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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 of $700 – $5,500 to schools to support creative learning residencies in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Cultural partners – teaching artists, scientists, and scholars – work with each group of 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), FAQs, and a sample application (PDF).


  2. Learn more about requesting an accommodation for accessibility or requesting translation services​.


  3. Watch the recorded information session.


  4. Check to see if you already have a user profile in the new grants management system. (We moved many user profiles over from our previous system, so before registering, make sure you aren’t already in the system. See details under “Key Changes this Year” below.)

  5. Complete the online application which opens September 22, 2021 at 9am (ET) and submit it by 11:59pm (ET) on October 22, 2021.

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

Program Guidelines for 2021-2022 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.

Key Changes this Year

  • Grant application period: This year, Mass Cultural Council is accepting STARS applications for four weeks to give applicants more time to complete their application in the new grants management system. The online application will open 9am (ET), September 22, 2021, and remain open until 11:59 (ET), October 22, 2021. This is to also accommodate applicants who may have difficulty accessing a device or the internet or are new to the program.
  • New grants management system: We have a new online grants management system with a new process for creating your application.
    1. Check to see if you already have a user profile in the grants management system:
    • Go to the online application (link will be available soon)
    • Click “Forgot Password”
    • Once you submit your email address, you will receive an email with a temporary password and a link to the site.
    • Copy the password to use on the log in page, you will then be prompted to create a new password.
    1. If you do not have a user profile already, complete the registration form in the grants management system. In the new system, schools are the primary applicant and grantee and can invite their cultural partner to serve as co-applicant. As a co-applicant, the cultural partner can help complete and edit the application. (Either the school or the cultural partner can submit the application when it is ready.)

More instructions on navigating the new system can be found on the FAQs page.

  • Grant review process: This year, we will NOT be reviewing applications on a first-come, first-reviewed basis. Instead, we will review all eligible applications. For details, see “Review Process” below. Additional changes are noted in the program guidelines below including updated session and planning rates.

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 2021-2022 ESE School ID.
  • Each school may submit only one STARS application per 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.
  • Schools that operate school-based afterschool programs may apply on behalf of their afterschool programs. This afterschool application is considered 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 2020-2021 are not eligible to apply for School Year 2021-2022.

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, 2022.
  • 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 due to health and safety concerns at the school. This is to ensure funded residencies can be completed in this school year.
  • Have a residency plan that articulates 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 students for a minimum of one session on three separate days (see definition of “Session” below.)
    • Include a culminating event (see below) if the residency is for 5 days or more.
  • Include planning time with the cultural partner prior to and during the residency. Each grant includes a $250 stipend to pay the cultural partner for this planning time.
  • Each application must 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 considered for funding.

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

Residency Design

Grant calculation:

  • Planning: Each grant is required to include at least $250 for planning between the school and cultural partner.
  • Session definition: A session is the creative learning time when the cultural partner is working with students.
    • One session is 30-75 minutes contact time between the cultural partner(s) and the students.
    • 80-120 minutes equals two sessions.
  • Session rate: The rate paid per STARS Residencies session has been updated to $150.
    • One session 30-75 minutes $150
    • Double session 80-120 minutes $300
  • Grant Limit: The grant limit is $5,500. 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.

Top 3 Learning Objectives: The learning objectives you set for the residency are key to the value of the creative learning experience. A learning objective is a statement in specific and measurable terms about the skills, knowledge, and/or understandings you want students to develop through their residency experience. Learning objectives should be developed collaboratively between classroom teachers and cultural partners.

  • 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.

A Strong Learning Goal/Objective:*

  • Begins with the end in mind

WEAK EXAMPLE: Students will be exposed to artwork from the Surrealist movement (no end result or way to assess learning)

STRONG EXAMPLE: Students will identify key characteristics of the Surrealist movement (end result of learning)

  • Is worded in language reflective of the student’s learning, not the teacher’s instruction

WEAK EXAMPLE: Introduce primary colors (Teacher-focused)

STRONG EXAMPLE: Students will identify and use primary colors in a work of art (Student-focused)

*Provided by Dawn Benski, Arts Content Support Lead, MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education

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.

  1. Many schools find their cultural partners from recommendations from colleagues in other schools. Also, you can find listings of cultural partners on
  2. 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 Cultural Partners:  We do NOT require that every cultural partner work with EVERY student in the school. However, we do require that each cultural partner work with their students for at least one session on at least three separate days. All cultural partners must 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.

