B-WET background information

Bay Watershed Education and Training Program Communication Toolkit materials

The B-WET background information provides succinct messages and facts about NOAA and the B-WET program.

How to use these materials: Unlike the other communication materials in this toolkit, the background information is not to be used as a template. It is meant to provide background and language for you to use when you are communicating about NOAA and the B-WET program. The background information is helpful for when you are asked questions or responding to a request from the media for more detail as a result of a press release distribution, for example.

About NOAA:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency in the Department of Commerce with the mission: “To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.” NOAA has a vested interest in supporting and building a science-informed society. Education, therefore, plays a significant role in supporting NOAA’s mission. The NOAA Office of Education works to advance education both within NOAA and the public it serves. The NOAA Office of Education coordinates activities across NOAA and with external partners to help ensure that NOAA's education programs and activities are based on NOAA science and support the agency's cross-cutting priority of promoting environmental literacy.

About the NOAA B-WET program:

One of the Office of Education’s programs is the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program. Established by Congress in 2002, the B-WET program is an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, authentic experiential STEM learning for K-12 audiences. B-WET fosters the growth of new, innovative programs and encourages capacity-building and environmental education partnerships. Funded projects advance ocean, climate, and other environmental literacy principles.

B-WET funding is provided through competitive grants that promote Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs). MWEEs include learning both outdoors and in the classroom. The activities are driven by rigorous academic learning standards and aim to increase participants’ understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ocean, coastal, riverine, estuarine, and Great Lakes ecosystems.

The B-WET program currently serves seven geographic areas of the country: California, Chesapeake, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaiʻi, New England, and the Pacific Northwest. Regional implementation allows B-WET programs to support grantee capacity-building and to connect grantees to local NOAA assets and relevant STEM expertise, while being responsive to local education and environmental priorities.

Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences:

The core component of B-WET-funded projects is the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE), a learner-centered framework that focuses on investigations into local environmental issues and leads to informed action. MWEEs are made up of multiple components that include learning both outdoors and in the classroom and are designed to increase environmental literacy by actively engaging students in building knowledge and meaning through hands-on experiences. In these experiences, the core ideas and practices of multiple disciplines are applied to make sense of the relationships between the natural world and society. MWEEs help connect students with their local environment and equip them to make decisions and take actions that contribute to stronger, sustainable, and equitable communities.

We have developed An Educator’s Guide to the MWEE. The tools, worksheets, and information in this guide help educators ensure that MWEEs are done thoroughly and thoughtfully to increase student environmental literacy.

NOAA B-WET program’s national impacts:

Since 2002, NOAA has awarded over $149 million to support 981 B-WET projects. In 2023, this program has reached approximately 4,700 educators and 61,000 students with high-quality environmental education programs.

The B-WET national evaluation system enables the program to monitor and adjust program activities as a result of new information about best practices and to support grantees in implementing those practices. Results of a 2017 analysis of national evaluation data showed that MWEE professional development increases teachers’ watershed literacy, confidence, and intention to implement MWEEs. Teachers also agreed that as a result of participating in MWEEs, their students improved in a range of environmental stewardship and science literacy outcomes, such as expressing greater concern for their watershed, being more engaged in their learning, and increased understanding of the nature of scientific research.

NOAA educational resources:

NOAA Education works to bring you educational resources and opportunities that support NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship. Education resources from NOAA program offices and partner websites can be found on the NOAA Education Portal.