Rice working with nonprofit to develop next generation of environmental justice advocates

EPA event at Rice announcing grant

Thanks to new funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation (CELF) will partner with Rice University’s Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM) and other area stakeholders to help students conduct research on local environmental justice issues and propose future climate resilience strategies for their communities.

EPA event and check presentation at RIce
EPA Regional Administrator Earthea Nance presents a check to grant recipients. Photos by Brandon Martin.

The news was announced at an April 25 event on the Rice campus. The $425,616, three-year project will engage Title I middle and high schools in economically disadvantaged communities in the greater Houston area and deliver training focused on facilitating data collection and analysis while raising awareness of watershed stewardship strategies and solutions. School districts involved will include Channelview Independent School District (ISD), Aldine ISD, Houston ISD and Pasadena ISD.

CELF will also work with several core partners including Channelview ISD, Galveston Bay Foundation and Rice as they engage with community partners and parents through public education events. R-STEM will also connect Rice faculty with students to help collect data and interpret it.

The overall goal of the project is to help teachers provide students with the skills they need to become the next generation of environmental justice advocates as they learn how to protect local watersheds and enhance climate resilience through school-community collaboration.

Matthew Cushing speaks on behalf of R-STEM at EPA event.
R-STEM Executive Director Matthew Cushing speaks at the event.

“Science, technology, engineering, arts and math have always been the core of student education, and with this funding we will see students use these skills to develop innovative climate resilience strategies in collaboration with their communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Earthea Nance. “The greater Houston area faces multiple challenges including extreme weather, environmental justice and the energy transition. Diverse ways of knowing will be needed, so it is crucial that we help equip the next generation with knowledge in all of these disciplines. I would like to thank our partners for this event, especially the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation for prioritizing children’s health and education.”

“This project will help area students explore the world around them while nurturing their interest in environmental sustainability and science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, which aligns perfectly with the mission of Rice’s Office of STEM Engagement,” said Carolyn Nichol, director of R-STEM. “The students will connect with Rice researchers, grad students and scientists to help collect data and interpret it, and there will be additional opportunities to engage their teachers on our campus. We’re extraordinarily grateful for this support from the EPA and this collaboration with CELF.”

According to a press release from the EPA, the grant reflects President Joe Biden’s Investing in America commitment to tackling environmental justice and the climate crisis. Many communities with environmental justice concerns carry a disproportionate environmental and human health burden from environmental injustices. As part of Investing in America, EPA Region 6 announced over $1.4 billion that went directly into environmentally high-risk communities, which has created jobs, preserved critical natural resources and encouraged environmental practices to maintain climate resilience.

The original press release from the EPA is online here.

More information on R-STEM is online at https://research.rice.edu/rstem.