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.
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
The goal of Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE) was to build the capacity of coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions. To accomplish this the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) worked with an advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the cities of Portland and South Portland, Greater Portland Council of Governments, New England Environmental Finance Center, and Axiom Technologies to develop public programming that provided participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This program, "Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise" is a community education event that built participant knowledge in sea level rise science, future projections, and local impacts. Through visual presentations and facilitated discussions, GMRI brought regional relevancy to global climate data using local history and case studies of past flooding events. Using technology and peer discussions, GMRI staff provided participants with access to interactive data sets and maps that visualized the impacts of sea level rise and weather events on community resources like roads, parks, hospitals, schools, and other valued assets—and how climate projections will increase these impacts over time. Over the course of this grant, GMRI staff facilitated over 60 community events in over 30 coastal communities in Maine, reaching over 2,000 individuals. While many of the participants had heard about sea level rise and storm surge prior to this program, few had internalized what this meant for their own communities. Post-event surveys indicated that participants discussed flooding issues with their families, friends, and neighbors, further examined local sea level rise maps, and engaged with community decision-makers about resiliency planning. GMRI believes that strong and informed representation of citizens is vital to addressing climate challenges and resiliency actions. We continue to leverage this work through various projects as we collaborate with coastal communities to provide them with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to develop community-focused resilience plans for sea level rise.
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
Coastal rural communities have deep cultural connections to and rely heavily upon the marine environment and economy. Due to their remoteness, isolation from central planning agencies, and lack of financial and municipal resources, they are highly vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea level rise. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) and key project partners, Upswell and the Island Institute, will develop, convene and facilitate regional trainings by which Maine’s rural coastal communities can increase their capacity to plan and prepare for coastal climate impacts by developing the knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to create data- and community-informed climate resilience plans. Cornerstone to the regional trainings is an engagement tool that builds common knowledge, incorporates diverse community value and voice, provides a framework for community planning and decision making, and builds relationships amongst participants. These trainings will also leverage and engage resilience professionals in Maine to share and represent their resources as communities apply those to their newly acquired skills and frameworks for community planning and decision making. Community leaders from the regional trainings will continue their learning through participation in a professional learning community. We will also leverage GMRI’s prior NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant, titled “Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE),” to deliver community education programming that builds the capacity of residents in coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions by providing participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This project will serve 20 rural coastal and island communities in Maine through four regional trainings. Each community will select a diverse and equitable representation of 10 stakeholders and community leaders to participate in the trainings. Community education events will be accessible to all residents of each community. These interventions will build community literacy and capacity for developing coastal resilience plans that benefit the social, environmental, and economic health of the community and align with Maine’s Climate Action Plan. An advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Sea Grant, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, the State of Maine’s Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Town of Vinalhaven, and the Town of St. George will guide the development and implementation of this project. Researchers at the University of Maine, Orono will evaluate the implementation of the project as well as assess the impact of this project on a communities’ ability to make community-informed climate plans. This project reflects NOAA’s Community Resilience Education Theory of Change, specifically supporting resilience planners and community members to develop trusting relationships focused on their collective environmental literacy through genuine conversations around resilience planning and decision making. With NOAA, we envision communities that have the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.
