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Environmental Education Mini Grant

Grants to USA Nonprofits, Schools, and Agencies in
Multiple States for PreK-12 Environmental Awareness

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Chesapeake Bay Trust

Deadline Date:

01/10/19 4:00 PM Receipt


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Grants of up to $5,000 to Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Washington, DC nonprofits, government agencies, IHEs, community associations, and other organizations for preK-12 environmental education projects. Projects must be within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust promotes public awareness and participation in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its local streams and rivers. Since 1985, the Trust has awarded more than $100 million in grants to schools, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies throughout the jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Trust is supported by purchases of the Treasure the Chesapeake license plates, the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund contribution line option on the Maryland State income tax form, and donations from individuals and corporations. The Trust greatly appreciates the support that makes its programs possible.

The Trust welcomes your interest and encourages you to learn more about how to apply for a grant.

Goals of the Mini Grant Program for preK-12 Education Requests:

River by river and stream by stream, preK-12 environmental education projects are helping to raise public awareness about the health of streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and about the steps that can be taken to restore and protect them.

Through the Mini Environmental Education Grant Program, the Trust seeks to increase student awareness and involvement in the restoration and protection of the region’s natural resources through increasing student access to programs that provide Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (known as MWEEs).

The program was established to provide accessible funds to schools, organizations, and agencies for preK-12 environmental education and specifically seeks to:

1) Educate students about natural resources and their local watersheds and about how students can become environmental stewards and make a difference in watershed health;

2) Engage school communities in education and restoration activities that benefit watershed health;

3) Provide Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) for students and teachers;

4) Provide environmental education professional development opportunities for teachers; and

5) Support environmental literacy goals within schools, school systems, and other educational institutions.

*Applicants interested in small requests (less than $5,000) to support general public awareness and involvement projects targeting adult communities should refer to the Mini Grant Application Package for Community Engagement and Restoration Projects.

The Trust is committed to the advancement of diversity and inclusion in its grant-making and environmental work. As a result, the Trust strongly encourages grant applications directly from underrepresented groups and for projects that increase awareness and participation of communities that are traditionally underrepresented, such as communities of color. For a full description of the Trust’s efforts to engage under-engaged groups, please see the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.

Eligible Project Types and Associated Criteria:

The Trust funds two types of projects in this program: Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) and professional development for educators. These two types of projects are described in this section and specific criteria against which applications will be evaluated can be found below.

Project Type 1 – Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) for students:

A good MWEE is not just an outdoor field trip. MWEEs are multi-faceted learner-centered experiences that focus on investigations into local environmental issues that lead to informed action and civic engagement. Applicants are encouraged to review sources for best practices for meaningful outdoor experiences. These can be found at, then the “Grants and Opportunities” tab, and then the “Additional Resources” page. Specifically, the “Educator’s Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE)” has tools and examples for building a successful, impactful MWEE.

There are four steps (essential elements) and four important components (supporting practices) that teachers must incorporate to ensure success. These elements and practices, when combined, create a robust MWEE. Any costs associated with the four essential elements can be requested through the Mini Environmental Education Grant Program.

Essential Elements:

1) “Issue Definition” (articulation of a specific natural resource problem on which the students will focus; serves as the “driving question”):

-Students choose or are focused on a locally relevant environmental problem, issue, or phenomenon requiring background research and investigation.
-The driving question is the “big-picture” question that establishes the purpose of the learning and should create student interest, encompasses both natural and social system topics (environmental and civic engagement), allows for activities across multiple disciplines and allows for student investigation of a locally relevant environmental problem, issue or phenomenon.
-“Supporting questions” are generated by the students and should uncover students’ current knowledge about the issue, create curiosity and direct the students to a specific investigative question that addresses the organizing question in a local context.
-Students can be taught about the issue in a variety of ways depending on the issue or grade level: through classroom instruction, the collection of data, conducting experiments, talking to experts, and/or reviewing credible publications.
-Students reflect on their personal experiences and values related to the issue.

Please note, the Trust highly encourages as much student choice, as age appropriate, in the selection of the driving question and thus issue investigation (younger typically needs more guidance than older).

