The NOAA B-WET program is an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, authentic experiential learning focused on K–12 students and educators. B-WET funding is provided through competitive grants that promote Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs). MWEEs are multi-stage activities that include learning both outdoors and in the classroom, and aim to increase the environmental literacy of all participants. These activities leverage local STEM assets and STEM professionals. NOAA funding is provided to support student investigation of environmental topics and related professional development for educators. Students identify actions to address these issues and understand the value of those actions.
B-WET serves seven regions of the country: parts of California, Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, New England, and the Pacific Northwest. This regional approach allows the B-WET program to support grantee capacity building and respond to local education and environmental priorities.
2018 program impacts
- B-WET supported 159 institutions bringing locally relevant, authentic experiential environmental learning to K-12 audiences, supported by local STEM assets and STEM professionals and impacting a total of 25 states.
- Approximately 2,500 educators received professional development to enhance their skills and confidence in using environmental education and MWEEs to address multiple subjects’ curriculum standards and local education agency initiatives.
- An estimated 70,000 students participated in multi-stage, inquiry-based activities that include learning both in the classroom and outdoors in a local context.
Since 2002, NOAA has awarded over $90 million to support more than 700 B-WET projects. Activities supported with 2018 funds included:
- Students and teachers engaging with community partners to learn about Great Lakes fisheries and watershed stewardship opportunities aligned with their school improvement and learning goals.
- Students at four Title 1 schools directly contributing to a statewide effort to monitor rocky intertidal and sandy beach habitats of California’s national marine sanctuaries through LiMPETSoffsite link.
- Fourth-grade students being taught the basics of salmon and stream ecology and restoring critical salmon habitat in Whatcom County to help improve the health of the Salish Sea.
Evaluation and advancing the field
B-WET uses evaluation and evidence based practices to improve and refine the core B-WET experience, the MWEE. The MWEE is based on research literature, evaluation results, and lessons learned over a decade of program implementation. The B-WET national evaluation system, which began data collection in 2014, enables the program to monitor and modify activities as a result of new information about best practices, and to support grantees in implementing those practices.
B-WET is a leader in evaluation. The National Research Council highlighted B-WET in their 2010 reportoffsite link on NOAA Education as “the most rigorous evaluation design employed among the NOAA evaluation programs.” This recognition was in reference to an evaluation of the Chesapeake B-WET program in 2007 that demonstrated tangible links between students’ participation in B-WET-funded MWEEs and an increase in their environmental stewardship and literacy.