Welcome to the Summer 2023 Issue of Teaching Green. Whether you are wrapping up an existing environmental education project, or getting ready to launch new activities, we hope this issue provides material that helps support your efforts. Information shared in this issue places emphasis on the 2024 Environmental Education Program, which began accepting applications on August 1.  

2024 DEP Environmental Education Program Accepting Applications 

The 2024 Environmental Education Grant Program began accepting applications on August 1, 2023 for the project period July 1, 2024-June 30, 2025. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. on November 15, 2023.
Funding is provided on a reimbursement basis. Please consult the 2024 Environmental Education Grants Program Manual for Grant proposal requirements, eligible applicants and expenses, and other pertinent information.
Funding priority will be given to environmental education projects that engage people living, working and/or attending school within Environmental Justice (EJ) areas in topics related to Climate Change and/or Water. Use the DEP Environmental Justice Area Viewer to determine if the project will engage EJ audiences.
Awards will be provided for local Mini-Grant projects of up to $5,000 or for large scale General Grant Level I projects ($5,001-$30,000) such as those that engage an entire school district, multiple communities and/or counties. For projects that engage teachers and students (at least 30% EJ) at 3 levels: Local, State and National, an award of up to $65,000 may be considered.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, award announcements for the 2024 Environmental Education Grant Program will occur in late April or early May 2024.  

Environmental Education Grants wrapping up

The Environmental Education Grants Program supports a variety of projects that engage youth through adult audiences. Here is a sampling of projects that received EE Grant funds and concluded by the June 30 deadline: 
National Audubon Society - Youth Environmental Leadership
The National Audubon Society was awarded $20,000 for its Youth Environmental Leadership in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties project. Its 10-week internship program engaged 17 older teens in Norristown and North Philadelphia. Following implementation of a planned curriculum, each cohort self-selected and implemented either a communication or habitat project. Projects ranged from a public workshop about reusing plastic bottles to creating bird feeders and planters to establishing a pollinator garden. Many of the interns have made commitments to changing their personal habits for a healthier environment. Some of the interns are pursing conservation-related college majors. Others have expressed interest in exploring environmental career opportunities.
Wendy Christie of the National Audubon Society explains, “This pilot program was so impactful that in the coming year it will be restructured as a 22-week program, providing even greater significance for the interns, their communities, and the organization.” 
Preparing to plant at Roosevelt High School, Norristown Area School District
Collecting litter near Strawberry Mansion
Clearing and marking storm drains near Strawberry Mansion
Bradford County Conservation District - Forestry Education Symposiums
The Bradford County Conservation District was awarded $11,996 to conduct two forestry symposiums for landowners and industry professionals in Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties. The symposium helped attendees better understand topics such as climate change, carbon storage, and water quality protection. Multiple agency representatives provided presentations on forest health, harvest regulations, best management practices, and woodlot management techniques. A guided tour showcased erosion and sedimentation control measures and best management practices designed to address stormwater runoff, restore forest stand health and promote wildlife habitat. 
With the support of a 2023 EE grant, the project will expand its reach and involve partners from the Lackawanna, Luzerne, Potter, Sullivan, and Tioga county conservation districts, along with the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.
Forestry symposium participants gather indoors for presentations made by a variety of agencies
Guided tours allow symposium attendees to view best management practices
Stroud Water Research Center - Touch Tank provides Youth and Adults access to Macroinvertebrates 

With its $3,000 Environmental Education Grant, the Stroud Water Research Center has created a simple and inexpensive solution for engaging audiences who may have physical, geographic, or other challenges accessing streams—the touch tank! In addition to creating the tank, Stroud developed an Aquatic Macroinvertebrates Touch Tank Guide that explains how to build and use a touch tank, how to collect aquatic macroinvertebrates, and “most importantly,” how to care for and return the macroinvertebrates to the stream. The Guide also offers programming suggestions and resources. Stroud designed a simple and fun evaluation tool for gauging the audiences’ response to using the tank. 90% of participants reported the programs to be a lot of fun. The tanks sparked a variety of questions from both children and adults. Families have been observed returning to the tank multiple times to continue exploring. Many visitors expressed similar views with statements such as, “I didn’t know these organisms lived in the stream,” and “Humans have a large impact on rivers.”  