Note: The proposal narrative format is intended to serve as a planning tool for the applicant to assist them in providing a high quality environmental education experience for their students.

2) “Outdoor Field Experience” (students participate in one or more outdoor experiences sufficient to investigate the issue):

-Students begin exploring the chosen issue and answering the driving and supporting questions in a variety of ways: through observations; data collection; field trips led by experienced environmental education field trip provider; or outdoor experiences led by the teacher or environmental professional
-Regardless of the means, students are making and recording observations to help them answer their supporting and organizing questions. As data collection progresses the students will begin to hypothesize answers to their questions.
-Inside study (e.g., classroom, computer, or library research) can be supported to build background knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of their issue.
-Unfortunately, due to limited funding and Trust priorities, fully indoor experiences will not be supported.

3) “Student-led Action Projects” (students identify, explore, and implement solutions to address the issue):

-Investigations lead to student designed solutions to solve an environmental problem, issue, or phenomenon identified in the investigations.
-Students design solutions and conduct a project of their own and/or participate in teacher designed projects (for more structured inquiry and/or when age-appropriate).
-Create a list of all potential action projects and discuss how each option will impact the issue; consider projects that might serve as solutions in the community or on the school campus
-An action project is selected based on an understanding of the potential impact of the project to address the issue. Action projects can seek to have natural resource restoration benefits or community engagement benefits.
-Investigations and projects are (in part or whole) designed to take place in the local environment (outdoors).
-The Trust encourages students to extend their learning to civic action like the ones listed below. This opportunity allows students to continue to solve a real-world issue and is an excellent opportunity to
involve civics, social studies, government, etc. in the project/unit.
-Action projects can create change and serve as a solution at three different levels: a systems level, a community level, or an individual level. Action Project Examples:

Example Projects to affect “Systems level change” (systems level changes seek to affect power structures, organizations, and the environment in which decisions are made):
-Civic Action (e.g., town meetings, writing elected officials/decision makers)
-Educating organizations about relevant local policies

Example Projects to affect “Community Level change” (community level changes seek to affect community attitudes, norms, awareness, or practices; and often target entire communities or large groups within the community):

-Community Engagement (e.g., presentations, social media, event-organizing, messaging at community events/fairs/festivals, mentoring, PSAs, flyers, posters to change community norms, attitudes, and awareness)

Example Projects to affect “Individual Level change” (individual level changes seek to implement discrete projects that influence the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of individuals):
-Watershed Restoration or Protection (e.g., create schoolyard habitat, planting trees or grasses, invasive species removal, community cleanup, stormwater management)
-Everyday Choices (e.g., reduce/reuse/recycle, composting, energy conservation, water conservation)

Habitat and Restoration project requests must include:
-A native plant list (funds may be requested for native plant species only);
-A site plan/project design;
-A photo of the planting/restoration site;
-A detailed maintenance plan indicating a commitment to the project’s long-term success.
-For projects on school property, the grounds department and the Principal must sign the maintenance plan; and
-For projects planned on properties other than that of the applicant, a letter stating that permission has been granted by the entity owning the land on which the project will be completed. Projects can be completed on public property, property owned by nonprofit organizations, community-owned property, or school grounds.

4) “Synthesis & Conclusions” (students assess their understanding of the issue and have the opportunity to refocus and reflect after a project is completed):

-Students share data and communicate results to fellow students, teachers, parents, local professionals, and politicians.
-Educators evaluate student progress both in knowledge and skills.

Supporting Practices:

1)  Classroom Integration: MWEEs should be fully integrated into what is occurring concurrently in the classroom, and should occur where and when they fit into the instructional sequence. MWEEs can be rich, multi-disciplinary units that have a unique opportunity to make strong connections among subject areas and reflect an integrated approach to learning. 

2)  Active Teacher Support: MWEEs should be connected to what is occurring in the formal classroom; therefore classroom teachers should lead or actively support all phases. MWEEs can be enhanced and supported by partners, such as environmental educators and natural resource professionals, but teachers have the sustained contact with students throughout the school year that positions them to better support and evaluate student learning. Teachers can also serve as environmental role models. 

