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.
HEARTForce: Resilient Colorado
Communities in Colorado are increasingly experiencing major disruptions from environmental hazards, such as fire, flood, and drought. Low-income housing neighborhoods and vulnerable community members in under-resourced rural areas are often disproportionately impacted by these hazards. With the rise in hazardous events across the state under a changing climate, there is a pressing need for communities to become more resilient through better preparation and planning.
Communities in Colorado are increasingly experiencing major disruptions from environmental hazards, such as fire, flood, and drought. Low-income housing neighborhoods and vulnerable community members in under-resourced rural areas are often disproportionately impacted by these hazards. With the rise in hazardous events across the state under a changing climate, there is a pressing need for communities to become more resilient through better preparation and planning. The Hazard Education, Awareness and Resilience Task Force (HEART Force) program, facilitated by the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) Education & Outreach group at CU Boulder, empowers rural secondary students and teachers to act as the change agents to build community resilience against natural hazards. With continued funding, we will continue to support teachers statewide to implement HEART Force curriculum, a place-based curriculum that uses authentic data sources, scenario-based role-play games and the Earth Force process to inspire civic action. We will also be supporting four classrooms across Colorado to go deeper with the curriculum through a quarter or semester-long elective course, by selecting a vulnerable neighborhood to partner with and planning action steps together with more support from CIRES staff, community partners, and local emergency managers.
CoCoRaHS: The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) involves thousands of people of all ages in the observation and study of weather, climate and water resources. In CoCoRaHS, citizens of all ages help measure and report rain, hail and snow from their own homes, schools and businesses. These data are then efficiently collected via the internet, archived in a national database, and made immediately available to participants, scientists and the general public showing the fascinating patterns of precipitation from each passing storm (see http://www.cocorahs.org). The measurement of precipitation and the patterns, variations and impacts that result, open the door to creative study of our environment. It is the "lowest common denominator" of hydroclimatic exploration. In this project, data from the CoCoRaHS citizen science network will be shared with and utilized by NOAA partners to help monitor drought, to help detect local severe storms, to alert local authorities to developing flash flood situations, to provide "ground truth" for NOAA and NASA remote sensing technologies, and to provide verification for both local and national weather and climate forecast products.
Bringing Knowledge of Planet Earth to a Wider Audience and Bringing a Diverse New Group to Careers in Science Teaching
Science On a Sphere (SOS) at Fiske Planetarium will raise awareness and understanding of Earth system science for over 30,000 visitors per year, using student docents and newly-developed, tested pedagogy. SOS will enhance Fiske’s ability to engage 3,000 university students and 30,000 K-12 students and members of the public. A student docent program will transform the traditionally passive experience of a planetarium visit into an interactive learning opportunity. The docents will be drawn from two sources: undergraduates who will be future science teachers, who we take from a selective CU program called "STEM-TP", and Hispanic university and high school students taught by Fiske's planetarium manager Francisco Salas. Docents will talk with visitors and help them understand key science issues that affect the earth, leading to more informed decision-making. Fiske will develop bilingual pedagogical material and new data sets, and share them with NOAA and SOS sites. To support the docents, and visiting students and teachers, Fiske Education Manager Traub-Metlay will lead development of explanatory materials that challenge visitors and provide context for what they are seeing. These will be translated into Spanish by Fiske Manager Salas. New data sets, contributed by faculty members, will expand the range of SOS, into space, adding solar interior models, the celestial sphere, and the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang, along with new terrestrial data such as the worldwide distribution of forest fires. SOS will become a focal point in Fiske's longstanding tradition of teacher workshops, which are often done in cooperation with the University of Colorado and NOAA scientists and highlight NOAA’s role monitoring the earth and sun. It also will be integrated with a small suite of hands-on exhibits we are installing that explains how observations can be made in infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays in addition to visible light. These would complement SOS, which features multi-wavelength data. Fiske and its Boulder Colorado-area partners have raised $75,000 to cover the full cost of SOS hardware, and have formal institutional commitments to long-term program development. This award from NOAA will go into materials development, evaluation, and student pay. Colorado communities are aware of NOAA’s important work and the nearby David Skaggs Center, but security measures make it difficult to visit there. Fiske is much more accessible. Fiske will improve the usefulness of all SOS sites by conducting formative evaluation to assess what kinds of SOS presentations work best with public and school audiences, giving feedback to NOAA and all SOS users.
Science on a Sphere - Upgrade 2009
This project works to: (1) Continue to develop software that allows a docent to easily control Science on a Sphere from a small touchpad computer while interacting with visitors. (2) Continue to develop software that allows easy "drag and drop" construction of playlists. (3) Put kiosk control of the sphere, already developed as a student project, into a real kiosk. (4) Assess the use of wireless response devices or "clickers" to enhance audience interaction, learning, and enjoyment, and gather information from visitor responses and share all these improvements with the network. (5) Improve the resolution of the 4 projectors of our SOS installation, in anticipation of new data on the moon and Mars coming to our university, which has been selected to lead NASA moon and Mars missions, and add flat screen TVs for the presentation of auxiliary data.
Worldviews Network: Ecological Literacy Programming for Digital Planetariums and Beyond
The Worldviews Network - a collaboration of institutions that have pioneered Earth systems research, education and evaluation methods - is creating innovative approaches for engaging the American public in dialogues about human-induced global changes. Leveraging the power of immersive scientific visualization environments at informal science centers across the US, we are developing transformative educational processes that integrate the benefits of visual thinking, systems thinking, and design thinking. This "seeing, knowing, doing" approach empowers educators with tools and techniques that help audiences to visualize, comprehend, and address complex issues from a whole-systems perspective. The Worldviews Network will make explicit the interconnections of Earth’s life support systems across time and space as well as inspire community participation in design processes by providing real-world examples of successful projects that are increasing the healthy functioning of regional and global ecosystems
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a citizen science program where thousands of volunteers across the country measure and report the amount of precipitation that falls each day in their own neighborhood. In the next three years CoCoRaHS will use strategies from the “Citizen Science Toolkit” and align activities to the “Essential Principles to Climate Science” to engage thousands more participants in collecting, reporting and exploring precipitation. Evapotranspiration measurements will be added to teach and demonstrate the hydrologic cycle in action. Through strong NOAA partnerships with the National Weather Service, the National Climatic Data Center, the Earth Systems Research Lab and the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, precipitation data quality and accessibility for professional users will be enhanced. The CoCoRaHS network will be constructing training, data entry and visualization tools utilizing Web 2.0 concepts, cyberlearning tools and hand-held device applications with a goal of increasing participation and expanding the volunteer network into broader, younger, more diverse audiences.
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.