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.
A National Coalition of Aquariums Educating About Climate Change
This collaboration led by three major national aquariums - National Aquarium in Baltimore, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and New England Aquarium - will develop 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. Over three years, the aquariums will increase 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 will 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.
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.
Using Marine Mammals to Communicate Solutions to Ocean Issues: Improving Climate and Ocean Literacy
The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, along with the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, has created a comprehensive, innovative, and engaging approach to inspire ocean stewardship among young people. Through professional development, integration of advanced technology, and targeted presentations to underserved audiences, this project serves to build connections between marine mammals, ocean health, climate change, and people. The project offers an innovative and engaging professional development opportunity, the Marine Mammal Institute (MMI), for 32 grassroots educators in North Carolina, with priority given to representatives from economically depressed areas. Participating educators gather information and gain experience to develop interactive marine mammal activities related to climate and ocean literacy. Upon returning to their home institutions, participants engage teenagers in climate and ocean literacy programming using innovative technology to illustrate climate change impacts on marine mammals.