Increasing Sea-Level Rise Resilience in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Sea-level rise (SLR) will disproportionately affect the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM; coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and northwest Florida) due to a confluence of socioeconomic challenges (e.g., vulnerable industry, low per capita income, low level of educational attainment, etc.), higher than average rates of SLR, and low-lying topography. Resilience of nGOM social, economic, and cultural resources in the face of SLR requires an informed and engaged constituency and leadership that understands their risks, SLR adaptation options, and the civic processes required for action. Multiple formal and informal needs assessments have identified specific educational and informational gaps that act as barriers to SLR action in nGOM coastal communities. To address the SLR resilience barriers identified by nGOM stakeholders and decision-makers, the project team will implement a comprehensive and diverse education program that engages multiple sectors within coastal communities including youth, educators, municipal officials, concerned citizens, and non-participants (i.e., those who have not yet been engaged in dialogue around SLR resilience). The goal of the project is science and civics literate constituencies in the northern Gulf of Mexico that can actively support cultures, economies, and ecosystems that are resilient to SLR. This goal will be achieved by developing an inclusive SLR education program that spans ages, locations, and demographics. There are three categories of project activities targeting different community sectors: 1) educator workshops encouraging application of an existing SLR curriculum for high school students; 2) Community Connection Dialogues that connect community leaders working on SLR with engaged constituents to inform and empower future action; and 3) pop-in immersive SLR experiences at “every day” locations (e.g., baseball games, art walks) to reach those without the means/motivation to engage in SLR resilience. The SLR curriculum, Community Connection Dialogues, and Pop-Ins are three parts of a whole that work to bring community members at all levels of understanding and engagement into the conversation and direct them towards the next step in their pathway to SLR community resilience. This work is being led by Mississippi State University in partnership with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the University of South Alabama. Collaborators from across the region will include the Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the five Gulf National Estuarine Research Reserves, Audubon Nature Institute, 350 Pensacola, League of Women Voters of Mobile, EEECHO, Ocean Springs Environmental Committee, UF/IFAS, Perdido & Pensacola Bays Estuary Program, Better Growth Mobile, Cities of Ocean Springs, MS and Pensacola, FL, Counties of Jackson, MS and Santa Rosa, FL, and the GoM Climate and Resilience Community of Practice.
Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and otherwise marginalized communities that typically have the fewest resources to adapt. Furthermore, the very communities that feel the effects of climate change most acutely have been historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability and green building. The Building a Green Texas (BGT) project helps address these concerns by giving high school students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to tackle challenges posed by climate change. In the process, students gain valuable green career skills and credentials and become part of a green building school-to-job pipeline that will help contribute to a more diverse workforce. Texas-based nonprofit EcoRise, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute/National Estuarine Reserve System of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will lead this robust, three-year project beginning in Central Texas in Year 1 and expanding into Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities in Year 2. Through school-year field experiences and paid summer internships, students in the program will use established scientific evidence, citizen science, and an understanding of location-specific socioeconomic and ecological factors to explore current and future extreme weather phenomena and other environmental hazards facing their communities. They will gain real-world learning experiences and career exposure by directly engaging with scientists, civic leaders, green building professionals, and NOAA data and staff. As students help design community-based green building projects, they will consider scientific uncertainty, cultural knowledge, and social equity, in the real-world context of improving community resilience.
Building Heat Resilience in Southwestern Virginia through Education
Of all weather-related disasters, heat waves cause the most deaths every year in the United States and climate change is already increasing their frequency, duration, and intensity. In urban areas, heat exposure and risk are highly related to the built environment and the everyday lived experiences of urban residents.
Of all weather-related disasters, heat waves cause the most deaths every year in the United States and climate change is already increasing their frequency, duration, and intensity. In urban areas, heat exposure and risk are highly related to the built environment and the everyday lived experiences of urban residents. Building heat resilience -- the capacity for communities to adapt to and cope with higher temperatures and heat waves -- therefore necessitates a comprehensive and place-based approach that includes education about the factors affecting risk and vulnerability, consequences of heat on health and livability, as well as potential long-term and short-term actions that residents can take to reduce risk and vulnerability. In this project, we will promote environmental literacy and strengthen climate resilience in Southwest Virginia by building a cross-sector urban heat resilience environmental literacy network that includes: the public education system, students and