NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project

NOAA Planet Stewards Banner with Earth and Children

Applications to join the NOAA Planet Stewards 2020 Stewardship Community are now being accepted!

Accepted applicants may receive up to $2500 to carry out stewardship projects in their schools and communities. Find out more!

Access the NOAA Planet Stewards 2020 Stewardship Community Application Here.

Applications will be accepted until Midnight, December 1, 2019.

Subscribe to the NOAA Planet Stewards Mailing List. You’ll receive announcements about our program and our bi-monthly newsletter - The Watch - with professional development opportunities, educational resources and much more!

What We Do

The NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project (PSEP) provides formal and informal educators working with elementary through college aged students the knowledge and resources to build scientifically-literate individuals and communities who are prepared to respond to environmental challenges monitored by NOAA. Read more below in the Education Community.

PSEP also supports educators in developing and implementing hands-on stewardship activities that conserve, restore, and protect human communities and natural resources. Read more below in the Stewardship Community.

The Education Community

Increasing Environmental Literacy

The Education Community is open to anyone. Participants are invited to attend monthly webinars, book club discussions, and workshops at locations across the country. Workshops have focused on a range of environmental topics integrating citizen science, STEM, community resilience, and climate science. Education Community members also receive our bi-monthly newsletter - The Watch - with links to professional development opportunities as well as education opportunities and resources.

Join the Education Community Today!

are one and a half hour live broadcasts given by nationally recognized NOAA and NOAA partner scientists, educators and communicators.

Webinars are live broadcasts given by nationally recognized NOAA and NOAA partner scientists, educators and communicators. These events provide knowledge and resources that help educators build their understanding of NOAA related science as well as their pedagogic and communication skills. Attendees receive certificates of attendance acknowledging their participation in one hour of professional development. Sign up to our email list and receive invitations to future events. Have questions? contact Bruce.Moravchik@noaa.gov

Click here to view over 32 selected video archives of previous webinars. Please note, many archives were broadcast under the banner NOAA Climate Stewards, our previous program name.

The Book Club is an opportunity for educators nation-wide to interact with their peers and talk about fiction and nonfiction science as well as education books, videos, and articles dealing with environmental challenges and solutions.

The Book Club is an opportunity for educators nationwide to interact with their peers while discussing fiction and nonfiction science as well as education books, videos, and articles dealing with environmental challenges and solutions. To see a full list of books and dates we’ll be discussing, visit our Upcoming Events page. Have questions? contact Bruce.Moravchik@noaa.gov

Click here to view previous Book Club selections.

Workshops are highly subsidised multi-day professional development opportunities held at different locations across the United States.

Workshops are face-to-face professional development opportunities held at locations across the United States. They allow formal and informal educators to engage with scientists, education and communication specialists about environmental challenges impacting the regions where the workshops are held, discover resources and activities to bring back to their classrooms and communities, as well as learn about projects they can model or build upon to respond to the environmental challenges they learn about at the events. To see the current list of upcoming workshops, visit our Upcoming Events page.

The Stewardship Community

Taking Action in Your School or Community

The Stewardship Community is a network supporting educators in the development and implementation of hands-on action-based projects that conserve, restore, or protect human communities and natural resources from environmental challenges monitored by NOAA. It is a unique 18 month opportunity to receive one-on-one guidance in designing, implementing, and evaluating an environmental stewardship project, and writing for a Federal funding opportunity.

To join the Stewardship community, an educator must submit a stewardship project pre-proposal. If accepted, the educator meets about once a month for five months with a Peer Review Group to refine and expand their project proposal. At the end of the Peer Review Group process - usually the beginning of June - the educator submits a final project proposal, which, if approved, may provide up to $2500 to carry out the project during the following academic year.

Stewardship projects must be hands-on action-based projects that conserve, restore, and/or protect human communities and/or natural resources from an environmental challenge that NOAA monitors. Projects pre-proposals being accepted for 2020 Stewardship Community must take action in one of four areas:

  • Adapting to or mitigating the impacts of sea level rise
  • Decreasing sources/impacts of marine debris
  • Restoring coastal, wetland, estuarine, or riverine habitats
  • Reducing carbon footprints/increasing carbon sequestration.

Projects must include quantitative measurement of the project’s impact e.g. acres of habitat protected or restored, tons of carbon sequestered or conserved, etc.

Stewardship Community participants receive guidance on measuring the results of their projects. Educational outcomes should be a part of, but not the primary measurement of the project’s success.