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:  For the 2021-2022 School Year, residencies can be in-person, remote, or hybrid as requested by the school. 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 and hybrid residencies, regardless of location, must follow the strict safety protocols required by state and local agencies. Hybrid or fully remote residencies should be delivered using the school’s online platform to ensure it meets security standards.

  • Note: Each residency must include a plan for fully remote delivery in order to complete the residency in this school year should school health and safety circumstances require this. In the application, the applicant must attest to having this plan.

Culminating Events: Culminating events, such as exhibits or performances of student work are important for students to share their learning with other students, teachers, families, and the community. Culminating events also help the community understand the value of creative learning.

Residencies with a total duration of five days or more must include a culminating event. All students must be involved in the same culminating event whenever possible. If this is logistically impossible, then the culminating events must be clearly connected. Culminating events must be open to parents, teachers, students, and others in the school community.

Culminating event sessions can be included in the grant calculation only if the cultural partner will be present.

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. Planning 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 significant role in the growth of creative, productive, and independent-minded citizens.

These six CYD principles have been shown over 20 plus 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

This year, we will NOT be reviewing applications on a first-come, first-reviewed basis. Once the deadline has passed, eligible applications will be reviewed as follows:

  • We will review all eligible applications received by the grant deadline.
  • Applications will be scored by outside reviewers using the review criteria and rubrics listed below.
  • Applications that receive the highest score will be funded first. For applications that receive the same score, a random selection process will be used to determine the order in which the applications will be funded. We will fund down that list until all funds are allocated.

Only information submitted in the online application will be reviewed. We will not review additional information.

Review Criteria and Scoring Rubrics

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

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

Each criterion will be rated on a 5-point scale as follows:

Criterion:  Strength of the learning objectives.

1 = Weak: None of the learning objectives are clear, engaging, or attainable.

2 = Below Average: Two of the learning objectives are to some extent unclear, unengaging or unattainable and have significant flaws.

3 = Average: At least two of the learning objectives are clear, engaging, and attainable.

4 = Above Average: All of the learning objectives are clear, engaging, attainable and represent above average creative learning in the arts, sciences, and/or humanities.

5 = Exemplary: All learning objectives are extremely clear, very engaging, attainable and represent exemplary creative learning in the arts, sciences and/or humanities.

Criterion:  Appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives.

1 = Weak: The connection of the activities to the learning objectives is weak and they may not be engaging or attainable.

2 = Below Average: The activities are connected to one or two learning objectives but some may not be engaging or attainable.

3 = Average: The activities are connected to all learning objectives and are clear, engaging, and attainable.

4 = Above Average: The activities are connected to all learning objectives and are clear, engaging, attainable, and represent above average creative learning in the arts, sciences, and/or humanities.

5 = Exemplary: The activities are connected to all learning objectives and are extremely clear, very engaging, attainable, and represent exemplary creative learning in the arts, sciences, and/or humanities.


The anticipated grant award amounts will range from $700 to $5,500. 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 2021-2022 school year, a “session” is a 30-75 minute learning experience with students. Grants will be calculated using the following:

  1. Planning between school and cultural partner: $250 per residency
  2. 30-75 minute learning session: $150 per session
  3. Grant limit: $5,500

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 Mass Cultural Council.

Applicants will receive notification of the status of their application via email by 5pm (ET) on December 3, 2021.

Grant Requirements

Contract Package

Grantees cannot receive payment until they return a completed contract package. Contracts are due by February 10, 2022. 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, 2022, 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 FY22 STARS Residencies application. The site can send you a reminder if you need one.)


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 2, 2022 and return all unexpended funds to the Mass Cultural Council, no later than June 1, 2022. Failure to do so, may jeopardize eligibility for future funding opportunities.

Grant Timeline

August – October 22, 2021: Residency and application counseling available. Contact Program Manager Diane Daily at 617-858-2709.

August 30, 2021: Eligible residencies may start. Note: there is no guarantee of STARS funding.

September 22, 2021: Online application opens at 9am (ET).

September 27, 2021: Information session at 5pm (ET) – watch the recording

October 22, 2021: Online application closes at 11:59pm (ET).

October 23 – November 24, 2021: Mass Cultural Council reviews applications.

December 3, 2021: Funding notifications emailed.

Week of December 13, 2021: Grant award contract packages mailed.

February 10, 2022:  Grant award contracts due back to Mass Cultural Council.

May 2, 2022:  Grantees must notify Mass Cultural Council of funds that will not be spent by June 30, 2022.

June 1, 2022: All funds that will not be spent by June 30, 2022 must be returned to Mass Cultural Council.

June 30, 2022: Residencies must end.

July 15, 2022: Deadline for final reports.


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