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.
Ocean Interpretive Stations: A Pilot Program for Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers
This project creates a pilot program to deliver ocean literacy learning opportunities to 7 million people across the country through installation of dynamic Ocean Interpretive Stations at five Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers: the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA; the J.L.Scott Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs, MS; the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL; the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD; and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA. These Interpretive Stations present vital messages of ocean literacy to the broad public using and expanding on a proven product in a free choice learning environment in four key sites across the country. The pilot kiosks provide the regional stories of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River watershed and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific. The Ocean Interpretive Stations enhance ocean literacy among museum goers through multimedia offerings, providing current, newsworthy and foundational ocean topics to encourage visitor learning. The project has the potential to be disseminated to 18 other Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers throughout the United States, with the possibility of reaching over 25 million visitors. The project outcomes are: Increased awareness of ocean issues on the part of visitors; increased knowledge of regional ocean issues; increased capacity of sites to provide additional resources to teachers in the four regions; and encouragement of additional partnerships in the future.
Building Environmental Literacy: How the Ocean Community Can Connect More Effectively With the American Public
In 1999, The Ocean Project completed a comprehensive opinion research on public attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge of the ocean ever conducted. The research identified a broad vacuum in public understanding of the ocean; a fundamental issue of ocean literacy. To further increase effectiveness in building ocean literacy, this project updates and expands The Ocean Project's research to create a more highly detailed database of public awareness, knowledge, and attitudes about the ocean and the impact of climate change on the ocean. It develops recommendations to enable free-choice learning educators to improve the ocean and climate literacy of their visitors. The study includes a comprehensive review of existing literature, qualitative and quantitative research, analysis of the data, and publication and broad dissemination, including recommendations for programs and content that build ocean and climate literacy. The work done by The Ocean Project is helping the ocean education community better understand the motivations, psychology, and emotions behind segments of the public's attitudes toward the ocean. These data are essential as the institutions, agencies and organizations of the ocean community work together and independently to engage people, inform decision-makers, and enhance ocean and climate literacy throughout the Nation.
Here to the Ocean, a nationally traveling museum exhibition
The Sciencenter seeks to develop a 1,500-square-foot traveling exhibition, called "Here to the Ocean," on how activity in inland watersheds affects the health of the ocean, and therefore the planet. The unifying theme of the exhibition is "What we do here, has an impact there," and the key take-home message for museum visitors is that ocean water quality is not just a coastal issue. This exhibition will travel to museums throughout the United States, reaching an estimated 200,000+ visitors annually for at least seven years, resulting in an estimated total impact of 1.5 million visitors in at least 20 U.S. cities. The core audience of this exhibition will be families with children ages 6-12, and children visiting museums in school groups. "Here to the Ocean" will feature interactive open-ended exhibits that bring watershed science to life, including an immersive experience allowing visitors to conduct their own virtual underwater tours of watersheds by stepping inside and operating a submersible research vehicle on an expedition from a backyard creek all the way to the ocean. This and other exhibits will feature stunning high-definition video footage depicting fauna from various water ecosystems, as well as human activities that affect watershed health. Additional hands-on exhibits will help visitors to understand how watersheds are connected to the ocean, basic concepts in hydrology, the impact of pollution, and what science offers in the way of solutions to watershed problems. Exhibits will be designed to inspire visitors to adopt behaviors that protect their local watersheds. Visitors experiencing this exhibition will: 1) leave with an increased understanding of watershed science that will help them make informed, data-driven decisions on issues relating to watersheds; 2) have an increased awareness of the importance of watershed health and positive attitudes about the need to protect local watersheds; 3) have an increased understanding of the value of science in solving environmental problems and will be inspired to stay involved in science through school and/or career; and 4) feel an increased sense of personal watershed stewardship which they will share with others.
Applying Social Research to Build Environmental Literacy and Public Engagement in Protecting Ocean Resources
This project will expand and enhance an initiative that offers zoos, aquariums, and science museums the market research they need to engage and motivate the public on issues related to the ocean and climate change. The three-year project will measure changes in public awareness and action on ocean and climate-related issues. It will integrate these research findings into recommendations offered to staff working at zoos, aquariums, and science museums as well as to the ocean conservation community and provide professional development for staff members at these institutions in order to support and shape public outreach efforts that connect climate change, the ocean and individual actions, especially among our nation's youth.
