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.
Building Ocean Awareness Together (BOAT)
A consortium of Alaska SeaLife Center, Florida Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium with their partner National Association for Interpretation will increase the effectiveness of informal science educators (ISE) to promote public understanding of three complex topics that impact the ocean (oil spills, ocean acidification, and energy literacy) and encourage stewardship of ocean and coastal resources. This project will have a direct impact on 252 interpreters in and around Alaska, California, and Florida through 12 weeklong trainings. Groups of interpreters will develop, assemble and produce online training toolkits, all of which will be widely disseminated to the ISE community. Each toolkit will utilize NOAA multimedia content, data visualization products, expertise and other relevant resources. Project participants – who interact with a diverse mix of local, regional, national and international visitors (including underserved local populations) – will provide enhanced training content for their colleagues through professional trainings, presentations, and online networks.
Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards (ELACS)
The Environmental Literacy for Alaska Climate Stewards (ELACS) project served 84 K-12 educators and 1,080 Alaskan students in predominantly Alaska Native coastal villages. The project provided opportunities to build understandings of how climate change impacts local environments, increase overall climate literacy, and contribute to community resilience. Participants were primarily from the Chugach School District and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, both located in the southcentral region of Alaska. Students and teachers in the Aleutian Region School District, Nome City Schools, and the North Slope Borough School District (southwestern, northwestern, and northern Alaska, respectively) participated to a lesser extent in novel learning experiences made available through collaborative partnerships that emerged during the grant period. The project focused on three areas: teacher professional development, classroom instruction, and community engagement. Professional development included training in project-based learning and co-teaching/coaching sessions with master teachers. Classroom instruction engaged students in meaningful, innovative, place-based, project-based learning, and citizen-science activities focused on site and community needs. Students monitored their local environments, built or otherwise used ocean observation systems, collected data, and represented their new knowledge through presentations and art. Significant outcomes included student work on the relationship between phytoplankton and salmon conservation in Chenega Bay, a Living History Project that engaged community members and elders with traditional ecological knowledge in Tatitlek, and engagement in weather and environmental monitoring plans for the community of Whittier (potentially threatened by tsunamis generated by unstable slopes in a nearby fjord). Students shared active research regarding impacts and available resources. ELACS aligned with and supported NOAA’s educational mission by helping the target populations understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. This project promoted students’ environmental stewardship and a deeper understanding of a changing environment at both local and global levels. Throughout the four-year project, students and teachers worked with scientists and experts in education, climate change, and marine science using project-based learning approaches and educational technology. A notable (but not exhaustive) list of partners included researchers from NOAA’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the International Arctic Research Center (both at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), the Polar Science Center (University of Washington), Ground Truth Trekking, and the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies. Educational consultants included STEMisEd, Teknikio, NexMap, Build-A-Buoy, and EcoArt Expeditions. Corporate and non-profit partners included WeatherFlow, Inc., Batelle, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council, and Alaska Science Teachers Association.
Southcentral Alaska Collaborative for Resilience through Education and Decision-making (SACRED)
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will partner with tribal organizations in southcentral Alaska to foster and support community-driven educational and monitoring programs that will safeguard healthy marine resources and abundant freshwater resources against rapid, ongoing climatic changes affecting Alaska Native communities. The goal is to increase environmental literacy and resiliency within southcentral Alaska’s most vulnerable communities through workshops that enhance community-based monitoring programs and engage tribal Environmental Coordinators, local educators, and high school students in culturally responsive hazards education. Through the Southcentral Alaska Collaborative for Resilience through Education and Decision-making (SACRED) project, communities will establish sustainable long-term environmental monitoring programs and educational opportunities that involve youth in reducing risks from marine toxins and ensuring continued access to traditional foods and safe drinking water.
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.
Families by the Seaside: Building Community-based Outdoor Ocean Science Learning Experiences
This 2-year program will advance the way informal ocean science education institutions reach underserved/underrepresented families by facilitating and formalizing relationships between informal science education centers and community based organizations. Project teams in five New England communities will collaborate to create a practicable, outdoor ocean-science learning experience specifically designed for families in their shared service area. Building on a needs assessment produced through target-audience focus groups, the program will combine coastal field experiences with web-based interactive and participatory learning activities developed and tested by the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL; www.eol.org/) and the Northeast Regional Association for Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) to support in-field and ongoing learning. Science content will be informed and vetted by NOAA research scientists and work between the science centers and community organizations will be professionally facilitated. Formats and effectiveness will be evaluated by external evaluators and revised throughout the project.