Twenty years and growing: A timeline of NOAA B-WET

In 2002, the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program began in the Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing that educated communities are the key to understanding and sustaining the nation's ocean and coastal environments, NOAA developed B-WET into a national program. Since 2002, B-WET has grown to include seven regions across the country and has awarded over $117 million to support 929 B-WET projects.

B-WET by the numbers

regional program in 2002
funding in 2002
students reached in 2002
educators reached in 2002
regional programs in 2022
funding in 2022
students reached in 2022
educators reached in 2022

B-WET has taken many strides to grow the program over the last 20-plus years of implementation. This timeline highlights significant milestones since the program’s beginning.


B-WET’s timeline
  • 2000
    A group of students show off their dirty hands in a circle.

    The Chesapeake 2000 Agreement offsite link is signed by the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This agreement establishes a goal for every school student in the watershed to have a meaningful outdoor bay or stream experience before graduating from high school.

  • 2001
    Chesapeake Bay Program: Science. Restoration. Partnership.

    The Chesapeake Bay Program Education Workgroup establishes the first formal definition for the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE). The Education Workgroup is part of the Chesapeake Bay Program offsite link, a regional partnership that leads and directs the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program commits to continually increase students’ understanding of the watershed through participation in MWEEs.

  • 2002
    Three teachers from Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey practice field techniques in the intertidal zone in Lewes, DE.

    In response to direction from Congress to develop an environmental education program to support the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, NOAA develops and implements the Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program in the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake B-WET program is focused on the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake B-WET program awards $1.2M for 19 projects to provide outdoor learning experiences for students and related professional development for teachers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake B-WET program is administered by the NOAA Fisheries Chesapeake Bay Office in Annapolis, Maryland.

  • 2003
    Photo depicts teachers looking at the unique geology of a cliff area on the Lobo Canyon hike on Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park.

    The B-WET program expands to Monterey Bay, California. The California B-WET program awards $250,000 for seven projects to bring the environment into the classroom and bring students out into the Monterey Bay watershed in a meaningful way. Shortly after, California B-WET expands to include the San Francisco Bay and Santa Barbara Channel watersheds. California B-WET awards focus on equal and equitable access to environmental education for all students in California. The California B-WET program is administered by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Monterey, California.

  • 2004
    Five students sit along the ocean coast and stare out into the water.

    The NOAA B-WET program expands to Hawaii. The Hawaii B-WET program awards nearly $400,000 to support seven projects that directly implement MWEEs for students and teachers, along with applying the concept of ahupuaa (a division of land that is part of a larger traditional resource management system established by ancient Hawaiians to sustainably utilize the resources throughout the islands) and incorporating cultural knowledge. The Hawaii B-WET program is administered by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management in Honolulu, Hawaii.

  • 2005

    Congress establishes a national B-WET program in NOAA’s Office of Education to provide leadership, coordination, and oversight for all B-WET regional programs.

  • 2007
    The cover photo of Kraemer et al.’s “An evaluation of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training Program Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences.”

    B-WET completes an evaluation on the Chesapeake B-WET program. This evaluation assessed the effects of Chesapeake B-WET-funded projects on students’ environmental stewardship and academic achievement and teachers’ instructional practices. The results demonstrate tangible links between students’ participation in B-WET-funded MWEEs and an increase in their environmental stewardship and literacy. B-WET activities are shown to increase teachers' confidence in their ability and their intentions to implement MWEEs, as well as increasing the number of teachers implementing MWEEs with their classes.

  • 2008
    Two students sit on edge of dock with water in the background and conduct water quality tesing with bottles and reagents.

    The B-WET program expands to the Gulf of Mexico region, to serve the Gulf coastal counties of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The Gulf of Mexico B-WET program awards over $1.3M for five multi-year projects in the region. The Gulf of Mexico B-WET program is administered by the Southeast Regional Office of Fisheries in St. Petersburg, Florida.

  • 2008
    Two students wear waders by a large pond. One student is knee deep in the water and the other is holding a rake and wearing rain boots along the pond’s edge. There are red trees and houses in the background past the pond.

    The B-WET program expands to New England to serve the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The New England B-WET program awards $1.1M for five projects working for up to three years in the region. The New England B-WET program is administered by the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

  • 2008
    An elementary student sits on the grass along a creek wearing a raincoat and rain boats. She is writing on a clipboard.

    The B-WET program expands to the Pacific Northwest region to serve the states of Oregon and Washington. The Pacific Northwest B-WET program awards nearly $1M for five multi-year projects in the region. The Pacific Northwest B-WET program is administered by Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Port Angeles, Washington.

  • 2009
    People talk with each other and look at posters in a busy poster hall.

    In 2009, the B-WET program convenes more than 130 grantees from across the country for the first B-WET National Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland. Grantees share experiences and information while learning more about NOAA, NOAA science, and current policy that shapes the world of environmental education.

  • 2010
    Cover photo of National Academies NOAA’s Education Program Review and Critique.

    The National Academies publishes a review of NOAA Education offsite link. The report highlights B-WET’s regional evaluation work in the Chesapeake Bay as “the most rigorous evaluation design employed among the NOAA evaluation programs.” B-WET begins to create a cross-region evaluation system to monitor program implementation and outcomes at the national level.

  • 2011
    A group of students in a classroom watch as two instructors point to an aquarium tank. The phrase “You Matter” is written in large letters on the classroom wall.

