K-12 Education

Greening STEM Spaces

Outdoor spaces of all types provide opportunities to improve and deepen learning

A Meaningful Place for Learning 

Greening STEM projects bring STEM to life in outdoor spaces of all types, from creeks and canyons to prairies and mountains. Extending learning outside the classroom looks different for each organization, and NEEF works with its state and local partners to help educators find the perfect learning location for their project.


Where Does Greening STEM Happen?


Two children playing under a tree

On Campus 

Many schoolyards have outdoor places, room enough for prairie strips to container gardens, that can be monitored as part of a Greening STEM project.


Three trees

Neighborhood Parks

When a campus lacks adequate green space, a short walk to a municipal park is a great alternative.


Sign that houses a map on wood polls

State Parks & Waterways

With 6,792 units, chances are there’s one near your community, many with public education programs.


Mountain with flag on top surrounded by green forest

Federal Lands & Waterways

With missions to conserve and educate, federal public lands are America’s network for outdoor learning.


Spotlight Project
McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Studying Invasive Species on the Colorado River

In 2021, NEEF partnered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Canyons Association (CCA), and Mesa County Valley School District 51 to sponsor a Greening STEM project at McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area in western Colorado.

The $10k sponsorship award from NEEF enabled BLM to expand its partnership with CCA by dedicating funds to the development of place-based learning and environmental monitoring activities for Central High School students. 

It really is opening my eyes to career paths...I could become a biologist.

Student Participant

Project Highlights

Blue map with compass laying on top of it

Monitoring Invasives

AP Environmental Science students from Central High School established a monitoring site for invasive Russian knapweed during an overnight river rafting trip in partnership with BLM, CCA, the Palisade Insectary, and with support from NEEF.

Two bees

Biological Controls 

BLM partnered with local business Palisade Insectary to supply Russian knapweed gall wasps as a form of biological control. The students aided in the process of releasing and monitoring their establishment in the affected area.

Mountain with flag on top surrounded by green forest

Public Land Engagement

This project engaged students from a rural community in learning about nearby public lands. This opportunity enabled many of the students on the trip to experience the canyons that would not have had the chance to otherwise.

Tablet showing plant. Hand points to tablet.

STEM Learning

The project included pre-field, in field, and post-field learning activities about adverse impacts on biodiversity through human-induced threats, including the introduction of invasive species.

Greening STEM Case Study McInnis Canyon
Download the full report to learn about engaging students in outdoor education through a unique invasive species project.

In Search of Lost Species

Starting in 2011, Saguaro National Park began involving citizen scientists in the data-collection aspects of the project, including students from the surrounding rural communities. Soon after, they partnered with Friends of Saguaro National Park and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to develop an innovative environmental education program that would engage youth from local communities by providing opportunities for genuine exploration, critical thinking, and quality time in Saguaro National Park.

During the project, classes were divided into research teams and assigned a lost species. Students set cameras in the park and at school, to collect data that would help determine management strategies at the park. In this video, an NPS Ranger describes the history of community science at Saguaro national park.

Spotlight Project
Saguaro National Monument
Greening STEM Case Study Saguaro Park
Download the full report to learn about engaging students in outdoor education through a citizen science project searching for lost species.



NEEF helps guide the collaboration of community partners for educational experiences that promote a culture of stewardship for youth from diverse backgrounds. To learn more about NEEF’s Greening STEM projects throughout the country, open our interactive Story Map below.

Greening STEM Story Map
Photo of the EWA forest reserve in Hawaii from a viewpoint overlook

'Ewa Forest Reserve Hawaii

In 2020, NEEF collaborated with the USDA Forest Service (FS) to fund a Greening STEM Demonstration Project on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Community organizations and teachers identified a need for place-based education initiatives in the Pearl City community to rebuild the Natural Resource Program and integrate Hawaiian culture into the curriculum. The high school is situated within the Waiawa watershed between urban and forested areas and lacks green space.

The $10.5k sponsorship award from NEEF supported a holistic STEM program that infused agency science and resources into school curricula focused on student-directed investigations into local environmental issues. The funding allowed FS staff to partner with state foresters as well as formal and non-formal educators to design and deliver STEM programming that engaged youth from under-resourced and historically excluded communities in place based citizen science.

Project Highlights

Laptop sitting on top of books

Multiple Activities

Pearl City High School students learned about the health of the Waiawa watershed through virtual classroom activities and two optional forest field trips.

Hand holds plant with dirt

Native Plants

School and community volunteers helped build a native plant shade house where students from Pearl City High School will grow native plants for HOH and the Ko`olau Mountain Watershed Partnership.

Tablet showing plant. Hand points to tablet.

STEM Skills

Students learned multiple data collection techniques as a result of this project and project partners aim to further enhance the citizen science component of their work in subsequent years.

Two children playing under a tree

Increased Interest

As a result of the Greening STEM project, student enrollment in the Natural Resource Program tripled and support for the program increased by school community members.

Greening STEM Case Study 'Ewa Forest Reserve
Download the full report to learn about engaging a high school natural resource program through community partnership.



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Learn more About Greening STEM

Greening Stem Approach

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Greening STEM Partners

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Greening STEM Activities, Lessons, and Curricula

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