Summer Research Program for Science Teachers
This project that will increase the knowledge and research skills of middle and high school earth science and environmental science teachers. By doing so, these teachers will be better able to elevate their students' overall interest and literacy in science, improve their understanding of ecosystem and sustainable development principles, and improve their stewardship of ecosystems. The teachers will learn how the tools, techniques, and information services are used by NOAA and its partners to improve ecosystem-based management. This will enable students to appreciate better the dynamism and excitement of these disciplines. This program targets schools with under-served minority populations.
Secondary Analyses of the National Environmental Literacy Assessment: Phase I & II Students, Teachers, Programs and School Survey
Phase Three of the National Environmental Literacy Assessment (NELA) will analyze the relationship between middle school students' scores on the MSELS and other measured variables that may have critically impacted the development of environmental literacy in these students. Phases One and Two of the National Environmental Literacy Assessment (NELA) relied on four data collection instruments: The Middle School Environmental Literacy Survey (MSELS), the School Information Form, the Program Information Form, and the Teacher Information Form. The primary outcomes of these phases were to identify general levels of environmental literacy (measured by the MSELS) and to compare these levels both within and across the studies. Through the comparison of these data sets, we could identify schools in which grade level cohorts of students displayed markedly higher levels of environmental literacy variables than their peer cohorts at other schools. However, questions remain concerning the magnitude and influence of variables that were reported on those survey forms, as well as the relationships among variables measured by the MSELS scales. The major research questions that will guide this Phase are: 1) To what extent do the variables measured by these Forms during Phase One and Two appear to have contributed to or influenced students' environmental literacy scores; 2) How do these variables appear to interact with each other; and 3) What are the relative contributions of knowledge, affect, and skill variables to actual commitment or behavior. The resulting analyses of this study will be shared both through peer-reviewed publications as well as appropriate professional conferences.
Global, Local, Coastal: Preparing The Next Generation for A Changing Planet
This project, “Global, Local, Coastal: Preparing the Next Generation for A Changing Planet," was led by Groundwork Hudson Valley in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College's Center for the Urban River, to integrate and expand the work of three award-winning environmental education centers in Yonkers, NY – The Science Barge, Ecohouse and the Center for the Urban River (CURB). Its primary objective was to prepare low-income students for the impact of a changing climate so that they can participate both personally and professionally in a world in which these issues are increasingly prevalent. It reached an audience that is not well served by traditional programs and is most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Over the course of two years, the project served 544 high school youth from the Yonkers public school system through a new, integrated curriculum that presented these issues from multiple perspectives in an experiential learning format. Beyond its impact on students, the project has had a broader impact on people in our region who have visited the Science Barge, Ecohouse and CURB, which together receive close to 10,000 people each year. The new exhibits have reinforced key themes related to resiliency and adaptation and staff have integrated these concepts into their public tours. Beyond our region, the project has further impacted STEM educators across the country with access to the newly created "Global, Local, Coastal" curriculum and web application which is posted on Groundwork's website and accessible without charge. Other partners included NOAA’s Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Center for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), and Yonkers Public Schools. The project has been carried out in a community that has been severely affected by extreme weather in the last decade, including three hurricanes. Outcomes have helped to create “an informed society to anticipate and respond to climate and its impacts” and served to support NOAA’s goal of a developing a “Weather-Ready Nation” and “Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies.”
Science Center Public Forums: Community Engagement for Environmental Literacy, Improved Resilience, and Decision-Making
By engaging diverse publics in immersive and deliberative learning forums, this three-year project will use NOAA data and expertise to strengthen community resilience and decision-making around a variety of climate and weather-related hazards across the United States. Led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the Museum of Science Boston, the project will develop citizen forums hosted by regional science centers to create a new, replicable model for learning and engagement. These forums, to be hosted initially in Boston and Phoenix and then expanded to an additional six sites around the U.S., will facilitate public deliberation on real-world issues of concern to local communities, including rising sea levels, extreme precipitation, heat waves, and drought. The forums will identify and clarify citizen values and perspectives while creating stakeholder networks in support of local resilience measures. The forum materials developed in collaboration with NOAA will foster better understanding of environmental changes and best practices for improving community resiliency, and will create a suite of materials and case studies adaptable for use by science centers, teachers, and students. With regional science centers bringing together the public, scientific experts, and local officials, the project will create resilience-centered partnerships and a framework for learning and engagement that can be replicated nationwide.
