Pennsylvania grants aim to educate on improving the environment


HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection awarded over $1 million in Environmental Education Grants to 73 projects that will engage youth and adults in improving water quality and climate change resiliency in their communities. Fifty-five projects will serve environmental justice communities.

Schools and colleges, environmental and community organizations, and county conservation districts received funding for a broad range of educational hands-on programs for students, training and community projects for adults, and teacher training workshops.

The program prioritizes projects that engage youth or adults who live, work, or attend school in environmental justice areas. Funding focuses primarily on educating participants to develop and carry out practical solutions that help communities become more climate change resilient or reduce pollution to improve local water quality.

The newly funded projects range from a farm-to-school food program in Erie to a Philadelphia faith organization’s program to train residents in cool roof coating application and solar panel installation and many more.

​Multiple counties in Western Pennsylvania will receive the following:

Pennsylvania Resources Council: $19,525 to conduct eight backyard composting workshops designed to reach 250 households in Allegheny and Delaware counties. Participants will learn about waste minimization in the home and make connections between waste and broader issues such as climate change, water pollution, soil health and gardening. Participants will receive a compost bin and instructions.

Watersmith Guild: $25,815 to provide educational workshops that empower underserved youth in Cambria and Indiana counties with skills and knowledge to improve their lives and create lasting positive impacts on the environment. Students will work with professional instructors and mentors to become proficient river surfers, paddlers, and waterway stewards, through activities including tree planting, water sampling, stream biology, and whitewater paddle boarding. Through hands-on education in filmmaking and digital media, students will create videos about their experiences to inspire in others an appreciation for watersheds and the power of outdoor connections to enhance our personal lives and communities.

Allegheny County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Allegheny County Conservation District: $4,999 to host field workshops for municipal managers to elevate their knowledge of watersheds, watershed planning, and best management practices to remedy non-point source pollution and impacts of climate change, such as localized flooding.

Chalfant Run/Thompson Run Watershed Association: $4,494 to hold four classroom workshops and four outdoor sessions for third through sixth grade students. Content will address causes of local water pollution, including litter, stormwater, and abandoned mine drainage, and explore solutions for improving water quality, such as stream restoration projects.

Communitopia: Two grants: $29,995 for an institute that will prepare grade 7-12 teachers to engage students in local hands-on climate change learning and solutions and will provide student field trips, including interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning stations on local climate change causes, effects, and solutions; $5,000 for workshops to train K-12 teachers on creative expression as an effective teaching strategy for exploring climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice. Participants will learn how to initiate small-scale (home or classroom) or large-scale (school, district, or community) climate solutions using creative expression.

Michael Brothers Hauling, Inc.: $4,540 to hold seven workshops led by industry experts and environmental justice community members on urban ecology issues. Workshop topics will include urban water infrastructure, compost, green building, vermiculture, permaculture, recycling, and solar energy.

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light: $29,965 to engage 40 to 50 students through hands-on workshops and urban farming experiences. Students will increase their understanding of watershed protection and energy, water, and waste conservation and will be encouraged to take actions with their family and friends to reduce the effects of climate change and improve community and individual health.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: $25,533 to implement state standards, climate change education, and meaningful action projects in the parks with students at five high schools in Pittsburgh in the fall, winter, and spring. Topics will highlight habitat improvement, tree planting, and stormwater mitigation strategies.

Venture Outdoors: $20,000 to provide 20 environmental education activities and field trips to 120 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. The lessons will engage students in watershed, climate change, and environmental education through activities such as hiking, kayaking, biking, gardening, and environmental STEM.

Beaver County will receive grant money for the following project:

RiverWise: $18,900 to conduct a countywide summer sustainability institute for high school students from six environmental justice areas in Beaver County. Teaching, field trips, group discussions, and activities will be captured through photos and video that will be shared via social media and web-based platforms to extend the reach of the project.

Fayette County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Connellsville Area School District: $4,370 to hold bimonthly afterschool club meetings for fourth and fifth grade students on local watersheds and waterways. Hands-on activities will include STEM focused lessons and visits to local sites to learn about the importance of waterways to the community and region.

