RISE Resilience. Innovation. Sustainability. Environment.

The RISE Challenge is part classroom learning, part competition, and part summit, focused on natural hazards and student-led learning. The RISE Challenge engages students in the exploration of their communities to determine where they are vulnerable to natural disasters and tasks them with developing their own ideas for making their community more resilient. Through this initiative, we are developing engaged citizens by building their resilience toolbox when they are still young.

The goals of the RISE Challenge are to:

  • Improve community engagement in building resilience. Students who have experience making their community resilient are more likely to participate as adults and will be more aware of risks and be prepared for future events.
  • Improve student learning. When asked to solve problems facing their community, students leverage experience, harness internal resources, and apply these lessons to find and implement the best solution. This method, where students drive their own learning, is the cornerstone of deep understanding that young people need in order to thrive in a world driven by change.

Simply put, the RISE Challenge creates a generation of citizens with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to improve community resilience to natural disasters.


Where did The RISE Challenge come from?

The RISE Challenge was developed as a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation (ASFPM Foundation). It pairs Earth Force’s educational framework and learning process with FEMA’s experts and its partners to further the education of natural hazards and create more resilient communities.

Originally named the Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge (RMEC), the RISE Challenge gained momentum over the years and grew beyond the Rocky Mountain region. This led to the rebranding of the RMEC to the RISE Challenge in 2020.

Earth Force manages the RISE Challenge nationally, and provides the local partners with resources and tools on how the program operates to help incorporate the Earth Force model into their community. From budgets to professional development materials, to surveys and promotional materials, everything a local program needs is available to support local program managers.

FEMA is the primary national sponsor and a valuable resource for all things related to natural hazards and community resilience. Regional staff are willing to act as expert volunteers throughout the process, help with proposal judging, volunteer during the Summit, and fund projects.

The program is grateful to the ASFPM Foundation for being the source of student award grants. The Foundation is another great resource to find expert volunteers for judging proposals or for classroom visits. Each State (including yours!) has an ASFPM State Affiliate. Visit the ASFPM Foundation’s website to learn more about what they are doing to support environmental education across the country at www.asfpmfoundation.org.


Where is the RISE Challenge?

The RISE Challenge currently operates in three states: Colorado, Montana and Illinois.

In Colorado, the RISE Challenge is hosted by Earth Force. Open to educators across the state, the RISE Challenge has grown from a small pilot program in Northern Colorado into a program that engages educators from communities across the state.

In Montana, the RISE Challenge is hosted by Brightways Learning, a nonprofit organization that works to improve learning and achievement through collaborative engagement and innovative technology solutions. Driven by core values of connection, integrity, diversity, collaboration, stewardship, and most of all fun, Brightways Learning works to create and support programs for youth engagement, curriculum management, and various learning programs to help students grow to be environmental advocates.

In Illinois, the RISE Challenge is hosted by the Environmental Education Association of Illinois, a statewide nonprofit association whose mission is to maintain a vital network that supports and advances environmental education throughout the state, to work with local educators and school districts to grow the program across southern Illinois.


How do I get involved in the RISE Challenge?

Alyssa                McConkey

The RISE Challenge is always looking for more local hosts, teachers and classrooms to get involved. Whether you are in one of the communities where the RISE Challenge already exists, or you would like to begin exploring how to bring the challenge to your community – let’s talk! Reach out to Alyssa McConkey (amcconkey@earthforce.org) for more information about the RISE Challenge and how we can grow this program into your school!