Maryland Awards More Than $200,000 Outdoor Learning Grants to Six Local Partners
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the award of more than $200,000 in competitive grants to support learning experiences and educational opportunities focused on environmental issues. Funding for the educational programs is provided by the state’s Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant and Aquatic Resources Education Program, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Grant funding is awarded for Fiscal Year 2024 to the following organizations, pending final approval by federal partners:
- ShoreRivers (Dorchester and Talbot counties) – $30,890
Sturgeon Discovery: A Systemic Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience will provide field experiences and action project support for third grade students in partnership with Dorchester and Talbot County Public Schools. Through a year-long science and social studies curriculum, students will investigate how human actions on land impact the health of our local rivers where the endangered Atlantic sturgeon spawn. ShoreRivers will take students to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Lab to collect water quality and biological data in order to assess the health of the Choptank River and to see live, hatchery-raised sturgeon. Following the field experience, students will conduct a schoolyard assessment to link actions on land to river health. ShoreRivers will support teachers in guiding student environmental action projects to raise awareness and improve local water quality to benefit this endangered species.
- Anacostia Watershed Society (Prince George’s County) – $23,615
The Mussel Power Education Program is a multi-part program that includes professional development workshops for teachers, introductory classroom lessons for students, a field study on the Anacostia River, follow-up classroom work, and participation in an authentic mussel restoration project. The project is a partnership between the Anacostia Watershed Society and Prince George’s County Public Schools through which teachers and students are engaged in an authentic restoration project to help restore and protect the Anacostia River. The goal of the program is to re-establish healthy mussel populations while engaging high school students in meaningful watershed education experiences. During the 2023-2024 school year, the partnership will engage more than 5,000 students at 19 Prince George’s County public high schools, provide professional development to 30 teachers, and deploy more than 500 freshwater mussels in classroom tanks before their release into the Anacostia River.
- Anne Arundel County Public Schools – $72,540
The Nature Play Pilot for School District-Based Early Childhood Centers will support Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ large and diverse school system that has many early childhood centers. The number of locations for Early Childhood Intervention programs and pre-Kindergarten programs will increase in the coming years. The schoolyards are currently not designed with nature play in mind. The grant supports three project goals: Provide avenues for Anne Arundel County’s youngest students to connect with nature through outdoor unstructured play as well as opportunities for students to engage in learning; pilot two nature play spaces that could serve as a model for the entire school system; and provide training for teachers to use the nature play spaces for instruction as well as help inspire unstructured play.
- Nature Forward, Virtual Stream Studies for Montgomery County Middle School Students – $8,031
Nature Forward will expand the existing Virtual Stream Studies Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience program for Montgomery County Public Schools to reach 25 schools with more than 7,120 sixth grade students and 75 teachers. This program will prepare students for in-person stream studies, inform them about the condition of their local stream and what they can do to improve and protect it, and prepare them to take action. This virtual program results in students’ increased comfort level at their Outdoor Education Center programs and creates a sense of positive expectations, excitement and self-assurance, which leads to a better educational experience.
- Howard County Conservancy Youth Climate Institute – $40,000
The Youth Climate Institute connects high school students to e-STEM and civic action, providing training and leadership opportunities. Program components include climate science and climate communications courses, community action programs, and a capstone project guided by a mentor. Throughout the year, the Howard County Conservancy will build program capacity and sustainability while establishing 15 new Youth Climate Institute chapters in targeted school districts across the state.
- Spa Creek Conservancy, Student Outdoor Education Project at Bates Middle School (Anne Arundel County) – $26,000
With the support of Spa Creek Conservancy, Bates Middle School will expand the science curriculum to study the effects of tree canopy in an urban watershed. The students will measure temperatures of impervious surfaces with little tree coverage and compare them to temperatures at tree covered surfaces. They will then analyze the data they collect, along with data from drone coverage of the same areas, to come to conclusions on the value of tree canopy, create marketing campaigns centered around what their experiments show and present their marketing materials in a variety of venues. The student curriculum will be followed by a sizable tree planting on the campus of Bates Middle School, which sits directly on Spa Creek, to ameliorate some of the lost resiliency due to the lack of forested areas on the campus. Future years of the curriculum will move students directly onto and into the Creek, where they will learn about stream sampling for invertebrates and water quality monitoring.
Applications for this funding are accessed through the department’s Grants Gateway to provide a single entry point for grantees and ensure access to funding for innovative, local projects. Through the improved connections across similar grant programs, the department seeks to support more comprehensive and integrated projects that achieve at least one of the following outcomes: fostering healthy ecosystems, building resiliency, or providing outdoor learning experiences.