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.
Exploring Inner Space: Linking Aquariums with Ocean Scientists
This program is a pilot project and collaborative effort to develop partnerships and educational programming using state of the art technology. The project partnership is comprised of a leading ocean science research and education institution, the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography and its new state of the art Inner Space Center (ISC), and two strong national ocean science education networks: the National Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Network and NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research (NOAA-OER) Education Alliance. In addition, two partner sites will serve as proof of concept sites and education hubs - Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration (CT) and South Carolina Aquarium (SC), both affiliated with COSEE, the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center Network (CELC), and NOAA-OER. Through this initiative, the ISC will install new Exploration Command Stations (ECSs) and enhance Ocean Today kiosks at the partner sites, strategically selected aquariums. Through this pilot project, the ECSs and kiosks (modeled after the original Ocean Today kiosk in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History’s Sant Ocean Hall) will form an Ocean Interpretive Station at the partner sites. The ISC will provide live links from the Center's facilities to the newly installed ECSs and kiosks using feeds from various remote Ocean Exploration platforms, including the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and the exploration vessel, E/V Nautilus. The project's Content Development Team (CDT) will develop associated educational materials for use in public programs at the partner sites.
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.
Science-on-a-Sphere Programming: Presenting NOAA Science at the Maryland Science Center, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and in the National Traveling Exhibition "Water Planet"
Using the relative strengths of each museum, the Science On a Sphere® Partnership between the Maryland Science Center and the Science Museum of Minnesota has developed two complementary exhibit approaches to Science On a Sphere® (SOS). Audiences interacting with SOS are able to observe global connections in geophysical phenomena not possible with any two dimensional representation of the Earth. The goal of the project is for museum visitors, particularly underserved audiences, to comprehend how human activities are influencing global processes now and might do so in the future. The project also tests new partnership models for working with NOAA and other science research organizations to broaden the educational impact on all groups.
Science-on-a-Sphere Installation: Presenting NOAA Science at the Maryland Science Center, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and in the National Traveling Exhibition "Water Planet"
This award supports the installation of a Science On a Sphere® in two museums comprising the SOS Partnership®, a collaboration between the Maryland Science Center ( Baltimore ) and the Science Museum of Minnesota ( St. Paul ). Each of the two museum installations will take advantage of the wide variety of NOAA data sets that Science On a Sphere® (SOS) projects onto a six-foot sphere, creating unique, animated, whole-planet views of real-time, past and forecasted, weather, climate and geophysical processes, and many other dramatic visualizations of the whole Earth.
Understanding the Impact of Science on a Sphere
The Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) will undertake a rigorous study of the public learning impact of the Science on a Sphere (SOS) museum education program that was began by NOAA in 2005. As proposed, this study will identify and evaluate the range and depth of SOS audience impacts and outcomes to provide the essential baseline understanding for its ongoing and future uses. The study will further explore the role and impact of data visualization in contemporary society as an effective means of deepening public understanding of such complex issues as Earth natural systems.
A National Coalition of Aquariums Educating About Climate Change
This collaboration led by three major national aquariums - National Aquarium in Baltimore, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and New England Aquarium - will develop a leadership initiative to build capacity within aquariums and related informal science education institutions nation-wide, enabling education staff to engage and inspire millions of visitors to take action about climate change and the ocean. Over three years, the aquariums will increase climate literacy among informal science educators by: 1) creating a national network for training, resource sharing and support; 2) developing climate change activity carts to support exhibit interpretation; 3) providing training for youth interpreters; and 4) hosting regional and national summits to strengthen collaboration and showcase and disseminate model programs. Outcomes for educators will include increased knowledge of climate change science; knowledge of strategies, tools and materials for educating about climate change; and confidence in their ability to communicate about climate change.
Interpretation of Real-Time Weather and Climate Data for Spherical Displays
The Interpretation of Real-time Weather and Climate for Spherical Displays (EarthNow) project utilizes the Science on a Sphere (SOS) Network to enable meaningful interpretation of real-time weather and climate data by museum docents and visitors viewing SOS exhibits nationwide. The project will generate and provide real-time NOAA weather, climate and ocean data to the SOS Network along with appropriate training for docents. It will also provide data interpretation summaries, data discussions and concise talking points on a regularly updated blog. This project is being implemented by a collaborative team of two weather and climate centers of NOAA/NESDIS: the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) and Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS), in association with the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory, the I.M. Systems Group, and the Maryland Science Center.
Visualizing Change: Training and Tools to Support Informal Educators
A consortium of Aquarium of the Pacific, National Aquarium in Baltimore, New England Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium will build educator capacity in the aquarium community and informal science education field to more effectively communicate about climate change and its impact on coastal zones and marine life. The project will utilize NOAA datasets and visualizations in providing interpreters with training and strategic framing communication tools based on the best available social and cognitive research. The objectives of the project are to: (1) develop and test four exemplary interpretive “visual narratives” that integrate research-based strategic communication with NOAA data visualization resources; (2) test the application of the visual narratives in a variety of geographic regions and institution types (aquarium, science center, etc.) using multiple technology platforms; (3) build a professional development program for climate change interpretation with data visualization; and (4) leverage existing networks for dissemination and peer support. Other key partners include the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory (VisLab), the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Ocean Explorium in southern Massachusetts, FrameWorks Institute and New Knowledge Organization.
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Education Partnerships
This project supports environmental education and outreach activities that promote the ocean and coastal stewardship and climate literacy goals of NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Specifically, the partnership supports: (1) development of education and outreach materials; (2) professional development to educators and science communicators, (3) competitions that promote the goals of the partnership; (4) the activities of the Science on a Sphere® Users Collaborative Network; and (4) evaluation of partners’ programs.
Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean
Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean is a three-year capacity building project of the Tennessee Aquarium and its partners, the Hamilton County Department of Education, Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy, and NOAA’s National Weather Service. Expanded capacity, in turn, allows the institution to reach a broader audience with a message connecting Tennessee’s waterways to the world ocean. Primary project outcomes are increased ocean literacy and expanded ocean stewardship ethics in targeted Aquarium audiences. A series of specific activities focused on ocean literacy and global change make this possible, including expanding Aquarium classroom capacity by 60% to serve more students, expanded videoconferencing opportunities in partnership with NWS, free admission and programming for underrepresented students from across the region, expanded educational opportunities on the Aquarium’s website, updated interpretive panels focusing on global change, installation of a NOAA WeatherBug station, a civic engagement series, and professional development for Aquarium educators.