Public events provide opportunities for families to explore macroinvertebrates.
Meaningful environmental education provides opportunities for audiences to explore local issues and in turn, identify potential actions they can take on behalf of their community and the environment. The Environmental Education Grants Program offers funding to support activities such as tree plantings, establishing community gardens for food and wildlife habitat, and hosting litter prevention or composting workshops. The possibilities are endless! 
The DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice (EJ) Office may be able to network educators with EJ community leaders who are interested in helping to support environmental education efforts. Contact the EJ Office’s Regional Coordinators by visiting dep.pa.gov/EJ.
EE Grant-funded projects support the engagement of people living, working, and/or attending school within EJ areas. Here are some participant snapshots from recently concluded projects: 
Photos provided by Discovery Pathways
Photo provided by Riverbend
Photo provided by Monroe County Conservation District
Photos provided by Venture Outdoors
Photo provided by the Erie City School District
Photo provided by Briar Bush

Comparing Formal and Non-Formal Education

Environmental Education Program applicants are asked to identify if their proposed project will deliver a Formal or Non-Formal Program. What’s the difference?
The EE Grants Program defines Formal Education as programs that are integrated into a K-12 or Higher Education classroom curriculum. For instance, a school district has determined that every student of a certain grade will experience the program in their classroom.
Many environmental education programs use nationally recognized curriculums such as Project WET or Project WILD to support the teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. However, unless the environmental education programs are integrated into the curriculum, they are considered nonformal education. Nonformal education programs are frequently delivered outside of the traditional classroom. Nonformal education programs can engage any audience such as farmers, municipal officials and other adult community members or youth who are participating in programs such as 4-H youth, scouts, etc.
When requesting DEP Environmental Education Program funds, a big distinction between the Formal and Nonformal requirements is Formal education projects must address the State Academic Standards for Environment and Ecology and/or Science and Technology (both of which sunset June 30, 2025) or the Science, Technology & Engineering, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability (STEELS) Standards.

State Education Standards 

Science, Technology & Engineering, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability (STEELS) Standards

The newly adopted STEELS Standards were published on July 16, 2022, in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and are designed for implementation July 1, 2025. Educators are encouraged to access the STEELS hub to receive ongoing New and Noteworthy updates.  

Pennsylvania Gateway to Green: Online Hub provides resources

To avoid duplication of efforts or “re-inventing the wheel” the DEP EE Grant Program encourages applicants to identify existing resources that can be used or adapted for their projects. Pennsylvania Gateway to Green is a new online hub where Pennsylvania educators can access environmental education resources from the Pennsylvania Environmental Literacy Network. The hub provides:
  • Links to state and federal agencies and environmental education organizations that offer environmental literacy resources and information for creating environmental literacy plans.
  • Ways to identify and reach environmental justice communities.
  • Education resources about Pennsylvania watersheds.
  • Information about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Photo courtesy of W&R volunteer, Phoung Le
The Harrisburg falcons’ nesting season has come to a close. The new RCSOB pair, 85/AK and 09/BS, hatched three chicks within a 7-hour span on May 9. Twenty-nine days later, on June 7, the PA Game Commission banded the three eyasses, blue, yellow and green. Banding helps Watch & Rescue (W&R) volunteers identify and track the fledglings while they take their first flights and further hone their skills.
Due to the continuing threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), an audience was not present. The banding was live streamed on DEP’s Facebook page.
W&R convened at dawn on June 15, when Green took the first fledge around 3:00 PM. He failed to sustain flight, landing on a low ledge behind the RCSOB Auditorium. He was “rescued” and transported to Red Creek Wildlife Center. Although uninjured, it was determined his flight muscles needed additional time to mature. A couple days later he was returned to the RCSOB.
Yellow fledged the following morning. His first flight carried him successfully to the nearby roof of the Harrisburg University. He rested for several hours before returning to the RCSOB ledge. By June 18 Yellow was flying with confidence.
Blue fledged on June 19. Her first flight carried her safely to the University roof, but a subsequent flight led to a street landing. W&R volunteers quickly retrieved her and she was taken to Red Creek. After getting a clean bill of health she was released directly to the RCSOB empty nest ledge. Blue remained there for nearly two days before joining her brothers in mastery of flight.
Sue Hannon, the DEP Falcon Coordinator reports, “Now thoroughly at home in the sky, the three young falcons are rapidly gaining the skills needed for survival as adult falcons. Soon they will depart to make their way in the world, and we hope to learn of them as nesting falcons in a few years.”
Follow the falcons with the PA Falcon Cam.    
EE grant applicants interested in submitting a proposal that addresses water education may wish to consider attending the Dive Deeper VII, which will showcase innovative strategies for teaching about water. New this year is a reception and film screening on Wednesday evening, September 27 from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm.
Date: September 28, 2023 (8:00 am-4:00 pm)
Format: Live at the Best Western Premier Center Hotel & Conference Center, Harrisburg
Fee: $75.00 (Scholarships may be available)
Act 48: Provided for PA certified teachers
Registration: Register Now! Registration deadline: September 15, 2023
Questions? Contact Jennifer Fetter at 4Hwater@psu.edu or (717) 921-8803
Dates: September 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26 and November 2 (5:00 – 7:30 pm.). November 16 (5:00 – 8:00 pm.)
Format: Synchronous online via Zoom
Fee: Free. Participants may be eligible to receive a stipend
Act 48: Up to 30 hours
Registration: Register by September 1, 2023. 
Questions? Contact Tamara Peffer at tpeffer@pa.gov or tep205@lehigh.edu or call  (717) 772-0842.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
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