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement (PLACE)
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement: Environmental Literacy Through Climate Change Discussions (PLACE) is a nationally disseminated, locally-based program that engages adults in geographic-specific discussions and critical thinking about resilient responses to environmental changes and extreme weather events, through programs in their local public libraries. Historically, opportunities to increase adults’ environmental literacy have typically been available only through established science centers, and/or tended to target citizens who are already interested in environmental topics and issues. While science center hosted events and exhibits are important, reaching new and underserved audiences is imperative. PLACE engages new audiences — in their own libraries and with their own communities — by discussing their challenges, threats and helping their communities prepare for and respond to climate change and extreme weather events. PLACE will help rural and under-resourced communities build resilience to their region's’ unique vulnerabilities and threats through the following: (1) Select 50 rural and under-resourced libraries across the United States, (2) Create environmental literacy materials for library programs and professional development materials for librarians, (3) Provide professional development to participating librarians, developing their environmental literacy and fostering the use of NOAA assets for library patron services, (4) Assist libraries in finding and partnering with NOAA scientists, (5) Support libraries implementing a three-part, environmental literacy book/video/discussion program series for adults, complemented by a curated collection of NOAA assets that align with each program’s topic, and (6) Perform a summative evaluation of the impact and outcomes of the program. The project has a sustainability plan and a network in place to support the activities in an ongoing, national model for years beyond the initial project funding. PLACE leverages the model and resources of an earlier, similar program, Pushing the Limits (funded by the National Science Foundation), which demonstrated significant success in raising adults’ general science literacy in rural libraries across the United States. The project is being created, disseminated and evaluated through a partnership of The Califa Group (a California library consortium) and the National Weather Service, working in tandem with NOAA’s Office of Education.
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.
From Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast: Fostering Resilient Climate Leaders, Communities and Coastal Ecosystems
Nisqually River Foundation with partners (South Sound GREEN, Chehalis Basin Education Consortium, and Mount Rainier Institute) with support from NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region implemented their project, “From Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast: Fostering Resilient Climate Leaders, Communities and Coastal Ecosystems,” over 3 years, from 2016-2018. Our region faces the climate change threats of sea level rise, receding glaciers, extreme weather/flooding, ocean acidification and impacts on humans and important local resources, such as surface and groundwater, salmon, forests, and shellfish. Together we engaged more than 120 teachers and their 3,000+ students from the Nisqually, South Puget Sound and Chehalis watersheds to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. We held three Summer Teachers Institutes to bring teachers connect teachers with local science experts in climate change impacts in the Pacific Northwest. Our 2017 Institute was held in partnership with Mount Rainier Institute, who also hosted Climate Resilient Youth Leadership Programs for 350 12-18-year olds. Participants generated and participated in Community Resilience Action Projects to conserve local ecosystems and increase resiliency in their communities to extreme weather events and changing climate. These projects included: riparian habitat restoration in the Nisqually, Chehalis, and Deschutes basins; creating recycling and composting programs on school campuses; eliminating Styrofoam from school cafeterias; creating a Migration Parade event to explore climate impacts on migratory species; the “Pick a DOT- Do One Thing - What’s your thing?” on-line videos; and the creation of high-impact environmental education art installations, to name a handful. Students also monitored local stream flows, temperatures, and water quality, building on a previous Targeted Watershed Grant from the EPA and a data set that goes back to 1992. NOAA’s mission of Service was supported as teachers and students shared their knowledge in their classrooms, with school districts, at community meetings, and through social media. NOAA assets used included the NW Marine Fisheries staff, Data in the Classroom, CoCoRaHS, NOAA-NASA Cloud Watcher Chart, NOAA’s Climate Literacy Principles, Beat the Uncertainty game, Game of Floods, Thermal Expansion label, the Marine Mammals of the US West Coast, and more. Other local contributing partners include the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Squaxin Tribe, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Nisqually Land Trust, Thurston Conservation District and Capital Region Educational Service District 113.