Below are the project focus areas for 2020 Stewardship Community projects and related resources to consider when planning a project:

Sea Level Rise

Global sea level changes, their importance, and their causes.

Quick overview of sea level rise and find related resources.

Link between sea level rise, high tides, and flooding.

Sea level rise for educators and students.

Marine Debris

Marine debris sources, impacts, and what you can do to help solve the marine debris problem.

Efforts to combat marine debris in each US region.

Habitat Restoration - Understand the benefits, importance, challenges, and what you can do.

Coastal wetlands

Estuaries

Rivers

Reducing carbon footprints/increasing carbon sequestration.

Assessing and Reducing Carbon Footprints

https://www.climate.gov/teaching/resources/dreaming-green-young-voices-climate-change

https://www.climategen.org/blog/carbon-calculators-reviewed/

Carbon Sequestration

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/planet-stewards/#givingtree

https://www.climate.gov/teaching/resources/carbon-sequestration-campus-trees

Educators who complete their stewardship project and all reporting requirements may be invited and supported to give presentations at select national science education conferences or NOAA Planet Stewards workshops. They may also receive invitations to special events and face-to-face professional development opportunities.

To participate in the Stewardship Community an educator is committing to:

  • Develop and implement a Planet Stewardship project
  • Dedicate approximately 3-5 hours/month to:
    • Attend PSEP webinars
    • Fully participate in a Stewardship Project Peer Review Group (~1 hour/month - evening hours.)
    • Continuously update and improve their project via a PSEP wiki during the five months that the Peer Review Groups meet.
    • Share resources with other PSEP educators and provide comments on other projects via the wiki.
    • Participate in PSEP evaluation efforts i.e. online surveys.

Applications to join the 2020 Stewardship Community are now being accepted through midnight December 1, 2019 Apply today!

To receive updates on future opportunities related to NOAA Planet Stewards, subscribe to our email list.

Past Projects

The following are examples of successful environmental stewardship projects funded through NOAA Planet Stewards.

You can read more examples of successful projects supported by the NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project in the 2016 and the 2019 editions of The Earth Scientist

High school girls’ lacrosse team collecting recyclables from athletic field.

High school girls’ lacrosse team collecting recyclables from athletic field.

Recharging Recycling
(Michele – High school teacher, Chantilly, VA)

A teacher and her students at a large Virginia high school decided to do something about the huge number of potentially recyclable items ending up in the trash every day at her school. Understanding that plastic is the most common type of marine debris, and seeing that many of the trashed recyclables were plastic, Michele and 150 students developed a program to recharge the recycling efforts at their school.

The “Recharging Recycling” campaign focused on reducing plastic refuse by increasing the use of water bottle refilling stations and the correct use of recycling bins. To begin, the students circulated a recycling survey around school to determine attitudes about recycling in the school. They placed recycling bins by the stadium field. Advertising for the recycling program was shared on the “Knightly News” school video program. By the end of the school year, the students engaged in 3,750 hours of stewardship activities saving 14,754 single use 16.9 oz. water bottles from use and collecting over 32 60 gallon trash bags full of recycling from recycling bins they placed outside.

Michele became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2019. She teaches high school biology, geosystems, and oceanography in Chantilly, Virginia.


Middle school students planting native species after removing invasive plants.

Middle school students planting native species after removing invasive plants.

Invasive Beware
(Angela – Middle school teacher, Gorham, ME)

Invasive plants are those from another region that do not belong in their new environment. They can cause extinctions of native plants, reduce biodiversity, compete with natives for limited resources, and alter habitats. Angela and her 7th grade students decided to do something about the invasive plants growing around their school yard. To engage and excite her students about science, Angela challenged her 82 7th graders to identify local invasive planets, develop a removal and treatment program to keep invasive plants out of the school grounds, and choose and grow appropriate native plants for their area.

Starting in the fall, students counted and removed invasive plants in quadrats on the school grounds and measured the pH of the soil. When they weren’t counting and measuring, they researched and discussed potential native species to grow in the classroom to replace the invasives they planned to remove (based on their pH measurements). They continued the removal and watched their new native plants grow in the classroom throughout the winter. In the spring, the 7th graders conducted the final removal and transplanted their new plants to the clear areas. By the end of the year, the students had engaged in 328 hours of stewardship activities and removed 405 pounds of invasive plants from their school grounds.

