is $200.

In addition to the changes listed above, consider the following in the design of your residency:

Top 3 Learning Objectives: The learning goals you set for the residency are key to the value of the creative learning experience. What skills, knowledge, and understandings do you want students to develop through their residency experience? As stated below, the residency is evaluated on these two criteria:

  1. The strength of the Learning Objectives, and
  2. The appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives.

Socially Conscious Learning Objective: Each residency must have a Socially Conscious Learning Objective. This is creative learning that helps prepare the students to be positive contributors to their world. For example, does the residency help them connect with their own voice? Does the residency help connect them to the world around them, such as their school, their community or environment, or another culture? Does the residency experience teach equity and inclusion? This Learning Objective helps bring Creative Youth Development principles (see below) into the residency experience.

Cultural Partners: Your cultural partner is the artist, scientist, or scholar who leads the residency (not their organization). You may work with any cultural partner you choose. Be sure to choose a cultural partner with the right experience and expertise for your learning objectives. If you have not worked with the cultural partner before, ask for a resume and references from previous residencies.

  • Many schools find their cultural partners from recommendations from colleagues at other schools. Also, you can find listings of cultural partners on
  • We encourage schools and cultural partners to sign a contract for the residency work. This helps both parties understand what is expected and agreed-upon before the residency begins.

Multiple Grades: If your residency involves more than one grade, it still must be one residency. All grades must work on the same, unifying theme. They all must explore the same content, adjusted for the grade level.

Location: Remote residencies should be delivered using the school’s online platform to ensure it meets security standards. In-person residencies can take place either at the school, and/or at the cultural partner’s site (for example, at an artist’s studio or a museum), and/or at another site selected by the school. The residency also can take place afterschool. Afterschool programs must apply through the host school. Please note, all in-person residencies, regardless of location, must follow the strict safety protocols required by state and local agencies.

Capstone Lessons: We encourage you to create a capstone lesson or experience for students to serve as a learning goal and to give them an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate their learning with each other.

Planning: Each grant will include a $250 stipend to pay the cultural partner(s) for time spent planning with the school before and during the residency. This is a critical step in developing a valuable and high-quality learning experience for your students.

Creative Youth Development Principles

Creative Youth Development (CYD) is an intentional practice that fosters active, creative expression in the arts, sciences, and humanities while developing core social, emotional, and life skills for youth of all ages. CYD approaches young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The goal is for culture to play a major role in the growth of creative, productive, and independent-minded citizens.

These six CYD principles have been shown over 20 years to be essential:

  • Provide safe and healthy spaces for youth
  • Be assets-based: Focus on the strengths of young people, not their deficits
  • Foster positive relationships and social skills
  • Be youth-driven
  • Set high expectations for learning and growth
  • Address the broader context in which young people operate: “It takes a village.”

While school residencies have class time limits, teachers and cultural partners can still use the principles of CYD in their residency.

Review Process

  1. This year, we will NOT be reviewing applications on a first-come, first-reviewed basis. Once the deadline has passed, we will review applications as follows:
    • If the total of all funding requests is less than or equal to the STARS Residencies program budget, we will award funding to all eligible, successful applications.
    • If there are more applications than we can fund, we will use a random selection process to determine the order in which applications will be reviewed and funded.
  1. Only information submitted in the online application will be reviewed. We will not review additional information.

Review Criteria

Applications that meet all the eligibility criteria listed above will be reviewed based on:

  • The strength of the Learning Objectives.
  • The appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives.


The minimum anticipated grant award amount will be $500. The maximum grant award amount will be $5,000. The grant amount is determined by the number of sessions with the students and cultural partner. The grantee is responsible for any and all residency expenses that exceed the grant award amount.

For the 2020-2021 school year, a “session” is a 30-60 minute learning experience with students. Grants will be calculated using the following rates:

  • Planning between school and cultural partner: $250 per residency
  • 30-60 minute learning session: $200 per session

Grant funds may be spent on any residency expense – cultural partner fees, materials, equipment, technology, etc. – except the teacher’s salary.

All grant funding is subject to the annual state budget appropriation, recommendations of Mass Cultural Council Grants Committee, and the final approval of the Mass Cultural Council.

Applicants will receive notification of the status of their application via email by 5pm on March 5, 2021.

Grant Requirements

Contract Package

Grantees cannot receive payment until they return a completed contract package. Contracts are due by March 20, 2021. Learn more about the contract package.

Mass Cultural Council is required to follow a strict July 1 – June 30 fiscal year calendar for payments. Grantees that fail to return completed contracts in a timely fashion risk forfeiting grant funds.

Final Report

STARS Residencies grantees must complete the online final report 30 days after the residency ends or no later than July 15, 2021, whichever is first.

You will be asked to report on the successes and challenges of the residency and actual project expenditures. The online final report form will be accessible to grantees after they return their contract. (Log-in with the username/password you used for your FY21 STARS Residencies application. The site can send you a reminder if you need one.) View a sample final report form.


Mass Cultural Council and its grantees are contractually committed to abide by state and federal regulations which bar discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and which require accessibility for persons with disabilities. Mass Cultural Council’s grantees sign a contract certifying that they will comply with ADA and Section 504. Mass Cultural Council aims to help grantees understand their obligations and recognize the opportunities that increasing access can provide for both the public and the grantee. Resources and additional information are available on Mass Cultural Council’s website.

Modifications and Cancellations

Grantees are expected to notify Program Manager Diane Daily as soon as possible if a residency will be scaled back, significantly altered, or will not take place. If it is anticipated that the grant funds will not be spent in full on the residency project, grantees must notify the Program Manager no later than May 3, 2021 and return all unexpended funds to the Mass Cultural Council, no later than June 1, 2021. Failure to do so, may jeopardize eligibility for future funding opportunities.

Grant Timeline

September 1, 2020: Eligible residencies may start. Note: there is no guarantee of STARS Residencies funding.

December 8, 2020 – February 3, 2021: Create an online Organization Profile for your school. Prepare your application content (see Sample Application form).

Residency and application counseling available. Contact Program Manager Diane Daily at 617-858-2709.

January 27, 2021 9am (ET): Online application opens.

February 3, 2021 11:59pm (ET): Online application closes.

February 4, 2021 – March 5, 2021: Mass Cultural Council reviews applications. Funding decisions are emailed to applicants on a rolling basis.

March 5, 2021: Grant notifications completed.

March 20, 2021:  Grant award contracts due back to Mass Cultural Council.

May 3, 2021:  Grantees must notify Mass Cultural Council of funds that will not be spent by June 30, 2021.

June 1, 2021: All funds that will not be spent by June 30 must be returned to Mass Cultural Council.

June 30, 2021: Residencies must end.

July 15, 2021: Deadline for Final Reports.


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