2021 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
Category: Increasing Environmental Literacy
Walk to the Hart of Climate Change — A student-led group at Suffield High School will receive funds to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and socio-economic status at their Walk to the Hart of Climate Change event.
Science Yourself — This organization will distribute 300 science exploration kits to elementary students in New Haven and provide teacher training to foster transformative learning experiences in nature.
Mill Hill PTA — Mill Hill PTA will use funds to support a pollinator habitat component of a larger outdoor classroom project. The project aims to educate, engage, and empower the Mill Hill community around sustainability.
Category: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice
Everyone Outside — Everyone Outside will provide DEIJ training for camp staff and campers, as well as transportation to training, so that staff will have increased capacity to mentor campers from BIPOC communities.
2020 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
Category: Increasing Environmental Literacy
Connecticut Audubon Society and its Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center — “At Home Science Tool Kits Project” ($980):
This project will provide 70 students in New London County who participate in Connecticut Audubon Society’s (CAS) virtual science learning programs with hands-on science “tool kits” to enhance and support their distance learning experiences during at-home schooling. This is a new adaptation of the award-winning Science in Nature program to accommodate the current health crisis and ensure consistency in learning for students. The Science in Nature program engages underserved students who are struggling in STEM subjects without a hands-on component to their learning. The kits will enable virtual science lessons to include a hands-on component and since it takes place at home, may also indirectly engage other family members in outdoor activities.
Update: Connecticut Audubon Society (Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center) provided 60 students in New London County with hands-on science "tool kits" to enhance and support their distance learning experiences during at-home schooling.
University of Saint Joseph – “Getting in Touch with Nature: The University of Saint Joseph Sensory Nature Trail Project” ($1,000):
This new project will establish a Sensory Nature Trail throughout woodland and grassland areas on campus that are urban wildlife habitat. The project will create a space for quiet reflection, an accessible nature trail for all, an outdoor classroom in the urban city of West Hartford, additional enrichment for the Gengras curriculum focused on special needs students, and a location for ongoing natural history projects. Students at the University of Saint Joseph will be involved in all aspects of the project. The Sensory Nature Trail will be open to both the university community and the general public.
Update: The University of St. Joseph used their award to create an accessible sensory trail that supports curriculum for both college students at USJ and special needs students at the Gengras Center.
Category: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice
Connecticut Forest & Parks Association (CFPA) — Race, Equity & Inclusion Education for Board and Staff ($2,000):
The Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), Connecticut’s oldest conservation organization, is engaging Thought Partner Solutions (TPS) to manage a 3-hour Racial Equity workshop followed by coaching sessions in three segments for the entire CFPA Board and staff. The training will offer the opportunity to dissect racial equity, unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. TPS will facilitate delicate discussions on systematic racial inequities. Some anticipated outcomes of this training are to generate stronger, more inclusive and effective statewide conservation efforts and to create an action plan that is racially equitable, inclusive, and furthers CFPA’s strategic plan for 2020-2022.
Update: The Connecticut Forest and Park Association had Thought Partner Solutions (i) facilitate a workshop on understanding racial bias and where it may exist within CFPA; and (ii) coaching on creating a more equitable and inclusive organization.
2019 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
New Haven Ecology Project/Common Ground: Learning about Composting at Common Ground. This education module is an enhancement of the Farm Tour and Soil field trips for 4th- 8th grade students. Funding will train educators to facilitate a Composting module and purchase supplies to develop their Composting Area into an educational station.