Angela became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2019 and was part of the NOAA Planet Stewards workshop series at the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) national conference in 2019. She teaches 7th grade earth science in Gorham, Maine.


Colorado Coralition student cleaning coral nursery.

Colorado Coralition student cleaning coral nursery.

The Colorado Coralition
(Matt – Middle School Teacher, Fort Collins, CO)

Coral bleaching and mortality is an ongoing and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide, impacting marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Carysfort Reef in the Florida Reef Tract is one such reef that has faced significant decline over the past few decades. A once fertile ecosystem teeming with life is now algae-covered rubble. A group of 18 middle and high school students from a Colorado, a headwater state, decided to help change that landscape by joining The Colorado Coralition.

During the 2018-2019 school year, the students accepted into the Coralition, became certified divers, while researching coral decline and fundraising for the culminating coral restoration trip to Key Largo, Florida (Carysfort Reef). The met with Dr. Mark Easkin from NOAA and Zack Rago from the film Chasing Coral to learn more about global coral bleaching trends and the future of corals worldwide. They also met with Congressman Joe Neguse. By the end of the trip to Carysfort Reef, the students had engaged in over 2,400 hours of preparation and stewardship activities.

Matt became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2019. He is a middle and high school English teacher at the Polaris Expeditionary School in Fort Collins Colorado.


Environmental science student takes measurements before invasive species removal.

Environmental science student takes measurements before invasive species removal.

Increasing Biodiversity, Watershed Health, and Students’ Environmental Awareness
(Holly – High School Teacher, Redford, MI)

Storm water retention ponds ensure water is not returned to a watershed too quickly after a storm. An increased volume of water in the streams and rivers can lead to bank erosion and the addition of pollutants and nutrients lowering water quality and increasing the chance for algal blooms downstream. The ugly brown phragmites the students saw everyday was adequately cleaning the water in the retention pond, but there was little diversity in animal or plant life. The AP Environmental Science students decided to change that.

The students studied watersheds, invasive species, and biodiversity while planning the AP environmental stewardship action project. They chose was a combination of removing invasive species from the storm water retention pond and replanting it native plants for a rain and pollinator garden. They cleared 7,266 sq. ft. of invasive phragmites from the pond over numerous days. One of the students created an award-winning video about the retention pond project.

Another student wrote a grant and was awarded additional funding. Instead of planting the 30+ native plants on their own, the high school students teamed up with local 5th graders for a planting day. Groups of Environmental Science students also planned educational stations where they designed short lessons that included fun demos for the younger students to learn about the importance of pollinators and how wetlands filter and clean water.

After planting, the students observed 20 different plants, nine macroinvertebrates, 15 terrestrial invertebrates, five protists and algae, red wing blackbirds, rabbits, and brown rats after planting. All together, the students involved with the project spent over 2700 hours engaged in stewardship activities to bring their stewardship plan to life.


Students planting plants.

Students planting native seeds and plants

Pocket Prairie Restoration
(Stephanie - Middle School Teacher, Maineville, Ohio)

At a middle school near Cincinnati, Ohio, students and teachers periodically heard the custodian running the gas powered lawn mower back and forth across the 2.75 acres of lawn next to their school. The same area had once been a prairie. Because everyone lives in a watershed, Stephanie wanted to inspire students “to see native plants as beautiful and not weeds needing to be sprayed with pesticide and mowed regularly” and reduce the amount of atmosphere warming carbon emitted by the lawn mower (80 pounds per year according to the EPA).

The 89 students began their restoration effort by calculating a carbon footprint for maintaining the area to be restored. Working with the school custodian, they measured the amount of gas used to mow the 2.75 acres for the 30 weeks of the school year and calculated the resulting carbon emissions. They also recorded the types of plants and animals in the lawn area. After having the land tilled, the students planted native seeds and plants and took new measurements. Students recorded 20 types of plants in the restored prairie area compared to 3 types in the lawn area. The number of animals in the same area grew from 30 to 45 different species. And in the end, restoring the prairie area, which never needs mowing, saved 1,062 lbs. of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year.

Stephanie became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018. She is a middle school science teacher and the Conservation Teacher of the Year for her county.


Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed

Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed

Solarize Delta High School
(Ben - High School Teacher, Delta, Colorado)

A Colorado “community with deep roots in agriculture and coal mining is quickly transitioning into a booming destination for recreation, tourism, and renewable energy.” Ben decided to use the momentum bring renewable energy to his school and train students in the burgeoning field. The project powered an outdoor classroom with a student installed and monitored solar array, reduced the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere, and trained local students as solar technicians.

