The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, is excited to award $2.35 million to 29 environmental education organizations that will partner with NOAA to provide enriching after school watershed-related STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) projects. These grants will support programming for a total of 91 local 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) sites and their students, many of whom live in high-poverty and underserved areas. The 29 selected projects are serving 17 states, ranging from Alaska to Florida. These Watershed STEM Education Partnership Grants allow environmental education organizations to collaborate directly with the 21st CCLC sites on the design and implementation of locally relevant, out-of-school-time programs that develop students’ environmental literacy and leadership skills as they improve their communities. The funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by NAAEE.
Lynchburg Water Resources was named as an awardee of this grant to establish a watershed STEM program at Heritage and Linkhorne Elementary Schools' 21st CCLC. “This grant award will allow our team to continue to grow our educational programming and strengthen our partnership with Lynchburg City Schools to continue to engage our community in positive environmental stewardship,” said Tim Mitchell, Director of Lynchburg Water Resources. The program will include professional development opportunities for 21st CCLC educators, the establishment of stream monitoring equipment on school grounds, and will engage students and their families in watershed education, and local student led service projects.
“We are excited about partnering with Lynchburg Water Resources to provide meaningful watershed education experiences for our students, professional development for teachers to incorporate environmental education into out-of-school programming, and opportunities for educational programs for families of participating students,” says Crystal Edwards, Lynchburg City Schools Superintendent.
Students will learn about STEM while also building leadership and advocacy skills by participating in exciting hands-on learning activities and connecting to nature. Due to current public health guidelines, implementation at some sites may not be immediately possible. In the meantime, Watershed STEM grantees are offering virtual professional development opportunities and planning with partners to ensure that their projects are tailored to evolving partner and community needs. As some school districts consider reopening, Watershed STEM grantees and partners are working with their communities to determine whether moving classrooms outdoors may present opportunities for safer educational experiences in the future.
Staff will also gain from the partnership, strengthening both environmental literacy and teaching skills. NOAA and 21st CCLC partners will deliver authentic STEM experiences that use components of the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) model along with other NOAA assets and expertise.
These grants are part of eeBLUE, NAAEE’s effort to build collaborative partnerships that support the mutual STEM education goals of NOAA and the U.S. Department of Education. “We greatly appreciate the hard work of NAAEE and all the grantees to create these amazing STEM opportunities for students across the country,” said Louisa Koch, Director of Education at NOAA.
“It is so exciting to launch this unique opportunity and work together with NOAA and the Department of Education to support educators and 21st CCLC sites. Combining our strengths is a force multiplier in both creating equitable STEM opportunities for students across the country, and strengthening EE programs. Together, we can help build a more equitable and sustainable future,” says T’Noya Thompson, Environmental Education Specialist at NAAEE and Program Manager for the grant. “These programs will enrich communities around the country, and ultimately cultivate a sense of stewardship within everyone involved.”