In 2017, youth, educators and staff at U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) investigated their local watersheds during out-of-school time, thanks to a pilot program developed by NOAA, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation offsite link.
Out-of-school programs encourage student interest in learning and engage students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in STEM activities. The U.S. Department of Education's 21st CCLC program is the largest out-of-school program in the nation, serving over 1.5 million students — particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools — in all 50 states. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Education invited NOAA to join a federal initiative to support STEM activities at these 21st CCLC sites. As a result, NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation developed a pilot grant program to provide 21st CCLC sites with authentic STEM experiences using components of NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences.
The NOAA/21st CCLC pilot grant program awarded $500,000 to 17 pilot projects, impacting 37 sites in 15 states and all seven B-WET regions. Over 1,600 youth and 184 21st CCLC educators and staff explored and investigated their local watersheds during out-of-school time. The evaluation indicated that projects excelled at making activities relevant by emphasizing connections with students’ lives, choices, and communities, and improved students’ understanding and awareness of the local watershed. Pilot grantees also forged strong collaborations with local 21st CCLC sites, establishing relationships that have the potential to be sustained beyond the pilot program funding.
A downloadable video is also available.