Mountain Watershed Association: $29,999 to expand outdoor education in the greater Connellsville area by offering a monthly afterschool program for third to fifth grades, a monthly community workshop, and two professional development trainings for formal and non-formal educators. Topics will include watershed conservation, basic ecology, climate change, and local environmental impacts.

Somerset County will receive grant money for the following projects:

YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh: $4,895 to provide teacher training and middle school student instruction about watersheds. Participants will travel to an outdoor location to plan and execute a service project. Students will present their experience to an elected official and the community.

California Area School District: $30,000 to create an outdoor science school curriculum for sixth grade that aligns with the new Pennsylvania state science standards. The curriculum will be taught entirely outdoors, providing students 100 percent hands-on experiences. Students will incorporate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) environmentally sustainable practices into their local environmental civic action projects.

Westmoreland County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art: $4,813 to coordinate a Pennsylvania master naturalist training in the Laurel Highlands. After a 13-week training, up to 10 adults will complete 30 hours of service to conservation organizations, municipalities, schools and more as they become trained volunteers and leaders to address conservation needs and challenges.

Seton Hill University: $5,000 to provide three professional development workshops for faculty to incorporate sustainability topics into their disciplines and to provide staff with education on sustainability practices to help reduce the campus’s environmental footprint.

Westmoreland County Conservation District: $5,000 to provide stormwater education to 40 students in the Mosaic Community Development Center’s afterschool program. The conservation district will present two in-person educational programs for the students and work with the students and center to develop a demonstration rain garden that incorporates the lessons learned.

Armstrong County will receive grant money for the following project:

Armstrong Center for Community Learning: $6,439 to host two workshops for residents. In Energy and Water Conservation, participants will learn how water and energy conservation can help reduce greenhouse emissions while lowering utility bills. In Celebrate the Trees, participants will focus on improving air, water quality, and human health while supporting wildlife habitats and biodiversity.

Butler County will receive grant money for the following project:

Butler Area School District: $5,000 to deliver teacher trainings that emphasize hands-on outdoor learning at the Connoquenessing Outdoor Appreciation campus, including use of a nature trail equipped with webcams.

Erie County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Asbury Woods: $4,999 to provide about 500 fifth graders from public, private, and home schools the opportunity to participate in hands-on water use conservation activities  led by professionals.

Regional Science Consortium: $30,000 to work with the Iroquois School District to establish an outdoor classroom including seven learning stations on water quality and climate change.

Goodell Project, Inc.: $4,921 to establish an edible demonstration garden and host nature-based field studies for children. Partnering with the Erie Farm-to-School Program, students will help install a garden while learning about innovative strategies for growing food in urban areas.

Forest County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Forest Area School District: $3,882 to enable environmental science and chemistry students to participate in hands-on experiments to evaluate multiple indicators of a healthy water system. Students will visit a water treatment facility, research government roles related to water quantity and quality, and research local and state career opportunities.

Pennsylvania Firefly Festival: $4,475 to host a three-day interactive STEAM program for grades K-6 focusing on Pennsylvania’s state insect, the firefly. Students will explore firefly biology, bioluminescence, synchronicity, and environmental concerns, as well as actions they and their families can take, such as  habitat conservation, reduced pesticide use, and land/water protection. Families will be invited to an exclusive viewing of the fireflies at a June 2024 event.

Indiana County will receive grant money for the following project:

Indiana County Conservation District: $8,955 to incorporate environmental education principles into public outreach efforts. The initiative will incorporate current and relevant climate change and water quality information, hands-on materials, engaging activities, age-appropriate lessons, and in-person workshops.

Jefferson County will receive grant money for the following projects:

Jefferson County Conservation District: $4,795 to hold a three-day outdoor camp for women and girls to increase knowledge about the environment, climate change, and sustainability.

Mercer County will receive grant money for the following project:

Mercer County Conservation District: $3,385 to conduct a three-week camp for middle school students, including outdoor activities that address climate change and water quality issues and education on science and/or environmentally themed careers.

McKean County will receive grant money for the following project:

Pennsylvania State University: $5,000 to provide interactive hands-on programming for K-12 students. Topics including climate, habitats (including waterways), and Pennsylvania’s threatened wildlife will be explored through discussions, stories, games, show and tell, and other activities. Lessons will incorporate state education standards and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience framework.


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