Environmental Literacy: Celebrating 20 Years of NOAA B-WET

Earth Force sends huge congratulations to NOAA and the B-WET program on its 20th anniversary this year. B-WET is an incredible force in environmental literacy – since 2002, the B-WET program has awarded over $110 million to support 874 projects. Thank you, NOAA, for seeing the potential in young people and their educators to change the future of our environment. Special thanks to Shannon Sprague, Bronwen Rice, Elise Trelegan, Bart Merrick, and Kevin Schabow for their work!

We’ve had the opportunity to implement several B-WET grants over the years – with slightly different projects but all with the same goal: increasing educator capacity to guide student-led action.

Our most recent grant focused on understanding the barriers to action during a MWEE and increasing the capacity of Chesapeake Bay organizations and educators to guide student-led action. We really wanted to figure out why MWEE practitioners can experience difficulty in getting students to action. Over a series of interviews, we found two key challenges:

  • Resource Challenge: Interviewees indicated that implementing student action projects requires resources (mainly time) beyond those they have available.
  • Orientation Challenge: This challenge occurs when student action projects are not believed to be important to watershed education and are thought to be a separate activity. 
    • Student action projects may be considered an add-ons to MWEEs, rather than part of mainstream learning
    • Varied teacher and institutional commitment to inquiry-based learning
    • Reliance on the champion teacher or staff
    • Professional development focus on science/environmental content separate from pedagogy

Interestingly, Resource Challenges often are mitigated by addressing Orientation Challenges.

To help mitigate these challenges, we reframed all of our resources to include the key skills to achieve student-led action and continue to support organizations in this endeavour. We worked with NOAA on the creation of the newest MWEE Guide edition and created short, easily digestible videos and handouts to supplement this work. Over the course of this grant, we worked with over 40 organizations to integrate or strengthen their action component, many of which were within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and B-WET Grantees. 

Thanks again to NOAA and the B-WET program – looking forward to the next 20 years!

Written by -

Hayley Valley, Earth Force's Communications Manager, joined Earth Force in 2010 and has since held too many roles to count - all drawing on her experience in communicating Earth Force's commitment to environmental action civics. When she’s not knee-deep in Google Docs, you’ll find her chasing her two boys around.

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