    The B-WET program begins supporting systemic MWEEs in the Chesapeake Bay. Systemic MWEEs strive to reach the entire student population in one or more grades within a school district. Systemic implementation is later included as a priority in other regions, beginning in California in 2019, the Gulf of Mexico in 2020, and the Pacific Northwest in 2021.

  • 2012
    Three teachers are together to carry out water quality tests. Lake Superior is visible in the background.

    The B-WET program expands to the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes B-WET program is established in support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative offsite link. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides NOAA with nearly $1M to establish the Great Lakes B-WET program. The Great Lakes B-WET supports 12 awards in the region.

  • 2014

    All seven B-WET regions establish common criteria for a MWEE. All future B-WET applicants will be evaluated on how well they propose to meet this criteria to be considered for funding.

  • 2014

    B-WET begins collecting data with its national evaluation system. This cross-region, internal evaluation system monitors B-WET’s program activities and outcomes on an ongoing basis. Results of this evaluation are used to make adjustments to B-WET’s funding opportunities and activities to improve the program.

  • 2014
    A group of teachers planting grass on a sandy beach. The ocean is calm with a slight shore break. Some people are on their knees in the sand planting grass patches while other water the new plants with five gallon jugs of water.

    The Chesapeake Bay Program Education Workgroup revises the MWEE definition based on the environmental education research and best practices identified at their 2012 Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee workshop. The MWEE definition is updated to include essential elements and supporting practices that should contribute to student stewardship. This update informs a subsequent revision of the B-WET program MWEE definition adopted by all regions.

  • 2015
    Two students stand on the shore of an island and cast fishing lines into the water. There’s a beautiful orange and blue sunset over the ocean.

    The Hawaii B-WET program begins a partnership between the NOAA Office for Coastal Management and the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to expand the role of, support for, and impact of the Hawaii B-WET program. These two NOAA offices work together to develop regional educational and environmental priorities and goals for the Pacific region.

  • 2016
    Three students and an educator hold red nets, one is leaning over taking samples from some water within a lush field.

    The NOAA Office of Education and the U.S. Department of Education launch a collaboration to integrate high-quality STEM programming into out-of-school time at Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program sites. This collaboration focuses on Watershed STEM Education projects by using NOAA resources and the B-WET MWEE framework for effective environmental education. This program complements B-WET’s formal K-12 programming.

  • 2017
    Cover photo of "An Educator's Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience"

    An Educator's Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience offsite link is published. This guide is an easy-to-use manual for constructing high-quality MWEEs for all students. Originally developed by the Chesapeake B-WET program and partners, the guide was later updated and adopted for use in all B-WET regions.

  • 2019
    Teachers stand on dock. Photo focuses on 2 teachers holding a vile of water and a water quality card as they compare the color of the water they collected in the vile to the colors on the card.

    The B-WET program develops a series of resources designed to support the MWEE and support effective MWEE professional learning experiences for teachers and educators. B-WET launches the MWEE 101 online course and develops the Facilitator’s Guide to MWEE Training.

  • 2019
    Two students are on the ground, one holding a shovel and the other patting down the soil. You can see two students planting in back of them.

    The Great Lakes B-WET program builds capacity for place-based education by identifying best practices and documenting environmental education resources in the Great Lakes region in collaboration with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative offsite link partners.

  • 2020
    Three photos embedded together. On the left is an image of a sheet of paper of a student’s nature journal. It reads, Nature Investigation 2, date July 21st, 2020. Weather: hot + sunny. Object #1, acorn and then there is a magnifying glass and an acorn sketched. Object #2, camp badge with a drawing of a circular badge that reads Mass Audubon Class 2018 and a profile of a great blue heron. There is a sketch of a magnifying glass next to this and it says “I can see all of the threads.” In the middle photo, the

    The B-WET program recognizes that the environmental education field faces many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program helps grantees identify and implement creative alternative approaches to in-person MWEE implementation. Funding opportunities and grant policies include flexibilities to ensure providers can adjust, adapt, and respond as the situation changes. Particular emphasis is put on serving students who are more likely to lose environmental education opportunities as a result of pandemic impacts, such as students of color and students from low-income families.

  • 2021
    A student is sitting at their desk in a classroom, wearing a protective mask and gloves, while dissecting an oyster.

    Building on climate education priorities, B-WET funding opportunities include climate change as a priority topic and strongly encouraging new applicants to include it in activities they propose. The program shares resources to help make new connections to climate change, climate literacy, climate action, community based climate solutions, and other climate education topics. 

  • 2022
    B-WET’s 20th Anniversary logo: It reads “B-WET 20 years and growing.” To the left of the text is a water drop shape and inside there a sketch of two people kneeling with a plant between them.

    The B-WET program celebrates its 20 year anniversary and reflects on the immense growth the program has seen over the last two decades by celebrating this milestone with the theme "20 years and growing."

  • 2022
    The cover photo of "An Educator's Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience." The background photo is of students testing water quality along an algae covered river. At the bottom of the page it has the NOAA logo and reads "NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, October 2022."

    The B-WET program publishes a new national version of An Educator’s Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE). This version builds off of the previous version published by the Chesapeake Bay Program. This guide is designed for any educator interested in implementing environmental education activities, no matter where they are located and regardless of whether or not they have received B-WET funding.