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.
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 will increase climate literacy among high school students and teachers in New York City, the Catskills and the Adirondacks and give students the leadership skills to help their communities respond to the impacts of climate change. Working with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, and the Alliance for Climate Education, along with NOAA, the New York State Office of Climate Change and NYSERDA, the project comes at a time when the impacts of climate change loom larger than ever. But today’s youth – the generation most likely to mitigate its impacts – have had little exposure to the issue: Just 25 percent of American teens demonstrate a basic understanding of it. Project partners will incorporate state, regional and local planning in their efforts, which will establish Youth Climate Summits and Youth Climate Leadership Practicums in the three project regions; build on educators’ interests through a Teacher Climate Institute; and communicate climate change science and resilience through community outreach activities. By the conclusion of the project, we expect to work directly with more than 600 students and 200 teachers, each of whom will gain 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. In addition, the project will also create replicable tools, video documentation for local outreach, and training approaches for youth leadership and teachers regardless of their location.
Resilience from the Youth Up
As climate impacts ratchet up across the United States, the Great Lakes region tends to fly under the national radar. While the Great Lakes do not experience hurricanes, rising sea levels, or large-scale wildfires, the local climate has become increasingly erratic in recent years. The region, however, is one of the most unprepared in the country to cope with these impacts. A recent Grosvenor report (2014) on climate resilience among 50 global cities ranked Detroit last among 11 U.S. cities for adaptability and only better than three cities for overall resilience, which incorporates both climate vulnerability and adaptability factors. Of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, Detroit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (80.7%, U.S. Census 2016). Still recovering from bankruptcy, the city also has a 39% poverty rate, which impacts over 56% of children (ibid). These socio-economic factors, coupled with other environmental justice concerns, such as a centrally located incinerator and an asthma rate of 15.5% among adults resulting in over 3,000 hospitalizations annually, make Detroit residents particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. This project will address the urgent need to increase resilience by working with high school students and teachers in Detroit and southeast Michigan to increase their awareness of climate change and develop projects that help their schools and neighborhoods become resilient to increased occurrence and intensity of heat waves, storm events, and flooding. Using NOAA assets, including GLISA localized climate data and Sea Grant outreach and education expertise, high school students and teachers will partner with climate scientists to explore local climate impacts firsthand and to develop resilience strategies and projects that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods and contribute to broader sustainability initiatives. The City of Detroit seeks this involvement as it ramps up a new Office of Sustainability and seeks proposals to develop the city's first Sustainability Framework. The effort is a partnership with EcoWorks, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), Eastern Michigan University, Civic Research Services, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In each of the next three years, 200 students from various high schools in the Detroit and Ypsilanti areas will participate in weekly activities related to the grant. The four primary objectives of the program include: 1) Engage students in assessing and quantifying climate vulnerabilities of their schools, neighborhoods, and surrounding community. 2) Using a place-based education (PBE) model, prepare educators to engage students in creating plans and completing projects that increase community resilience. 3) Empower high school students to teach residents about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies to mitigate extreme weather events or other environmental hazards. 4) Contribute to the completion and implementation of local sustainability and climate action plans in Southeast Michigan.
Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community
Understanding climate change and its exacerbating effects on local environmental phenomena (e.g., increase in frequency and/or intensity of drought, ocean acidification, water shortages, degraded fisheries) and how to create resiliency is critical for underserved communities as they are disproportionately impacted by these hazards and yet, have the least capacity to actively respond. To address this issue, Ocean Discovery Institute and its partners will build understanding of climate change and impacts on local hazards, human-nature interactions, and individual and community capacity for resilience through place-based education in the underserved community of City Heights, San Diego, CA. This project, titled “Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community,” will involve a wide range of partners, including California Sea Grant, the California Nevada Climate Applications Program, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego Canyonlands, RECON Environmental, Inc., and the San Diego Unified Port District. Project activities encompass the design, piloting, and implementation of multi-grade level, integrated curricula that incorporate hands-on student climate science research, innovative solution building, and teacher professional development. This project will serve 1,500 middle school students annually and is expected to increase students’ understanding of scientific concepts and processes and human-nature interactions, improve their ability to make science-informed decisions, and contribute to local resilience efforts.