families, community health professionals, and City government. The project is led by Carilion Clinic in partnership with Virginia Tech, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, and Roanoke City Government. Through these partnerships, we will build resilience pathways for dealing with long-term higher temperatures and emergency heatwaves using combined urban planning and public health approaches. We will extend and expand Virginia Tech's previous engagement with Roanoke youth (2-week summer STEM and Heat Resilience summer school program for middle school students) to involve the community more broadly to co-produce neighborhood-specific heat mitigation plans that address resident concerns in Roanoke and improve environmental literacy around the problem of urban heat as both an acute and chronic issue. We will work with teachers and administrators in the Roanoke City Public School system to institutionalize the STEM/urban planning-based curriculum we develop so that more children can benefit from it. Using youth education as an entry to engage the broader community, we will also host a family-based STEM-Urban Planning Family Summit, which will inform residents about urban planning processes and how changes to urban landscapes can make neighborhoods cooler, more comfortable, and more resilient to rising temperatures. We will also build capacity among health professionals and integrate them into community planning by: educating and enlisting the support of health professionals and Carilion's community outreach network to work with community groups and families; engaging three Carilion clinicians to participate in an eight-hour educational training to learn more about impacts of climate and health in the region and provide tools for educating other clinicians and community; and training Carilion's 37 Community Health Educators and Community Health Workers and developing community education/outreach materials on climate change impacts on health with a focus on heat illness. The urban planning and public health components to increasing heat resilience will come together in a culminating Heat Resilience Fair, at which participants in our program (students, families, residents, clinicians, health workers, and City government officials) will present ideas and solicit feedback from the broader community. The solicited ideas will be incorporated into the City's planning processes, enabling formalization of long-term goals for public health and the built environment with respect to rising temperatures.
Climate Resilience and Community-driven Action With a Hyperlocalized Public Forum
The Science Museum of Virginia will build upon its community science experience and its role as a trusted source of climate science information to lead “Climate Resilience and Community-driven Action with a Hyperlocalized Public Forum in Richmond, VA” in partnership with Virginia Community Voice, Groundwork RVA, Happily Natural Day, and Southside ReLeaf - local nonprofits with proven track records of effecting change through community engagement and urban greening initiatives. This project supports Richmond’s work to heal social, racial, and environmental injustices by increasing community resilience to climate change through placemaking. Richmond served as both the Capital of the Confederacy and the United States’ second largest trading port for enslaved persons during the 19th century. In the 1930s and 1940s, redlining - the systematic denial of access to home loans, mortgage insurance, or credit based on an applicant’s race or ethnicity - effectively segregated people of color into less desirable urban neighborhoods. Research conducted both in Richmond and nationwide demonstrates that, today, formerly redlined neighborhoods tend to be significantly hotter, more prone to flooding, and experience poorer air quality than non-redlined areas. These neighborhoods also tend to be home to individuals - mostly Black and brown - with the fewest resources to adapt to the health and financial impacts of human-caused climate change, which continues to intensify each year. Richmond’s mayor and Office of Sustainability support this project, which will align community vision with existing planning efforts that seek to build a Richmond that is “a sustainable and resilient city with healthy air, clean water, and a flourishing ecosystem that nurtures healthy communities, increases resiliency to the effects of a changing climate through adaptation and mitigation, develops the built environment to enhance natural assets, and ensures all people have access to nature and healthy communities.” Because resiliency is a process, youth and adults participating in this project will explore hazards (specifically flooding and extreme heat); assess their vulnerability and risks (determine how climate change is currently harming, or will most likely harm, neighborhoods); investigate options (by determining which resilience-building strategies are most effective for each community and vision); prioritize and plan local resilience-building strategies (ensuring that residents’ vision can be realized); and take action by implementing and sustaining projects in the community with project partners. Strategies may include placemaking through planting trees, building permeable pathways, constructing shade structures, and creating community gardens to provide shade, fresh food, and neighborhood gathering spaces, as well as rainwater harvesting and bioretention rain gardens to mitigate stormwater issues. This project is unique because it will actively support nonprofits that engage historically underserved people whose voice is commonly left out of City planning efforts, increase their environmental literacy, and provide resources needed to enact their vision. RK&A will evaluate the project, which will build upon evaluation data from the Science Museum’s previous NOAA ELP-funded project - “Learn, Prepare, Act - Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities” - and a NOAA-funded project by the Museum of Science Boston - “Citizen Science, Civics, and Resilient Communities: Increasing Resilience Through Citizen-Created Data, Local Knowledge and Community Values.”