Update: The Common Ground Farm Department and Nature Year and Field Trip instructors, Melissa Gibbons and Cjet Raymond, had a lot of fun creating a draft Compost Field Trip Curriculum. We were not able to test and refine the curriculum as expected because of COVID related cancellations to our Field Trip Program. We were able to have meaningful smaller interactions with our Summer Interns, who processed and practiced teaching each other about compost, did brief “how to” lessons with all on campus High School Students, and have been able to engage with small groups of our school aged Nature Year Program. One of the Nature Year Teachers, Tricia, said, “A walk around the farm for Nature Year students led to a…lesson on composting when they came upon Farmer Ellen chopping up food waste. It looked like such satisfying work that everyone wanted a turn helping her chop! Afterwards they got to see the different stages of compost, and noticed that the finished compost simply looked like nutritious soil and didn’t smell at all like rotting food!” We were able to purchase a tumbler for the public to drop their compost in, took lots of demonstration photos to add to signage and our new How To sheets, and created (temporary) signage that is on bins all over campus and in the compost area to help with ease of use. We hope to redesign these with students when folks are back onsite, and hope to test our compost curriculum now that we have some younger folks returning to campus. We know that this project will have a big impact in the future.
All Our Kin: Early Childhood Outdoor Education Workshop Series. This bilingual series is for home-based educators who instill the newest generation with a love of nature and outdoor exploration. Funding will help coach 50 family child care educators and support an additional 300 children.
Update: Thanks to the COEEA mini grant, All Our Kin’s Early Childhood Outdoor Education workshop series is a success! Due to the pandemic, we are holding all of our workshops in the form of virtual panels. We are happy to say that the mini grant is being used to give honorariums to panelists who are our very own Family Child Care educators like Dora, pictured. These panelists are often veterans of the Outdoor Education Coaching program and are experts in early childhood outdoor education in home daycare settings. Through the virtual panel series, they are able to share their knowledge with fellow child educators and strengthen the network of educators offering high quality outdoor education to children 0-5 years old.
Dora Ramos of Shiny Rocks Daycare in Stamford
2018 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
Jim Sirch, in partnership with Hamden Land Conservation Trust: Bear Path Elementary School Pollinator Garden
The Bear Path Elementary School Pollinator Garden will receive some much needed renovation by removing invasives and installing new native perennials to supplements those that survive. I will partner with teachers and PTA, and members and volunteers of the Hamden Land Conservation Trust (HLCT) to carry out the work. Garden maintenance will be sustained into the future as an ongoing project of the HLCT. As part of this work, I will develop a teaching guide with NGSS coordinated activities. We will install signage that credits COEEA for support and the HLCT with ongoing maintenance, while educating families about establishing pollinator plants in their own yards. The project will benefit the environment and help to increase environmental literacy.
Natural Resources Conservation Academy: Equipment for Student Projects
Participants in the Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP; http://nrca.uconn.edu/students/index .htm.) and the Conservation Training Partnership Program (CTP; http://nrca.uconn.edu/students-adults/index.htm) undertake conservation projects that span a wide range of environmental topics. After assessing the last seven years of programming, we have observed that certain project topics are more common to undertake. Biodiversity, fish & wildlife monitoring, invasive species & restoration, public outreach, water quality and mapping account for 73% of project topics. The funding requested would support supplies for new NRCA student projects, such as nets, trail cameras, and water quality meters, beginning in our 2019-2020 program year.
Stamford Museum & Nature Center: Native Seed Library
A native & heirloom seed library will accessible to local teachers and youth leaders, as well as SM&NC members and visitors. The funding will literally serve as seed money to establish a starter library which will allow teachers, leaders, and the general public to check out native, pollinator-friendly wildflower seeds and heritage vegetable seeds to use in schoolyard gardens, community gardens, or in backyard habitats and gardens. Seeds would be accompanied by information on proper planting, care, and harvesting of each seed type, which teachers could take back to their schoolyard gardens, as well as information on healthy seeds and seed origination. All seeds would either come from our gardens, participant gardens, or local nonGMO Connecticut seed companies. This seed library would allow for teachers to obtain supplies and information for free, as well as making a noted difference for local pollinator populations. We anticipate being able to keep this as a free library through seed returns, seed collections from SM&NC gardens and future donations and would be willing to absorb some costs into the budget in future years.