HEARTForce: Hazard Education, Awareness & Resilience Taskforce
Communities in Colorado are increasingly experiencing major disruptions from environmental hazards, such as fire, flood, drought and extreme heat. With this rise in hazardous events, there is a pressing need for communities increase their resilience. An interdisciplinary team from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) Education & Outreach Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder is developing and implementing an innovative, action-oriented youth engagement project targeting rural Colorado students, teachers and communities. Our engagement model empowers youth i) to envision community resilience through immersive scenario-based role play based on a solid understanding of the relevant science, ii) to learn about natural hazards through engaging Colorado-focused lessons, iii) to initiate conversations about hazard preparedness from within communities, and iv) to develop and implement student-led resilience action projects. The project team is developing instructional materials for middle and high school students: four lesson plans focused on different hazards (fire, flood, drought, extreme heat), four complementary scenario-based role-play games with a focus on youth empowerment and a teacher workshop based on these materials. Each school implementation follows a sequence in which the lesson plan activities are conducted, followed by a scenario-based role play game and reflection. Building on their experience with the game, students develop resilience strategies for their community and present those at a community Resilience Expo. The project has the following three objectives: 1) Increase Colorado secondary teachers’ knowledge and confidence to teach about local natural hazards, and to facilitate discussions about community resilience; 2) Increase Colorado youth’s understanding of natural hazards, their community’s vulnerability, and their involvement in resilience planning efforts, and 3) Enhance the capacity and empowerment of young people in Colorado to engage in dialogue with their peers, families, and community stakeholders about community resilience issues and identify, develop, and implement resilience actions. A needs assessment disseminated to Colorado teachers guides the project team in the development of all instructional materials and allows for customizing the content to teacher needs. The project evaluation explores the efficacy of the program model and studies the impact of the project activities on students and teachers. Specifically, the evaluation studies students’ confidence and ability to engage in dialogue around community resilience, level to which students increase their understanding of natural hazards and resilience planning, and the ways in which teachers increase their content knowledge and confidence in teaching about natural hazards. The project fills a critical gap in Colorado’s resilience planning which does not include teachers and youth. The project is guided by partners from the NOAA RISA program Western Water Assessment, seven NOAA science advisors, Science on the Sphere collaborators, and is being implemented together with over 20 community partners, school partners and collaborators from across Colorado. Over the course of the three-year program, the project activities will train and support 140 teachers, engage 400+ students and result in 11 Resilience Expo events across Colorado, from primarily rural communities. The instructional units and the games will be used in classrooms with 600+ students.
Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State
Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State is a three-year project led by The Wild Center in partnership with the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College and the Alliance for Climate Education, which builds on the achievements of Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience, a project previously funded by NOAA. Today’s youth are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change in their communities and increasingly demand positive action and a role in decision-making. The proposed collaboration will support the development of leadership skills for rural youth by creating programming that demonstrates best practices for students and teachers to engage and partner with local municipalities on climate resilience planning. The project will also increase awareness of the NY State Climate Smart Community (CSC) program, a national model. Over the next 3 years the project will: 1) Develop pathways for young people--specifically in rural areas--to effectively partner with decision-makers in their home communities through partnering with the NY State Climate Smart Community (CSC) program; 2) Increase climate literacy, education and action among high school students through place-based Youth Climate Summits and intensive Youth Climate Leadership Retreats; 3) Increase teacher comprehension and confidence to prioritize climate change education instruction and mentor students; and 4) Formalize the NY State Youth Climate Summit network by establishing a community of practice centered on sharing best practices and actions that align with NY State climate change adaptation and resilience planning. This project aligns with NY State’s climate resiliency planning by building on successful and current partnerships with the NY State Office of Climate Change, NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and NOAA’s Climate Program Office to connect project participants with cutting edge science, hazard assessments, and established community climate resilience programs. The project will serve 700-800 high school students, 60-80 high school teachers, and 60 youth leaders in New York State. The project is also designed to reach a much wider audience, including 30 rural decision-makers and community members, as well as 50-60 formal/informal educators. Project documentation includes a Guide to the NY State Climate Smart Community Program for Students and Educators, and a Youth and Local Government for Climate Resilience Workshop Module, which will benefit other Youth Climate Summits and be disseminated through the online toolkit and through the national network of youth climate summits. Additionally, the project will support a community of practice for informal and formal educators across NY State who are working on new and existing Youth Climate Summits to provide the opportunity to align with the CSC program, collaborate on best practices, and co-create strategies for engagement.