The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded more than $1 million in Environmental Education Grants to 73 projects aimed at engaging youth and adults in their communities to improve water quality and climate change resiliency.
Schuylkill County’s Potter’s Farm LLC is one of the recipients, earning $10,000 for two environmental education projects.
“Giving students hands-on time to explore habitat right outside their school helps them better understand their watershed — and how to lead projects to protect and improve it,” Leah Zerbe, the environmental educator at Potters Farm, tells The Canary. “Student-led learning allows the kids to focus on what interests them most and to carry out meaningful conservation projects that they are invested in.”
The local projects will involve students from Minersville Area Elementary and Pine Grove Area Middle School in their after-school and summer programs, enabling them to explore their watershed. Over 12 interactive sessions, students will utilize professional research and data collection methodologies and lead restoration projects to improve local water quality and reduce soil erosion.
Zerbe details what Potter’s Farm will be providing to the students at these 2 districts.
“We’ll be learning about runoff, performing bioblitzes to ID birds and plants living in the area and spending lots of time outside to help students expand their curiosity of the natural world,” she says. “The idea is to create life-long, empowered conservationists no matter where they live.”
These projects were awarded to highlight the commitment to providing practical solutions for environmental and safety issues that the communities face.
“This funding will drive impactful work in classrooms, neighborhoods, and the field, sparking lasting environmental stewardship in Pennsylvanians of all ages and backgrounds,” says DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin in a statement on the grants.
In total, 55 projects will serve environmental justice communities, with 83% of the grant funding directly supporting these educational initiatives. The funded projects vary in scope and location, spanning from a farm-to-school food program in Erie to a program in Philadelphia designed to train residents in cool roof coating application and solar panel installation.
Established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, the DEP Environmental Education Grant program mandates setting aside 5% of the pollution fines and penalties DEP collects annually for environmental education in Pennsylvania. To date, the DEP has awarded $13.3 million in Environmental Education Grant funding to support 2,199 projects across the state.
Schools and colleges, environmental and community organizations, and county conservation districts are the recipients of the funding, which is to be used for a broad range of educational hands-on programs for students, training, community projects for adults, and teacher training workshops.