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.
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.
Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) Program
Brooklyn College and the National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA program in New York City created The Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) Program to increase the environmental literacy of middle school and high school students while providing opportunities for their voices to be heard. The City's long-term planning document, OneNYC, set forth a vision for a resilient city without specifying a role for students or including specific plans for their schools. This project addressed this gap by allowing students to interact with city, state and federal officials and resilience practitioners and present their ideas for resilience guidelines for NYC Public Schools. An active-learning RiSC Curriculum was developed by two middle school teachers in collaboration with their peers and the project team. The curriculum is available at https://riscnyc.org. RiSC teams at six middle schools and high schools used the curriculum to follow the UC Climate Resilience Toolkit’s Steps to Resilience. They learned about climate change and extreme weather, the vulnerability of their schools and their communities, options for addressing the risks, planned, and prioritized action, and executed small scale resilience projects on their school grounds when possible. Students were able to share what they had learned and have dialogue with professionals from government agencies and non-governmental about actions and solutions at two RiSC summits in June 2018 and June 2019. The RiSC program directly reached over 200 NYC public schools students through direct participation on the RiSC teams or RiSC-sponsored events, and indirectly reached hundreds more through the interaction of RiSC students with their peers. RiSC students were highly motivated by the program’s focus on action and the opportunity to speak directly to officials at the summits. The RiSC program also resulted in the creation of the New York City Climate and Resilience Education Taskforce (https://cretf.org), a group of NYC agencies, educators, and non-governmental organizations that are working towards providing climate and resilience education for all New York City students and their teachers. Key contributors to the success of the Resilient Schools Consortium program included New York Sea Grant and the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.
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.
Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience in New York State
The Wild Center’s Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience in New York State project increased climate literacy among high school students and teachers in New York City, the Catskills and the Adirondacks and gave students the leadership skills to help their communities respond to the impacts of climate change. The program worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, and Action for the Climate Emergency (formerly known as Alliance for Climate Education), along with NOAA, the New York State Office of Climate Change and NYSERDA. In the three project regions of New York State, project partners established Youth Climate Summits and Youth Climate Leadership Practicums as well as built on educators’ interests through Teacher Climate Institutes and communicated climate change science and resilience through community outreach activities. By the conclusion of the project, we had worked directly with 3,126 high school students, 1,124 teachers and 2,333 members of the public, each of whom gained a better understanding of the impacts of climate change in New York State, a greater capacity to make informed decisions about the threats to their own regions, and a stronger connection with other community members and ongoing resiliency work. Convening Young Leaders demonstrated significant leadership in connecting with New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program. Seven small, rural communities across New York State engaged in Climate Smart Communities (CSC) due to youth involvement. This emerged after partners at the NYS Office of Climate Change offered to present on CSC at multiple Youth Climate Summits. Students attended the CSC workshop, incorporated CSC into their climate action plans, contacted their local government, and encouraged them to join the program. Reaching out to municipal officials and presenting at community board meetings were tremendous learning opportunities for students, regardless of whether the municipalities joined the program. In 2020, two particularly engaged communities, Saranac Lake and Homer, received Bronze Certification through the CSC program and were formally recognized for their accomplishments. This unique partnership was documented in our Climate Smart Communities video www.wildcenter.org/climatesmart.