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.
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.
Recharge the Rain: Community Resilience through STEM Education
Arizonans face environmental hazards from extreme heat, drought, and flooding. Watershed Management Group and partner Arizona Project WET’s “Recharge the Rain” project addressed these threats by building environmental literacy among 4-12th grade teachers, students, and the public. The project centered on educator professional training and hands-on water harvesting skills. Participants moved through a continuum from awareness to knowledge gain, to conceptual understanding, and ultimately to action. Utilizing data and experts from NOAA assets, we strengthened the capacity of residents to be resilient to our local climate threats. This 4.5 year project 1) developed and immersed 14,452 students in STEAM curriculum incorporating water harvesting that increases understanding of earth systems, engineering design, and weather; 2) applied systems thinking to train 52 teachers and 191 community volunteers in water harvesting practices and citizen-science data collection; 3) involved 8,289 Tucson community members in water harvesting principles; 4) implemented 21 teacher/student-led water harvesting projects at schools; and 5) celebrated our community work with student artwork. RtR became a call for action and an inspiration for change and adaptation to extreme weather conditions in the urban environments of the Sonoran Desert putting Tucson at the core of understanding climate, adaptation, and community.
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.
Teen Advocates for Community and Environmental Sustainability (Teen ACES)
The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) developed museum-based education resources to engage high school-age youth in the exploration of climate literacy and Earth systems science through its Teen ACES (Teen Advocates for Community and Environmental Sustainability) project. As the future leaders who will make decisions about the issues they face in their communities, youth participants were positioned to act as advocates for establishing resilient communities in the Midwest. The project utilized a variety of resources, including NOAA Science On a Sphere® (SOS) technology and datasets, Great Lakes and local climate assets from the Midwest Regional Climate Center and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and existing local planning guides to develop museum-based youth programming. Teens explored environmental hazards including severe weather events and temperature extremes and considered the impact of the Great Lakes on regional climate. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Resilient Chicago, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, and the South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium advised on the project to support the integration of municipal resiliency plans and their related adaptation and mitigation measures into the program. After completing a 30-hour course with MSI, teen participants had the opportunity to facilitate SOS® experiences for museum guests. Teens also shared their learning with the Chicago community through programs at Chicago Public Library branches and Chicago Park District sites. The project revised content for use in 102 after-school science clubs for students from diverse communities across the Chicago area. Educational resources and experiences created through this grant reached nearly 150,000 students, educators and guests over four years.
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.
U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Strong Program
Under leadership from the University of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and local, non-profit, long-term, 2017 storm recovery groups, this 5-year project will create the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Storm Strong Program. To date, minimal efforts have been made to engage the USVI community in hurricane education and preparation. As a result, USVI communities face significant, but often preventable, storm risks. This is the Territory’s first sustained, community-based, hurricane hazard preparedness, and community leadership building program. The USVI Storm Strong Program will engage underserved and underrepresented middle- and high-school youth and their families on all of the Territory’s main islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix - in a program modelled after the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit framework. Youth and their families will: (1) explore the science and hazards associated with hurricanes, (2) assess their communities’ vulnerabilities and associated risks, (3) evaluate personal and community assets and options to increase resilience, (4) prioritize and plan for events occurring before, during, and after a storm, and (5) take action, in this case, through Community Transfer Projects, which will turn the information gained through the Program into local actions to increase individual and community resilience, sharing knowledge and actions with the broader USVI community and beyond. Through this training, ~400 USVI youth and their families will be empowered as environmental leaders and change agents within their communities and important insights will be learned as to how best to engage underrepresented and underserved groups in hazard preparedness. Creation of the USVI Storm Strong Program is timely, given the significant impacts resulting from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that devastated the USVI in September 2017. These storms provide a window of opportunity to bring together partners from federal, territorial, non-governmental, academic, and the private sector, to develop a strategic, cohesive, long-term, high-impact, community-based program to improve environmental literacy and extreme weather hazard preparedness in the Territory, goals that align with the mission of NOAA’s Office of Education.