Inland Seas Education Association Partners with NOAA and NAAEE to Offer Watershed STEM Education Grants

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. Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay received one of these grants and is partnering with SEEDS to provide programming. Funding for the grant is provided by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by NAAEE.

Students will learn about STEM while also building leadership and advocacy skills by participating in exciting hands-on learning activities and connecting to nature. 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.

Due to current public health guidelines, Watershed STEM grantees are planning with partners to ensure that their projects are tailored to evolving partner and community needs. “We will be hosting a professional development day for the SEEDS staff this fall,” shared Juliana Lisuk, Volunteer Coordinator for Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA). SEEDS, a regional 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program, incorporates seven separate 21st CCLC school sites with an estimated 160 K-12 students. Lisuk continued, “It is our hope to have in-person programmatic activities at the schools with safety measures in place in spring 2021.” The majority of the STEM activities offered by ISEA through this grant take place outdoors.

“All the SEEDS Ecology and Education Centers are absolutely thrilled to partner with NAAEE, NOAA, Inland Seas, and NMC on this environmental learning journey that will provide unique and impactful STEM experiences for our students,” said Sarna Salzman, SEEDS Executive Director. “This project provides hands-on activities and outdoor experiences that will enhance each student’s understanding of science, ecological stewardship, career opportunities, and love of the Great Lakes. We can’t think of better partners for this saltless-sea adventure!”

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.”