2017 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
Audubon Center Bent of the River is a 700-acre nature sanctuary and education center located in Southbury, Connecticut. It is part of Audubon Connecticut (a state office of the National Audubon Society). Audubon CT is strengthening our network by devising new solutions based on successful programs that both staff and volunteers can implement. These funds will create a traveling set of 2 or 3 StoryWalk® exhibits using children’s picture books that will be chosen to match Audubon’s focus on Connecticut’s role in the Atlantic Flyway, and actions that help “Build a Better World for Birds”. Additional panels will be added to recognize partners, and provide examples of bird-friendly actions visitors can complete at home. The exhibits will be lightweight, weatherproof, and organized for easy transport and installation by volunteers. Scavenger hunts, suggested questions for parents, and bird-friendly action handouts will be available for download and print. The exhibits will be available to travel throughout our network of sanctuaries, centers, and Audubon Chapters events starting in April 2018, and materials will be used beyond the grant period.
Friends of Boulder Knoll: All-Access Environmental Education ($1,120)
The Boulder Knoll Farm has evolved, since its establishment nine years ago, into an organic, community-supported agricultural farm with a vast array of educational programs offered to all ages throughout the garden season. Providing raised garden areas that are handicapped accessible, including building a demonstration potting bench, is our goal for the upcoming year. We firmly believe that creating this kind of valuable teaching tool will allow many more citizens of the community to participate in many of the teaching/learning opportunities held at the farm. We would welcome the participation of school groups and child oriented organizations into our seasonal programs, and we believe that the addition of a demonstration area with a learning grow bench would enable participants of all ages, who require wheelchair/assistive walker support, to access plants in a hands on manner. Funds will be used for building supplies for garden benches, good quality organic soil, stipends for instructors, and planting supplies. Our dedicated board and farm members will provide the tools and manpower. We will publicize in print/non-print/social media. Flyers will be distributed to local environmental groups, farms, libraries, and other related associations.
2016 Mini Grant Award Recipients:
Stamford Museum & Nature Center: Recycled ReCreation Maker Space ($525)
The Stamford Museum & Nature Center (SM&NC) is a 118-acre educational facility focusing on environmental, agricultural, astronomy, and art education. It serves over 60,000 visitors per year, primarily families with children 12 and under, and over 30,000 school-aged children through its programs. The Recycled ReCreation Maker Space tied to SM&NC’s photography exhibition, Water: A Fragile Resource. The project was designed to be a hands-on, creative Maker Space for the museum, composed of all recycled and recyclable materials. The project was accompanied by information on local recycling programs and the benefits to the planet of recycling different materials, especially the benefits on local waterways and water sources. The SM&NC also partnered with local businesses to collect items that would normally be thrown out or recycled for material for the Maker Space, as well as collecting from the local community. Students and families had creative opportunities to build, craft, and engineer sculptures, models, animals, or whatever their imaginations decide while the important message of recycling and stewardship was reinforced.
Goodwin Conservation Center/Friends of Goodwin Forest: The Master Naturalist Program ($1,000)
The Master Naturalist program at Goodwin Conservation Center is a unique environmental education program in the State of Connecticut that serves educators, scientists, and the general public. The goal of the Master Naturalist program is to create a group of citizen naturalists who have a passion for and interest in the environment. These naturalists learn the skills of observation, analysis, and presentation to encourage their continued curiosity about the natural world. In addition to the informational background being provided, a strong emphasis on presentation and education is provided to encourage budding naturalists to spread their message to the Connecticut community. Funding for this program supported 21 naturalists complete Level 1 of the program, at least 400 hours of outreach, and at least 300 hours of research projects and data collection with leaders in the field. Through this program, participants learn about the ecosystems of Connecticut, the animals and plants that inhabit our area, and current conservation issues affecting our wildlife and natural resources. The Master Naturalist program, with COEEA funds in 2017, helps to develop more naturalists across the state and encourage interest in the environment.