3)  Local Context: The local community should be viewed as a primary resource for MWEEs. Place-based education promotes learning that is rooted in the unique history, environment, culture, economy, and art of a students’ schoolyard, neighborhood or community, and thus offering the opportunity to explore how individual and collective decisions impact one’s immediate surroundings. There are a variety of local places that can provide an engaging setting for outdoor learning including the Chesapeake Bay, a stream near a school, a school building and its grounds, local parks or undeveloped areas, and even developed areas such as parking lots, ball fields, and marinas. 

4)  Sustained Activity: MWEEs should be a sustained activity that stimulates and motivates the student from beginning to end. Though a field experience may occur on one day the total duration leading up to and following the experience should involve a rich learning experiences such as monitoring, research, and action projects that may spread over weeks or even months. Experiences such as tours, gallery visits, simulations, demonstrations, or “nature walks” may be instructionally useful, but alone do not constitute a meaningful watershed educational experience.

MWEE Evaluation Criteria – the following criteria will be used to evaluate requests for MWEE projects:
-Completeness of the MWEE (Scale of 1-25): Are the essential elements of a MWEE present and robust?
-Supporting Practices (Scale of 1-25): Are the supporting practices of a MWEE present?
-Age-Appropriateness (Scale of 1-10): This process should be age appropriate with practices growing in complexity and sophistication across the grades, starting with educator guided investigation and progressing to student-led inquiry. As students mature, the level and complexity of inquiry will likewise progress.

Outdoor Classroom Requests:

Using the MWEE narrative, applicants may request funds for the construction of outdoor classrooms. Applicants must demonstrate how the projects, during design and construction as well as in the years after completion, will support high quality instruction of students. Applicants are encouraged to include project signage as a cost within the schoolyard project request to maximize.

Outdoor Classroom Evaluation - the following criteria will be used to evaluate requests for Outdoor Classroom projects:

-Connection to instruction (Scale of 1-30): Applicants must demonstrate how the projects, during design and construction as well as in years after completion, will support high quality instruction of students. Plans for how the projects will support instruction should follow the MWEE model (see above).

-Technical soundness (Scale of 1-30): Outdoor classroom projects must be carefully planned and technically sound, and involve the assistance of qualified technical experts, agencies, or organizations, as necessary. The applicant must provide information about all technical assistance received and project partners involved in the design and implementation of the restoration project to enable reviewers to assess this criterion.

Project Type 2 – Professional Development for School Staff:

-Applicants may request funds for professional development experiences for teachers, administrators, and other school staff to build understanding of environmental content and competence in inquiry based and investigative instructional techniques.

-Trainings and workshops should support elements of the MWEE model, such as the investigation of a local environmental issue, using the outdoors (local communities, schoolyards and natural areas, watersheds and/or the Chesapeake Bay) as a context for learning, and/or design and implementation of an action project.

-The Trust encourages trainings and ongoing support to be at least 30 hours, to ensure that participants are successful in using new information gained in the training.

-Modeling of Environmental Education pedagogy in the delivery of professional development as much as possible, including use of the field and/or communities for instruction.

-Include strategies to increase the environmental literacy of the participating teachers, encouraging them to be environmental role models for their students.

-Existence of a plan or draft list of teachers by subject and grade level that are targeted to attend the trainings with an explanation of why these teachers were selected for the training.

-A draft agenda should be included. The absence of a draft agenda will need to be justified. A component of all professional development trainings should be an overview of the MWEE model to ensure participants are able to use what is learned to design, enhance, and/or implement their own MWEE.

Professional Development Evaluation Criteria - the following criteria will be used to evaluate requests for Professional Development projects:

-Soundness of plan (Scale of 1-40): Does the length of the training ensure teacher success? Will teachers be supported before, during, and after the training? Is the draft agenda appropriate?

