Use the filter menu and interactive map to explore the past competitions offered and grants awarded through the Environmental Literacy Program.
To learn more about project findings and outcomes, view the summaries of our grantees’ summative evaluation reports.
Resilience from the Youth Up
As climate impacts ratchet up across the United States, the Great Lakes region tends to fly under the national radar. While the Great Lakes do not experience hurricanes, rising sea levels, or large-scale wildfires, the local climate has become increasingly erratic in recent years. The region, however, is one of the most unprepared in the country to cope with these impacts. A recent Grosvenor report (2014) on climate resilience among 50 global cities ranked Detroit last among 11 U.S. cities for adaptability and only better than three cities for overall resilience, which incorporates both climate vulnerability and adaptability factors. Of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, Detroit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (80.7%, U.S. Census 2016). Still recovering from bankruptcy, the city also has a 39% poverty rate, which impacts over 56% of children (ibid). These socio-economic factors, coupled with other environmental justice concerns, such as a centrally located incinerator and an asthma rate of 15.5% among adults resulting in over 3,000 hospitalizations annually, make Detroit residents particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. This project will address the urgent need to increase resilience by working with high school students and teachers in Detroit and southeast Michigan to increase their awareness of climate change and develop projects that help their schools and neighborhoods become resilient to increased occurrence and intensity of heat waves, storm events, and flooding. Using NOAA assets, including GLISA localized climate data and Sea Grant outreach and education expertise, high school students and teachers will partner with climate scientists to explore local climate impacts firsthand and to develop resilience strategies and projects that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods and contribute to broader sustainability initiatives. The City of Detroit seeks this involvement as it ramps up a new Office of Sustainability and seeks proposals to develop the city's first Sustainability Framework. The effort is a partnership with EcoWorks, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), Eastern Michigan University, Civic Research Services, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In each of the next three years, 200 students from various high schools in the Detroit and Ypsilanti areas will participate in weekly activities related to the grant. The four primary objectives of the program include: 1) Engage students in assessing and quantifying climate vulnerabilities of their schools, neighborhoods, and surrounding community. 2) Using a place-based education (PBE) model, prepare educators to engage students in creating plans and completing projects that increase community resilience. 3) Empower high school students to teach residents about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies to mitigate extreme weather events or other environmental hazards. 4) Contribute to the completion and implementation of local sustainability and climate action plans in Southeast Michigan.
Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community
Understanding climate change and its exacerbating effects on local environmental phenomena (e.g., increase in frequency and/or intensity of drought, ocean acidification, water shortages, degraded fisheries) and how to create resiliency is critical for underserved communities as they are disproportionately impacted by these hazards and yet, have the least capacity to actively respond. To address this issue, Ocean Discovery Institute and its partners will build understanding of climate change and impacts on local hazards, human-nature interactions, and individual and community capacity for resilience through place-based education in the underserved community of City Heights, San Diego, CA. This project, titled “Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community,” will involve a wide range of partners, including California Sea Grant, the California Nevada Climate Applications Program, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego Canyonlands, RECON Environmental, Inc., and the San Diego Unified Port District. Project activities encompass the design, piloting, and implementation of multi-grade level, integrated curricula that incorporate hands-on student climate science research, innovative solution building, and teacher professional development. This project will serve 1,500 middle school students annually and is expected to increase students’ understanding of scientific concepts and processes and human-nature interactions, improve their ability to make science-informed decisions, and contribute to local resilience efforts.
U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Strong Program
Under leadership from the University of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and local, non-profit, long-term, 2017 storm recovery groups, this 5-year project will create the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Storm Strong Program. To date, minimal efforts have been made to engage the USVI community in hurricane education and preparation. As a result, USVI communities face significant, but often preventable, storm risks. This is the Territory’s first sustained, community-based, hurricane hazard preparedness, and community leadership building program. The USVI Storm Strong Program will engage underserved and underrepresented middle- and high-school youth and their families on all of the Territory’s main islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix - in a program modelled after the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit framework. Youth and their families will: (1) explore the science and hazards associated with hurricanes, (2) assess their communities’ vulnerabilities and associated risks, (3) evaluate personal and community assets and options to increase resilience, (4) prioritize and plan for events occurring before, during, and after a storm, and (5) take action, in this case, through Community Transfer Projects, which will turn the information gained through the Program into local actions to increase individual and community resilience, sharing knowledge and actions with the broader USVI community and beyond. Through this training, ~400 USVI youth and their families will be empowered as environmental leaders and change agents within their communities and important insights will be learned as to how best to engage underrepresented and underserved groups in hazard preparedness. Creation of the USVI Storm Strong Program is timely, given the significant impacts resulting from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that devastated the USVI in September 2017. These storms provide a window of opportunity to bring together partners from federal, territorial, non-governmental, academic, and the private sector, to develop a strategic, cohesive, long-term, high-impact, community-based program to improve environmental literacy and extreme weather hazard preparedness in the Territory, goals that align with the mission of NOAA’s Office of Education.
Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and otherwise marginalized communities that typically have the fewest resources to adapt. Furthermore, the very communities that feel the effects of climate change most acutely have been historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability and green building. The Building a Green Texas (BGT) project helps address these concerns by giving high school students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to tackle challenges posed by climate change. In the process, students gain valuable green career skills and credentials and become part of a green building school-to-job pipeline that will help contribute to a more diverse workforce. Texas-based nonprofit EcoRise, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute/National Estuarine Reserve System of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will lead this robust, three-year project beginning in Central Texas in Year 1 and expanding into Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities in Year 2. Through school-year field experiences and paid summer internships, students in the program will use established scientific evidence, citizen science, and an understanding of location-specific socioeconomic and ecological factors to explore current and future extreme weather phenomena and other environmental hazards facing their communities. They will gain real-world learning experiences and career exposure by directly engaging with scientists, civic leaders, green building professionals, and NOAA data and staff. As students help design community-based green building projects, they will consider scientific uncertainty, cultural knowledge, and social equity, in the real-world context of improving community resilience.
Expanding Capacity of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI)
The National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) is working with The Marine Mammal Center, Knology, and the Frameworks Institute to build national capacity for evidence-based climate communication through innovative training programs and a community of practice that engages educators, scientists, community activists, and communities of color. Nearly two-thirds of Americans talk about climate change only occasionally or not at all, resulting in a lack of action to address one of the most critical issues of our time. The National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation has worked for more than a decade to advance the science and practice of effective public communication around climate change by developing, evaluating, and deploying communications tools that employ both cutting-edge climate science and communication research to increase both knowledge of climate change and a willingness to engage in climate action. The network’s community of practice offers resources, events, and activities to support members’ social, emotional, and intellectual growth, sustaining their long-term commitment to activate the public around climate action. Despite many successes and impact shown through previous programs, gaps still exist in the availability of these messages to communities across the country, and an intentional focus on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion is critical to ensure that communications and proposed solutions are accessible and appropriate for marginalized communities. New lessons connecting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion will be developed and tested by a justice and equity team, as well as outside experts. These new lessons will be included in all training programs, including an existing online course focused on building awareness for climate communicators, and a new virtual and in-person training course for climate communication trainers in the Southeastern United States. Through these training programs, a new training platform, and the support of a new project coordinator, the network will welcome new climate trainers and communicators, while building a stronger community of practice nationwide.