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.
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.
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
Coastal rural communities have deep cultural connections to and rely heavily upon the marine environment and economy. Due to their remoteness, isolation from central planning agencies, and lack of financial and municipal resources, they are highly vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea level rise. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) and key project partners, Upswell and the Island Institute, will develop, convene and facilitate regional trainings by which Maine’s rural coastal communities can increase their capacity to plan and prepare for coastal climate impacts by developing the knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to create data- and community-informed climate resilience plans. Cornerstone to the regional trainings is an engagement tool that builds common knowledge, incorporates diverse community value and voice, provides a framework for community planning and decision making, and builds relationships amongst participants. These trainings will also leverage and engage resilience professionals in Maine to share and represent their resources as communities apply those to their newly acquired skills and frameworks for community planning and decision making. Community leaders from the regional trainings will continue their learning through participation in a professional learning community. We will also leverage GMRI’s prior NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant, titled “Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE),” to deliver community education programming that builds the capacity of residents in coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions by providing participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This project will serve 20 rural coastal and island communities in Maine through four regional trainings. Each community will select a diverse and equitable representation of 10 stakeholders and community leaders to participate in the trainings. Community education events will be accessible to all residents of each community. These interventions will build community literacy and capacity for developing coastal resilience plans that benefit the social, environmental, and economic health of the community and align with Maine’s Climate Action Plan. An advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Sea Grant, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, the State of Maine’s Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Town of Vinalhaven, and the Town of St. George will guide the development and implementation of this project. Researchers at the University of Maine, Orono will evaluate the implementation of the project as well as assess the impact of this project on a communities’ ability to make community-informed climate plans. This project reflects NOAA’s Community Resilience Education Theory of Change, specifically supporting resilience planners and community members to develop trusting relationships focused on their collective environmental literacy through genuine conversations around resilience planning and decision making. With NOAA, we envision communities that have the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.
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.
Recharge the Rain: Community Resilience through STEM Education
Arizonans face environmental hazards from extreme heat, drought, and flooding. Watershed Management Group and partner Arizona Project WET’s “Recharge the Rain” project addressed these threats by building environmental literacy among 4-12th grade teachers, students, and the public. The project centered on educator professional training and hands-on water harvesting skills. Participants moved through a continuum from awareness to knowledge gain, to conceptual understanding, and ultimately to action. Utilizing data and experts from NOAA assets, we strengthened the capacity of residents to be resilient to our local climate threats. This 4.5 year project 1) developed and immersed 14,452 students in STEAM curriculum incorporating water harvesting that increases understanding of earth systems, engineering design, and weather; 2) applied systems thinking to train 52 teachers and 191 community volunteers in water harvesting practices and citizen-science data collection; 3) involved 8,289 Tucson community members in water harvesting principles; 4) implemented 21 teacher/student-led water harvesting projects at schools; and 5) celebrated our community work with student artwork. RtR became a call for action and an inspiration for change and adaptation to extreme weather conditions in the urban environments of the Sonoran Desert putting Tucson at the core of understanding climate, adaptation, and community.