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.
Learn, Prepare, Act – Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities
The Science Museum of Virginia’s three-year informal climate change resilience education project, “Your Actions Matter: Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities,” yielded three overarching lessons learned: 1) understand and use organizational strengths and limitations to advance resilience education, 2) Arts and Humanities are critical for resilience education, and 3) localize the story of climate change and its solutions. Our programming relied on planning and executing two, 5-week “Climate Connections” Lecture Series featuring national climate science researchers, three annual “Prepareathon” events to connect communities with emergency management personnel and services (as well as local meteorologists and climate scientists), two community-focused workshops to engage guests in building resilience to extreme precipitation and urban heat, producing dozens of radio and video programs for public dissemination of climate science concepts, hosting several “Extreme Event Challenge” facilitations for guests to assume manager roles in a crisis, designed numerous scripts and dataset playlists for daily SOS presentations, production of a large format film about cosmic perspectives on climate change, performed theatrical scripts of human sides of climate impacts, leveraged artistic expression and sonification of climate science datasets in public events and exhibits, and undertook the first citizen science climate change campaign in the Museum’s history. Our audiences regularly stretched from preschool learners to retirement-aged individuals, served many thousands from formal education and professional organizations, and that our programming regularly attracted audiences from government agencies, policymakers, fine arts institutions, and urban planners. Our audience reach easily surpassed 1.2 million people locally, nationally, and internationally, with most from metro-Richmond, Virginia. Based on formative evaluation, our substantial restructuring of our initially proposed programming model yielded high-impact educational outcomes. “Ready Row Homes: Preparing for a Hotter, Wetter Virginia” experience achieved highest educational impact of communicating both climate change science and individual resilience behaviors. Our SOS facilitations and Large Format Film, Cosmic Climate Cookbook, performed highly in communicating climate science, but relatively limited in resilience behavior. Extreme Event Challenge has high impact for communicating resilience strategies, but not as well in communicating climate science. Our informative climate science Lecture Series were comparatively limited in communicating resilience. This array of programming successes was greatly improved by collaborations with project partners: WCVE disseminated audio and video programs; George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication guided our storytelling techniques for SOS; NOAA assets (i.e., NWS, Chesapeake Bay Office, SOS Network) contributed information and speakers; Randi Korn & Associates provided evaluation; Resilient Virginia marketed programs and designed workshops; and Virginia Institute of Marine Science provided significant expertise through speakers and datasets. New, substantial project partners included Groundwork RVA (co-developed “Throwing Shade in RVA” teen program and participated in urban heat island citizen science projects); Alliance for Chesapeake Bay (provided free rain barrels and workshop educational content); Richmond City’s Department of Planning Review and Sustainability Office coordinated dissemination of outreach materials and executed urban heat island citizen science project; and Franklin Institute (helped guide development of a Virginia-specific facilitation of Ready Row Home hands-on experiences).
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
The goal of Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE) was to build the capacity of coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions. To accomplish this the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) worked with an advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the cities of Portland and South Portland, Greater Portland Council of Governments, New England Environmental Finance Center, and Axiom Technologies to develop public programming that provided participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This program, "Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise" is a community education event that built participant knowledge in sea level rise science, future projections, and local impacts. Through visual presentations and facilitated discussions, GMRI brought regional relevancy to global climate data using local history and case studies of past flooding events. Using technology and peer discussions, GMRI staff provided participants with access to interactive data sets and maps that visualized the impacts of sea level rise and weather events on community resources like roads, parks, hospitals, schools, and other valued assets—and how climate projections will increase these impacts over time. Over the course of this grant, GMRI staff facilitated over 60 community events in over 30 coastal communities in Maine, reaching over 2,000 individuals. While many of the participants had heard about sea level rise and storm surge prior to this program, few had internalized what this meant for their own communities. Post-event surveys indicated that participants discussed flooding issues with their families, friends, and neighbors, further examined local sea level rise maps, and engaged with community decision-makers about resiliency planning. GMRI believes that strong and informed representation of citizens is vital to addressing climate challenges and resiliency actions. We continue to leverage this work through various projects as we collaborate with coastal communities to provide them with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to develop community-focused resilience plans for sea level rise.
