Environmental Literacy Program awards $4.3 million to advance community resilience through education

Projects in eight states and the U.S. Virgin Islands will engage youth and the public around extreme weather and other environmental hazards.
September 11, 2018

NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program is funding nine new projects that will use education to build the foundation for resilience to weather and climate hazards. Together, these projects — reaching from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands — will receive a total of $4.3 million to empower people to protect themselves and their communities from local environmental threats. 

At the Boston Museum of Science, members of the public discuss ways to reduce their vulnerability to climate hazards. This project was funded by NOAA's Environmental Literacy Program.

Update 6/3/2019: This news article previously listed that the Environmental Literacy Program awarded $3 million to projects. It has since been corrected to reflect the accurate amount of $4.3 million.

Recent events underscore the need for resilience education. In 2017, the United States experienced 16 billion-dollar disasters, including three catastrophic hurricanes and several deadly wildfires. As these events and others have shown, successful resilience efforts cannot be limited to fortifying infrastructure and improving policies; they also depend on public engagement. Projects funded through the Environmental Literacy Program not only engage members of the public in understanding how their municipalities can become more resilient, but also enable people of all ages to take part in building safe and enduring communities.

This is the fourth year that NOAA’s Office of Education is funding community resilience projects through its Environmental Literacy Program. Based on the tremendous response to the request for applications, it’s clear that communities are calling for this type of support. The 2018 competition received 237 pre-applications from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories, with a total request of more than $100 million. Of these, 59 applications were accepted for full review. Grantees were selected through rigorous peer review by a group of experts representing the fields of science education, resilience planning, and education evaluation.

The 2018 funded projects are based on local resilience plans and will create new partnerships between education institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits. Projects focus on the most pertinent environmental challenges facing these communities, including sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, drought, and extreme heat. All projects use NOAA assets, base their projects on established scientific evidence, and consider socio-economic and ecological factors. While the selected projects incorporate a variety of approaches, a few themes stand out:

  • Educators and students working with expert planners to develop community-based resilience plans that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods
  • Students leading resilience action projects
  • Rural students learning about resilience through both traditional ecological knowledge and Western science
  • Empowering underserved community members as environmental leaders and change agents


R4 Ed: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in Coastal Louisiana Resilience Education
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, $389,427
This project will help high school students in Houma, Louisiana better prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazards like hurricanes and sea level rise. Notably, students will also collect local stories of sea level rise and erosion, coastal flooding, and hurricane damage and compare these stories with resources from NOAA Digital Coast and the NCAR Cyclone Damage Potential Index to clarify their community’s values and viewpoints.

Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community
Ocean Discovery Institute, $500,000
This project will build understanding of climate change and impacts on local hazards, human‐nature interactions, and individual and community capacity for resilience through place‐based education in the underserved community of City Heights, San Diego, California. Project activities encompass the design, piloting, and implementation of multi‐grade level, integrated curricula that incorporate hands‐on student climate science research, innovative solution building, and teacher professional development. This five-year project will serve 1,500 middle school students and 15 teachers annually.

CREATE Resilience: Community Resilience through Education, Art, Technology, and Engagement
Nurture Nature Center, $429,420
CREATE Resilience, a collaboration between youth and community, engages three hazard‐prone communities in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, in a comprehensive education and action initiative to increase knowledge about weather and climate science, risks from local hazards, and strategies for hazard mitigation, while storytelling and co‐creating a vision for community resilience. Residents will participate in active‐learning education events, dialogue forums, arts‐based activities, technology‐based programs using NOAA assets, and hands‐on preparedness activities.

Resilience from the Youth Up
University of Michigan / Michigan Sea Grant, $497,658
This project, led by the Michigan Sea Grant College Program, in partnership with Eastern Michigan University’s Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition and EcoWorks, will work with high school educators and students from the Detroit metropolitan area to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of climate‐related hazards. Using NOAA assets, including the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments’ localized climate data and Sea Grant education and outreach expertise, participating educators and their students will partner with climate scientists to explore, through project-based learning, local climate impacts firsthand and to develop comprehensive strategies that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods. Participants will contribute to broader sustainability initiatives within those communities.

Colorado Youth Empowerment and Community Resilience
University of Colorado / Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, $500,000
This project will develop four instructional units and use immersive scenario‐based role play games focused on drought, flood, wildfire, and extreme heat. Participating middle and high school students in rural Colorado will explore a locally relevant natural hazard and learn about existing mitigation and response plans. Students will identify and develop resilience strategies for their communities and present their ideas at a Resilience Expo, which will serve as a dialogue between them and community stakeholders. Students are also encouraged to develop and implement student‐led resilience action projects in their communities.

Citizen Science, Civics, and Resilient Communities
Boston Museum of Science, $500,000
This phase-2 project, conducted in partnership with Arizona State University, Northeastern University, and SciStarter, engages diverse groups of participants at 28 U.S. science centers in active learning and resilience planning about four natural hazards (heat waves, sea level rise, extreme precipitation, and drought). Participants will collect, analyze, and share data relevant to local resilience planners, learn about vulnerabilities through visualizations of geospatial data and participate in deliberative problem‐solving, sharing perspectives about resilience strategies and their societal and environmental trade‐offs, formulating community resilience plans, and presenting findings and recommendations to resilience planners and the public.

Climate Strong — Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, $499,407
For indigenous peoples, climate change threatens culturally significant traditions that rely on sustainable fish, plant, and wildlife resources. Working with University of Wisconsin Extension, this project aims to increase the knowledge and readiness of middle to high school students to deal with the impacts of extreme weather and environmental hazards that face the Ojibwe Ceded Territories (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). Ultimately, this culturally-relevant, place‐based education will enable communities to critically assess community resiliency to extreme weather events and engage in action in order to resolve it.

U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Strong Program
University of the Virgin Islands / Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, $499,998
The U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Strong Program will be the territory’s first sustained, community‐based, hurricane hazard preparedness program. Through new and strengthened strategic partnerships and the development of a long-term community‐based program, underrepresented middle and high school youth, and their families will be empowered as environmental leaders and change agents. Partners from the NOAA’s Marine Debris Program will share lessons and materials to their networks, allowing for national dissemination and impact.

Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards
Chugach School District, $499,888
Bringing together traditional Alaska Native ways of knowing and Western scientific data, this project will provide rural, K‐12 Alaskan students, teachers, and their communities with opportunities to build resilience to extreme weather events and other environmental hazards. Chugach and Kenai Peninsula School District’s students and teachers will work with NOAA science to participate in a variety of first‐hand activities, such as facilitating citizen science, building ocean observation systems, and ultimately developing and implementing community resilience action plans.


Funding amounts listed above are full federal award amounts for all years of the award. These nine new projects are part of a growing cohort of NOAA-funded resilience education projects that includes two projects funded in 2017, five projects in 2016, and six projects in 2015. For more details about the ELP’s awards, please visit the awards webpage.