After learning phases of solar electric design and installation, the 14 students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course, designed and installed 2400 W solar array in the “Solar PV Lap Yard.” They planned the layout of the panels, diagramed the wiring, and installed and wired the array. The students collected data on the performance of the panels and created a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for operating the array to maximize production. In addition, 75 environmental science students quantified and monitored the array to correctly predict the amount of electricity needed and to calculate the climate benefit of the array. As a result of the project, 1.38 tons of CO2 were kept out of the environment, 14 students graduated from the training program, and 10 teachers completed a professional development program to bring solar energy and technology into the classrooms.

Ben became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018. He is a high school environmental science teacher and a Knowles Teacher Initiative Senior Fellow. Through his Solar Energy Training class, students leave high school prepared to be technicians in the solar industry.


Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed

Students plant a Three Sisters garden they designed and increase the school garden size to 500 ft2

Cultivating Community: Empowered Resilience
(Amelia – High School Teacher, Norman, Oklahoma)

Climate projections for the Great Plains region include rising temperatures, declining precipitation, and greater evaporation. Understanding this, Amelia wanted to help Oklahomans understand that growing an organic, local food supply and incorporating efficient water usage would help them adapt to these anticipated changes in climate. She enlisted the help of 57 K-12 students from Norman High School and the Native Youth Science Club she founded to help make this happen through hands-on stewardship.

The Native Youth Science Club investigated Chickasaw beliefs about the environment and Native American agriculture through storytelling and traditional environmental knowledge. They designed and planted a Three Sisters garden as well as increasing the school garden size to 500 ft2. The new garden has increased biomass by 434% and sequestered approximately 40 lbs. of carbon per year. The AP students researched, designed, and built a rainwater catchment system and xeriscaped 800 ft2 to reduce water usage. The result of the students’ stewardship activities resulted in over 1,100 people visiting the school garden yearly (up from 20-25) and seeing climate adaptation and mitigation in action through local food growth and thoughtful water usage.

Amelia became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018. She is a high school science teacher and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.


Students in the Solar Energy Training vocational course install a 2400 W solar array they designed

Students prepare to plant 125 three-to-four year old pear and apple trees at their school and in the local community

The Giving Trees
(John - High school teacher, Mishawaka, IN)

As the climate changes, the need for food producing plants in a greater variety of locations will become essential. Indiana’s temperature increased by 1℉ over the last two decades and heavy precipitation events are occurring. The use of trees to produce food provides a diverse source in the face of monocultures that could be more susceptible to flooding. Additionally, John wanted, over time, reduce the amount of carbon released in the atmosphere by giving the community options for locally grown fruit and his community and his students to see themselves as stewards of nature.

John enlisted the help of his 10th and 12th grade biology students to prepare and plant 125 three-to-four year old pear and apple trees at his school and in the local community. An additional 75 students helped graft trees for future planting. In total, the student spent almost 300 hours engaged in stewardship activities. In the first year, the trees will sequester 62 lbs. of CO2. Over a 15 year estimate life of the trees, they will sequester an estimate 65 tons of carbon

John became a NOAA Planet Steward in 2018 and is a high school biology teacher who sponsors his school’s Korean Club and TEAMS Engineering group.


Lead the Way to a Better World!
(David – Community College Instructor, Rockville, Maryland)

Students at a local community college in Maryland met several times over the course of a semester to learn how to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by changing their habits. Each student chose an action to take and even recruited a friend or family member to take part in the behavior change activity.

Students chose to reduce the miles they drove, reduce hairdryer use, turn off personal computers and monitors, reduce light bulb use, reduce shower time, turn off the TV when not watching, and not use the air conditioner as often. Their new choices resulted in approximately 5,459 pounds of carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere.


Students restore vegetation in a Florida coastal wetland.

Students restore vegetation in a Florida coastal wetland.

Weather Ready Bay Point Nation
(Chris – GCOOS Outreach and Education Manager, St. Petersburg, Florida)

Storm surge inundation of low-lying communities in the St. Petersburg area prompted 60 students in grades 3-5 to take action to help their community. Over three months, the students learned about a variety of topics including the role of coastal wetlands and assessing vulnerability to inundation in the classroom and through field trips. To put their new knowledge to work, the students restored 231 square meters of bay grass at Bay Vista Park in St. Petersburg. The students also hosted an exhibit at the St. Petersburg Science Festival and worked with peers in grades 2-5 to develop adaptation and emergency evacuation plans.