Preparing Norfolk Area Students for America’s Second Highest Sea Level Rise
Children in the Norfolk, Va., area will inherit the highest sea level rise on the East Coast, second to New Orleans. In response, the non-profit Elizabeth River Project educated 25,333 students, 2,586 teachers, 63 Youth Resilience Leaders and 5 NEW River Ambassadors through a high school Youth Conservation Intern program for at-risk students. In addition, 180 River Star Schools and 13 new Resilient River Star Schools were recognized for implementing environmental projects addressing restoration, conservation, flooding and reducing their carbon footprint. The Elizabeth River Project prepared one of the first comprehensive youth education programs on resilience on this coast. The Elizabeth River Project, working since 1993 to restore the environmental health of the urban Elizabeth River, deployed its Dominion Energy Learning Barge, “America’s Greenest Vessel,” and its new urban park, Paradise Creek Nature Park, to empower K-12 students over three years to become informed decision makers and environmental stewards, prepared to adapt to rising seas. The project reached under-served schools in Norfolk and adjoining Portsmouth, Virginia. The lead science partner was Old Dominion University, on the forefront of climate change research and the University of Virginia for evaluation of education programs. Other partners included the Chrysler Museum of Art, ground zero for street flooding that has become routine in Norfolk. Elizabeth River Project’s first Youth Resilient Strategy Resilient Youth – South Hampton Roads A Pioneer Strategy of Hope and Action to Prepare Those Who Will Inherit Rising Seas. This plan is the first in America to call on educators, both in our schools and in the community, to help our youth prepare to inherit these extraordinary and increasing challenges. The youth plan will complement Norfolk Resilient City, a call to adults to prepare for rising seas and related challenges with a vision for our children to become hopeful, resilient leaders who innovate and persevere to safeguard our community as our lives change with a changing environment. The Elizabeth River Project will also serve as the Clearing House for education resources, activities and curriculum related to resilience as we launch a Youth Resilient Educators page at www.elizabethriver.org. Additional partners included: City of Norfolk Resilience Office, Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Schools, Wetland Watch and Hampton Roads Sanitation District.
Sound Resilience-Get on Board!
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is located at the mouth of the Norwalk River where it flows into Long Island Sound. Its mission is to inspire people to appreciate and protect the Sound and the global environment. As global climate change increases, extreme storms and sea levels continue to rise and a growing percentage of the 23 million people living within 50 miles of the Sound are directly affected by severe weather events, providing a timely opportunity to educate students, teachers, and the public about community resilience. From 2017-2020, the Aquarium developed and delivered an innovative three-session climate resilience education program to more than 2,000 middle and high school students in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The Sound Resilience student experience began in the classroom, where students learned about the impacts of hurricanes and coastal storms on their communities and used a hands-on “beach in a box” to model the effectiveness of built structures like seawalls and natural resilience features including salt marshes and oyster reefs. Then, during a two-hour research cruise on the Aquarium’s hybrid-electric research vessel, Spirit of the Sound, students collaborated to map their home coastlines from the water: identifying vulnerable locations from apartment buildings to power plants, as well as the existing resilience structures protecting their coast. On the vessel they also stepped into the role of climate scientists, conducting real-time weather and water sampling, including collecting and examining photosynthetic plankton that absorb carbon and help to slow down the effects of climate change. The third program session, back in the classroom, sent students on a design and decision-making journey, in which they compared their collaboratively created resilience map with flood-risk maps of their hometown, then worked together to identify gaps in resilience infrastructure and design a resilience plan for their community. As a result of Sound Resilience – Get on Board!, there were significant gains in students’ understanding of resilience science and their own sense of agency in creating a resilient future for their communities. Participants also reported deeper understanding of, and connection to, the Sound’s coastal ecosystems, which serve to buffer storm waves, sequester carbon, and protect communities from extreme weather and climate change. The Aquarium also developed and delivered a teacher professional development workshop focusing on effective and standards-aligned methods of teaching climate change, resilience, and environmental justice issues. Finally, an interactive experience was created for guests in one of the Aquarium’s most highly trafficked spaces. It includes a series of twenty-foot map projections of Long Island Sound showing present and future vulnerabilities and resilience methods, as well as a touch-screen kiosk where guests can interact with NOAA resources showing the risks that floods and sea level rise pose to their home communities. Although the grant period has ended, the resources created thanks to NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program will live on. The guest experience on the Aquarium floor will continue for the foreseeable future and the student programs—in-person as well as virtual—and teacher workshops will remain available within the Aquarium’s program catalog.