NEEF Announces 2023-2024 Awardees of USDA Forest Service Greening STEM Grant
September 28, 2023

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is proud to announce the awardees of the 2023-2024 Forest Service Greening STEM Grant.

In 2020, NEEF collaborated with the USDA Forest Service (FS) to fund a Greening STEM Demonstration Project. This initial sponsorship award supported a holistic STEM program that infused agency science and resources into school curricula focused on student-directed investigations of relevant topics of research, local environmental issues, or problems affecting local public lands. The funding also allowed for Forest Service staff to work alongside state foresters and formal and nonformal educators to design and deliver STEM programming that engaged youth in place-based citizen science and environmental monitoring.

Four years later, the FS continues to collaborate with NEEF to build the capacity of FS units—including institutions in the State & Private Forestry network, such as state forests—to use components of NEEF’s Greening STEM model to design and deliver STEM programming.

Programs funded by these grants will utilize STEM-focused content and strategies for instruction, training, and collaboration to assist school educators and staff in implementing and enhancing learning in and outside of the classroom, with a primary focus on FS-related subject matter. Awardees were eligible to receive up to $10,000 for their projects.

“Thank you to our partners at the Forest Service for sponsoring this program for the fourth year in a row,” said Robert Sendrey, program director for K-12 environmental education at NEEF. “Their continued investment in environmental education through the Greening STEM model will help prepare students to tackle today’s environmental challenges and issues while introducing them to potential career opportunities in the field of STEM.”

Following project completion, all resources and related content developed under these grants will be made available via NEEF’s Greening STEM Hub. For examples of successful past projects, check out NEEF’s collection of project videos and educational resources.

The following projects have been selected to receive Greening STEM grant funding:

GGO's Future Foresters

  • Nonprofit Partner: Gateway to the Great Outdoors 
  • Location: Chicago, IL and St. Louis, MO 

Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO) is partnering with FS Urban Connections Program to engage middle school students at two schools in Chicago and two schools in St. Louis with their Future Foresters program. Students will engage in place-based environmental monitoring programs at both locations. In Chicago, students will visit the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie for their field experiences, and in St. Louis, students will visit the Mark Twain National Forest. FS representatives and GGO staff will guide students to understand the importance of ecosystems and what they can do to protect those that surround them.

Creating River Stewards: Monitoring Water Quality on Public Lands

  • Nonprofit Partner: South Yuba River Citizens League 
  • Location: Nevada City, CA 

South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) will continue to work with FS in an expansion of its previously funded Greening STEM project. The goal of the project is to equip students from Bitney Prep High School’s Environmental Science class and Nevada Union High School’s Climate Change Club with the tools they need to become citizen scientists. Students will learn water quality monitoring practices and apply those techniques at a nearby and popular river crossing on Tahoe National Forest land. SYRCL and FS staff will help students interpret the data they collect to better understand various impacts on water quality, such as increased visitation, rain events, and drought, and create meaningful and effective public service announcements to educate the public how to be stewards of the watershed. 

Monitoring Remediation Efforts for Invasive Eurasian Milfoil Control in Lake Tahoe

  • Nonprofit Partner: Great Basin Institute 
  • Location: Reno, NV 

The Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s (LTBMU) goal is to use locally relevant STEM programming to provide students with essential early exposure to outdoor, hands-on science experiences while additionally assisting to build citizen science capacity. The LTBMU intends to implement an invasive species monitoring program that focuses on Eurasian watermilfoil restoration activities in the Taylor Creek Visitor Center Area, a local creek that drains into Lake Tahoe, for South Tahoe High School students. The data that students will help collect will provide insight into current Eurasian watermilfoil remediation practices and their efficacy, and can be used to optimize future remediation plans. 

Exploring STEM in the Nantahala National Forest with Macon County Schools

  • Nonprofit Partner: Mainspring Conservation Trust, Inc. 
  • Location: Franklin, NC 

Mainspring Conservation Trust plans to provide fun, high-quality STEM programs in the Nantahala National Forest for Grade 6 students in Macon County School District. Two field trips will integrate concepts of stewardship and indigenous culture into programs while also providing hands-on STEM learning activities at different locations throughout the national forest and partner lands. FS staff will employ different educational techniques—including focused exploration, discussion based on evidence, and data analysis—while allowing the activities to be driven by students’ natural wonder and curiosity. Throughout the program, as students collect tree data at FS Southern Research Station’s Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory and experience STEM Migration Day at Tessentee Bottomlands Preserve, they will increase STEM literacy and their connection to public lands.