Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Watershed STEM Education

NOAA connects the largest out-of-school program in the nation with watershed education.

The NOAA Office of Education is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) to implement the Watershed STEM Education Partnership program. This program is a part of U.S. Department of Education’s interagency initiative designed to integrate high-quality STEM programming into Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program sites.

Students have their hands in dirt while planting a raised wildflower garden along the side of a building
Students from the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club in West Virginia work with Friends of Deckers Creek to plant a raised wildflower garden at the Boys and Girls Club site. Students learned about native pollinators and habitat creation for local species as part of a 2017 NOAA-21st CCLC Watershed STEM Education Partnership Grant. (Friends of Deckers Creek)

The 21st CCLC program is the largest out-of-school program in the nation, serving over 1.5 million students in all 50 states. 21st CCLCs provide academic enrichment opportunities during out-of-school time for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. Under this partnership, competitive grants issued by NAAEE enable experienced environmental education providers to work with 21st CCLC sites to deliver authentic STEM experiences emphasizing the unique assets and expertise of NOAA. Out-of-school programs like these encourage student interest in learning and engage students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in STEM activities.

Watershed STEM Education projects use the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) model. MWEEs incorporate multi-stage learning both outdoors and in the classroom and aim to increase participants’ understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ecosystems. A pilot program implemented in 2017 indicated that projects like these excel at making STEM activities relevant to students’ lives and improve students’ understanding and awareness of their local watersheds. Grantees also form strong collaborations with local 21st CCLC sites, creating relationships that have the potential to be sustained beyond grant funding.

For more information, please contact Bronwen Rice, 202-482-6797,