ANNAPOLIS – The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is poised to expand its watershed education programs with the launch of a new national environmental education network, thanks to a $2 million grant from Toyota Motor Corporation.
The program will be announced officially in a press conference Monday in San Francisco.
“The grant will allow us to expand our award-winning education program nationally,” said Rodney Coggin, foundation director.
The grant, which Toyota announced in February, “will allow us to develop hands-on environmental training for students and teachers,” Coggin said.
The new national effort, Children Linking with the Environment Across the Nation, or CLEAN, is designed to help teachers and students learn about the environment.
Its three main goals are:
* Establishment of hands-on environmental education programs at three U.S. sites: Birmingham, Ala; Oakland, Calif; and New Port, N.C.
* Development of environmental training for students and teachers in urban communities.
* Adaption of the foundation’s Chesapeake Choices and Challenges curriculum for 52,000 middle school students in Pennsylvania.
The foundation will dispatch three national site trainers — Evan Matthews, Jamie Baxter and Ted Wilgis — to the three locations this month.
Each local organization will receive $120,000 of the grant over two years as “seed money,” Matthews said, adding that he hopes “that the program will perpetuate forever.”
CLEAN will involve 946 schools, 3,225 teachers and 96,070 students across the country, according to the foundation.
And that’s important to Baxter, who will be educating children in Alabama with the Cahaba River Society.
“We’re looking at a generation that’s going to be educated in most environmental issues,” he said.
With their “mobile canoe fleet,” the environmental trainers will teach children about their local waterways. They will also guide the students through the processes of nature on stream walks.
“We put people in direct connection with the resource [and] that’s powerful,” Matthews said.
The foundation’s hands-on environmental programs currently take 35,000 students and teachers on the Chesapeake Bay each year. Field trips to Smith Island and the foundation’s Karen Noonan Center for Environmental Education teach the public about one of Maryland’s most coveted resources.
That’s why Toyota chose the foundation for its philanthropy, said corporate spokesman Mark Murata. The company wanted to find the one program “that makes a difference,” Murata said. The grant, which is the largest the Bay Foundation has received in its 30 year history, will also support the other two prongs of the CLEAN program — $400,000 for the Clean Urban Initiative to increase the number of urban students participating in foundation field trips, and $475,000 to teach Pennsylvania middle schoolers how to SWIMM through the Susquehanna Watershed Integrated Middle School Module. SWIMM will focus on the local streams in students back yards and the connection between those waterways and the Susquehanna River. -30-