2020-2021 Environmental Literacy Program Grants

NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program provided funding for a fifth year focused on building the environmental literacy necessary for community resilience to extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental hazards.

The eight projects, receiving a total of $3.5 million in funding will continue to build foundations for resilient communities through education. 

NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program supports the education of K-12 students and the public so they are knowledgeable of the ways in which their community can become more resilient to extreme weather events, climate change, and/or other environmental hazards, and become involved in achieving that resilience. Many U.S. communities are facing challenges of not only recovering from extreme weather events and other environmental hazards, but also transforming to prepare for a future of more frequent and damaging events. Communities can become more resilient by exploring the hazards they face, assessing their specific vulnerabilities and risks, considering options, prioritizing and planning, and taking action (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit). This process is typically performed by scientists and municipal planners, but in order for equitable and just resilience to occur, all members of a community must have some understanding of the hazards they face, options for mitigating them, and how to become civically engaged Community resilience education projects enable and empower community members, including children and youth, to protect themselves and their communities from these hazards. (See NOAA’s Community Resilience Education Theory of Change for more information on these relationships.)

Based on previous similar competitions in which there was extremely high demand for support of these types of projects, the 2020 competition was narrowed to solicit new projects from only half of the U.S. Additionally it was separated into two priorities. Priority 1 solicited new projects from the Southern and Western Regions of the United States. (NOAA plans to request  applications from Central and Eastern Regions of the United States in FY2022.) This priority received 165 pre-applications, and only 46 of the highest ranking applications were accepted for full review. The pre-applications were submitted from 19 states and three U.S. Territories, with a total federal request of about $72 million. Priority 2 solicited projects that had evolved from projects previously funded under the 2015-2016 funding opportunities from this program. This priority, which had a much smaller pool of potential applicants than Priority 1, received 9 applications from eight different states, with a total federal request of $4.7 million. 

Grantees were selected through rigorous peer review by a group of experts representing the fields of science education, resilience planning, and environmental justice, and included individuals from academia, community-based organizations, and informal science education institutions. Additional details of the competition are available in the Notice of  Funding Opportunity (NOAA-SEC-OED-2020-2006190). Also, resources and general guidance for preparing an application are available on the Apply page.

The 2020 funded projects support local efforts to build community resilience. The projects incorporate local and state resilience plans and create new partnerships between K-12 and informal education institutions and government and nonprofit organizations working on resilience planning and implementation. The most pertinent environmental hazards and climate-related stresses facing these communities are addressed by these projects, such as sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and extreme heat. 

All projects use educational approaches that develop community level environmental literacy to understand threats and implement solutions that build resilience to extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental hazards. Environmental literacy includes the knowledge, skills, and confidence to: 

  1. reason about the ways that human and natural systems interact globally and locally, including the acknowledgement of disproportionately distributed vulnerabilities; 
  2. participate in civic processes; and 
  3. incorporate scientific information, cultural knowledge, and diverse community values when taking action to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from environmental hazards, including mitigating and adapting to climate change

The funded projects use a variety of educational approaches that serve different audiences: 

  • Students building skills and credentials to enter the school-to-resilience-related job pipeline
  • Educators and students working with planners to develop community-based resilience plans that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods
  • Students engaging in culturally relevant problem-based learning and implementing resilience action projects
  • Underserved community members being empowered as environmental leaders and change agents 
  • Rural youth engaging in programs that develop their leadership skills and demonstrate best practices for students and teachers to engage and partner with local municipalities on resilience planning
  • Diverse coastal community members, whose social, economic, and cultural resources are threatened by sea level rise being educated and engaged through curricula, public forums, and innovative outreach strategies 


These eight projects are building the foundation for resilient communities through education in South Florida, Maine and northern Gulf of Mexico coastal communities, rural New York, and around the island of Maui, Hawaii. They are also working in the cities of NYC (NY), Austin and Houston (TX), and Richmond (VA).

EcoRise Youth Innovations Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders Austin, TX $450,00
Florida Atlantic University Climate Resilience Education and Action for Dedicated Youth Program (Climate READY Program) West Palm Beach, FL $449,903
Gulf of Maine Research Institute Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE): Developing knowledge, skill, and relationships to build the capacity of rural coastal communities to plan for a resilient future Portland, ME $449,480
Mississippi State University Increasing Sea-Level Rise Resilience in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Mississippi State, MS $449,076
National Wildlife Federation The Resilient Schools Consortium Phase II: Connecting Schools to Coastal Communities  New York City, New York $450,000
Science Museum of Virginia Climate Resilience and Community-driven Action with a Hyperlocalized Public Forum in Richmond, VA Richmond, VA $307,685
The Wild Center Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State Tupper Lake, NY $449,278
University of Hawaii Building Environmental Resiliency Leaders Kahului, HI $449,991

Funding amounts listed above are full federal award amounts for all years of the award. These eight projects are part of a growing community of practice of NOAA-funded community resilience education projects that includes nine projects funded in 2018, two projects funded in 2017, five projects in 2016, and six projects in 2015. For more details about the projects funded in 2020, please visit the awards webpage.