Bangor area students will be getting some hands-on learning and fieldwork in the future, studying the Penobscot River watershed, and investigating topics such as water quality, fish/wildlife passage, and native plant restoration, thanks to The River in My Backyard, a new grant from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAEE) being implemented in partnership with the Maine Discovery Museum and three Bangor elementary schools.
Maine Audubon is pleased to be one of 29 environmental education organizations across the nation to receive a Watershed STEM Education Grant. NAAEE, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, is awarding a total of $2.35 million to provide enriching after school watershed-related STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) projects.
According to Maine Audubon Director of Education Eric Topper, staff at Maine Audubon’s Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden will work with Bangor students in three afterschool enrichment sites, partnering with Maine Discovery Museum and Bangor Schools’ 21st Century Community Learning Center programs to support fieldwork, visits with experts, and opportunities for students to showcase their work over the next two years. “We’re thrilled to have this exciting opportunity to get kids in the field!” says Topper.
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. Students will learn about STEM while also building leadership and advocacy skills by participating in exciting hands-on learning activities and connecting to nature.
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.”
About Maine Audubon: Maine Audubon works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people in education, conservation, and action. Since 1843, Maine Audubon has been connecting people to nature through a science-based approach to conservation, education, and advocacy. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight wildlife sanctuaries, 10,000 members, 2,000 volunteers, and serves more than 50,000 people annually.
About Maine Discovery Museum: The mission of the Maine Discovery Museum is to educate children and families, encourage creativity, nurture a sense of wonder, and to challenge all to learn in new and innovative ways.
About NAAEE: For almost five decades, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has served as the professional association, champion, and backbone organization for the field of environmental education (EE), working with EE professionals across United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as globally, to advance environmental literacy and civic engagement.
About NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency that enriches life through science.
About eeBLUE: eeBLUE is a $5 million, five-year partnership agreement between NOAA and NAAEE to help create a more environmentally literate society that has the knowledge, skills, and motivation to conserve our natural resources and build more resilient communities across the country. It will also strengthen professional networks, support high-quality STEM education, and provide education and outreach for educators and other audiences.