-Support of the MWEE (Scale of 1-10): Does the work support elements of the MWEE model, such as the investigation of a local environmental issue, using the outdoors (local communities, schoolyards and natural areas, watersheds and/or the Chesapeake Bay) as a context for learning, and/or design and implementation of an action project.

-Increase in environmental literacy (Scale of 1-10): Will the environmental literacy of the participating teachers, be increased, encouraging them to be environmental role models for their students?

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 177245

Estimated Size of Grant:

Up to $5,000

Term of Contract:

Projects may start no earlier than September 29, 2018 (August 2, 2018 deadline); or no earlier than March 9, 2019 (January 10, 2019 deadline).

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Who can apply: Schools, nonprofit organizations, community associations, faith-based organizations and more. See the RFP for full list of organizations.

Eligible Applicants:

The Trust prefers the pre-K-12 school to serve as the lead applicant instead of a partner. If a partner does apply, the Trust requires:

1) The participating school’s name
2) An explanation of why the partner is applying instead of the school
3) Letter of support from the participating school(s)

-Exception: All District of Columbia Public Schools are encouraged to have a local partner or another fiscal entity serve as the lead applicant.

The following types of partners may serve as lead applicants when the school cannot for some reason:
-501(c)3 Private Nonprofit Organizations;
-Faith-based Organizations;
-Community Associations;
-Service, Youth, and Civic Groups;
-Municipal, County, Regional, State, Federal Public Agencies;
-Soil/Water Conservation Districts & Resource Conservation and Development Councils;
-Forestry Boards;
-Public and Independent Higher Educational Institutions.

Applicants representing after-school and summer programs are eligible to apply in cases in which there is a very strong connection with a specific school’s pre-K-12 curriculum. Such requests must include:
1) A list of the participating school(s) targeted
2) Explanation of why they were targeted/selected (Programs targeting under-engaged schools will receive priority over other afterschool and summer program requests.)
3) Letter(s) of commitment to participate from the participating school(s)
4) All Essential Elements of a Meaningful Watershed Education Experience as described above.

The Trust does NOT fund the following:
-Projects that will occur outside of Maryland, Delaware, DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia or the Chesapeake Bay Watershed;
-Endowments, deficit financing, individuals, building campaigns, annual giving, research, fund raising or venture capital;
-Mitigation or capital construction activities such as structural erosion control measures;
-Political lobbying;
-Reimbursement for a project that has been completed or materials that have been purchased;
-Budget items that are considered secondary to the project’s central objective. These items include, but are not limited to, cash prizes, cameras and video equipment;
-Promotional collateral such as pens, key-chains, t-shirts, etc.;
-Funding is generally restricted to projects on public property, private community-owned land and conservation easements, unless otherwise specified in a grant program.

The Trust evaluates each proposal on a case by case basis. The Trust and its partners reserve the right to fund projects and budget items that advance their mission and meet their specific funding priorities and criteria.

Pre-Application Information:

The Trust funds up to half of outdoor field experience costs, such as program fees, substitute costs, and transportation expenses. However, schools are encouraged to exceed the 50% level of match, if possible, by fully exploring match opportunities prior to submitting a request. In an effort to provide resources for as many students as possible to participate in meaningful watershed experiences, the Trust hopes grantees can leverage as many matching funds and resources as possible.

Title 1 schools running school-wide Title 1 programs are permitted to request full costs for bay and watershed education related field trips.

If you are not requesting costs for the student-led action project, you must list in the budget the source of cash match for the action project costs.

The Trust will have two deadlines for applications during the next fiscal year: August 2, 2018 and January 10, 2019. Applications must be received before 4:00 p.m. on all deadline dates.

-Deadline Date: August 2, 2018, before 4:00pm
-Decision Date: September 28, 2018
-Project Start Date: no earlier than September 29, 2018

-Deadline Date: January 10, 2019, before 4:00pm
-Decision Date: March 8, 2019
-Project Start Date: no earlier than March 9, 2019

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Emily Stransky, Grant Manager
410-974-2941 ext. 101

Grant Coverage Areas:

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Delaware;   Maryland;   New York;   Pennsylvania;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   West Virginia