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.
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.
Summer Science in New England: Ocean Education through Informal Science Centers
The Summer Science in New England project has established a regional network of summer camp programs grounded in ocean science. In year one, six institutions - New England Aquarium, Northeastern University's Marine Science Center, University of Rhode Island's Alton Jones Camp, the University of Connecticut's Project Oceanology, the Seacoast Science Center in NH, and the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Maine - work alongside research scientists to engage campers, ages 14 and up, in near-shore biodiversity monitoring. In years two and three, the number of partners increases to 10, then 12. The project provides a citizen science experience across a wide geographical area, supports and trains informal science center staff to incorporate citizen science while using environmental literacy principles with teens, and offers opportunities for all participants to share findings with peers at annual forums.
A National Coalition of Aquariums Educating About Climate Change
This collaboration led by three major national aquariums - Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBAq), National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB), and New England Aquarium (NEAq) - is developing 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. The project increases 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 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.
Community Partnership for Resilience
The New England Aquarium worked with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to establish Community Partnerships for Resilience (CPR) starting in 2017. CPR created partnerships in three Boston-area communities that face severe risk from a changing climate – Chelsea, Hull, and Lynn, MA. Project leads worked with local professionals with diverse and relevant expertise in climate science, engineering, community planning and community action, as well as representatives from local schools or school-based educational programs serving youth in Grades 4 through 8. Partners determined the most critical, climate-related hazards for their area that would benefit from public involvement and understanding. With a focus on extreme heat, inland flooding and storm surge, project leads, and educators developed a curriculum framework. The framework was used as a guide for the creation of a unit that had students explore the identified hazards and create a Public Education Project (PEP) to communicate with community stakeholders to drive both understanding and action. Through a series of collaborative working Summer Institutes, project partners led teachers on an exploration of the framework materials, relevant science content, and a crash course on Project Based Learning techniques. Implementation of the unit in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years led to further refinement of the curriculum framework, insight on the need for further teacher supports, and improved relationships and connections with municipal and community contacts. The resulting curriculum framework was finalized alongside partner teachers in the spring and summer of 2020 and can be adapted to different climate resilience topics and PEPs, as driven by student interest. Students themselves represent a key constituency – they will be most directly impacted by future changes, and they will need civic capacity to foster positive change. Teacher resources also include a rubric to evaluate PEP plans to meet project objectives, resources on trauma-informed teachers from colleagues at Riverside Trauma Center (Needham, MA), instructional and motivation videos from educator partners on key unit phases, and a beta version of a mapping portal developed with partners at Metropolitan Area Planning Council using layered data across a variety of sources. As a result of this project, participating educators showed an increase in knowledge and awareness about climate change on a broad level, as well as local impacts in their specific Massachusetts region. CPR participation also made educators more comfortable collaborating with other educators and inviting outside expert voices for lessons. By working collaboratively, participating teachers felt they were able to better support their students to impact their communities in a positive way. CPR provided the opportunity to have students work together to communicate with the public using PEPs, allowing students and community members to collaborate in “a common effort to increase climate resilience.” As a result of this, CPR was able to expand the group of change agents who could tackle critical environmental challenges and strengthen their communities.