Students planting the rain garden at their school.

Students planting the rain garden at their school.

Oakton School Rain Garden
(Claire – School Volunteer, Evanston, IL)

Storms have become increasingly severe in the Great Lakes region. Students at an elementary school in Evanston, Illinois noticed there was a steady stream of water flowing out of two the school’s downspouts. After learning about weather, its connection to climate, and ways to make a difference in their environment, students created a rain garden to reduce the amount of water running out of the downspouts onto an adjacent driveway and sidewalk. Eighty kindergarten through fifth grade students researched plants, created school and garden maps, and planted and tended the garden. By the end of the project, a 600 square foot rain garden reduced the amount of water going into the storm sewers by 60-70%.


Students measure the amount of compostables in their weekly cafeteria trash.

Students measure the amount of compostables in their weekly cafeteria trash.

Recyclers at Waseca Montessori School
(Seri – Elementary School Science Specialist, Athens, Georgia)

Every day, students throw away pounds of food and food containers in school cafeterias. At a Montessori school in Georgia, 22 students decided to change that. They learned about compost microorganisms, observed the composting process, performed a waste audit in their cafeteria, built composting stalls, and recorded trash reduction and compost materials after the stalls were made. Ultimately, the students’ efforts resulted in a 95% increase in the amount of compostable wastes sent to the compost pile at their school, and they grew 100 tree seedlings in the compost to be planted in the local area.


Philadelphia area college students begin preparation of green roof projects at their university.

Philadelphia area college students begin preparation of green roof projects at their university.

Green Roof Performance
(Radika and Megan – Professors, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Fifteen students representing Architecture, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Design, Engineering, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Psychology and Environmental Sustainability majors put their climate knowledge to use to design and test green roofs at their university. The students designed an experimental green roof research project to study the role of green roof substrates in storm water management and plant growth. Students planted a 64 square foot section with 320 plants. The students assessed how well their designs performed and measured the energy savings and amount of carbon held by the plants. The roofs saved between 20.8kWh and 101.3kWh per year and held approximately 274g Cm2 per month. The students shared their knowledge and the hands-on science activities they developed with local high school students and their neighbors at the Philadelphia Science Festival.


Resources

  • The National Ocean Service Education includes ocean and coastal curricula, lesson plans, tutorials and projects about corals, currents, tides, estuaries, global positioning, pollution, nautical charts, and seafloor mapping.
  • NOAA Education resource collections are organized by themes aligned with common teaching topics including ocean and coasts, weather and atmosphere, climate, marine life, freshwater, and data resources.
  • Ocean Today provides award-winning 2 minute videos on all aspects of the ocean realm great for student introduction and engagement.
  • The NOAA Citizen Science website supports a portfolio of projects fostered and supported across the agency. It includes a link to the Database of Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Projects.
  • Discover Your World with NOAA provides 40 free activities highlighting science and stewardship from around NOAA to help students explore, understand, and protect Earth.
  • Discover Your Changing World with NOAA is a free downloadable activity book of 10 activities that introduce students to the essential principles of climate science.
  • The NOAA Climate Portal is a one-stop site of information and resources for educators and students. It includes the CLEAN collection of climate and energy science resources.
  • Data in the Classroom online activities guide students in the use of historic and near-real time data about sea level rise, coral Bleaching, El Nino, and water quality. Each investigation culminates with student-directed investigations using NOAA data.
  • The National Weather Service provides educators with weather science, safety, career information, and the adventures of Owlie Skywarn.
  • The NOAA Marine Debris program works to keep the global ocean and its coasts free from the impacts of marine debris and has a wide variety of downloadable curricula and fun activities.
  • Our National Marine Sanctuaries include a network of underwater parks of marine and Great Lakes waters. Click on a site near you for activities, multimedia, stories and opportunities.
  • The National Estuarine Research Reserves is a network of protected coastal areas that are used as living classrooms providing hands-on experiences and resources for all ages.
  • The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program provides lessons, curricula, and tutorials for formal and informal educators to bring coral reefs into the classroom.
  • NOAA Fisheries Resources provide information on protected marine species, educator opportunities, and activities to explore marine resource management and effective stewardship of critical habitats, sustainable fisheries, and marine protected species.
  • The NOAA Game Site offers an arcade of interactive games focused on the ocean and environmental stewardship.
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Last updated: 11/13/19
Author: NOAA
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