Friends of the San Juans awarded another community grant for underwater virtual reality project
Kitsap-based Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, announced its latest round of community conservation education grant funding for six projects throughout the Salish Sea region. Four of the six projects support youth education for elementary, middle or high school students, including three that focus on historically underserved youth in diverse communities. All six of the 2021 applicants received maximum grant awards of $5,000.
The Foundation’s long-running community grants program has funded hundreds of projects at conservation-focused nonprofit organizations over the past 51 years. Renee Johnson, chair of the community grants committee, said these past two years were especially crucial as nonprofits struggled to raise money and maintain operations during the pandemic.
“Protecting and connecting with healthy habitats has always been the Foundation’s focus, and the pandemic affirmed just how crucial it is for people to feel that connection to our mountains, water and land,” said Renee Johnson, chair of the community grants committee. “For many of our partners, we were one of the few lifelines they could find to keep their doors open, even if just virtually.”
“Everyone was stunned by the unfolding pandemic in 2020. It presented unprecedented challenges for organizations serving the community, particularly environmental organizations that provide in person experiential learning for the public,” said Andrea Dolan-Potter, development associate for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation at Heronswood Garden, a 2020 grant recipient. “The Foundation’s support for our community education classes provided critical, flexible support that allowed us to quickly pivot and respond to these challenges. In the end, we find ourselves with an even stronger community education program, with more options and better amenities for both in person and online learning. While the impact of the pandemic overall has been hard and brutal, we are grateful for the Foundation’s support and look forward to further growth and expansion of accessible, community-based environmental learning in Kitsap and the greater Pacific Northwest.”
Johnson says the outlook for nonprofits is still challenging as in-person fundraising events or programming are just beginning to resume, but, like Heronswood, many organizations are feeling optimistic about being able to reopen their doors.
“It’s exciting to see what these organizations are planning for 2021, especially the programs that engage our young people and connect them to the outdoors,” Johnson said. “We’re so grateful to be able to support our partners and the communities they serve.”
The Foundation received 13 applications for Community Conservation Education Grants. The six projects awarded funding are:
Friends of the San Juans -- $5,000
Friends of the San Juans last year developed an immersive science education pilot project for high school students using virtual reality to connect students with the local marine food web. The program allows students, many of whom come from low-income communities, to experience the virtual reality of underwater divers and field scientists to observe herring, sand lance, juvenile Chinook and more. Friends of the San Juans now wants to expand the pilot project to include additional videos and be available to schools throughout Washington state. The Foundation awarded a community grant to the pilot project last year. View an example of their virtual immersive underwater experience.
Native Fish Society -- $5,000
Native Fish Society is advancing a speaker’s education series to support the conservation of wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout and their habitats in the Hood Canal. The population of Coastal Cutthroat Trout are declining at the same recreational fishing is increasing. The habitats within the Hood Canal region are being degraded due to failing septic systems, animal waste, fertilizers and other pollutants along with loss of riparian habitats. The speakers series is designed to promote education, engagement and stewardship to help improve the region’s habitat conditions for the Coastal Cutthroat Trout.
Northwest Natural Resource Group -- $5,000
Northwest Natural Resource Group is partnering the Highline School District’s Waskowitz Outdoor Education Center (also known as Camp Waskowitz) to create a new interactive curriculum on ecological forestry tied to the Center’s new forest stewardship plan and a thinning harvest occurring at the Center this spring. An estimated 2,700 students participate in Camp Waskowitz every year.
Their project includes six components: new curricular materials for middle schoolers, curricular materials for high schoolers, guidance documents for teachers and staff, a forest regeneration study with students, public display information about the forest, and a self-guided interpretive forest walk for all ages. The project will help deepen the connection to the forested hinterlands of the Salish Sea watershed felt by students from this densely urban school district where 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
South Sound Estuary Association (SSEA), dba Puget Sound Estuarium -- $5,000
The Puget Sound Estuarium is seeking to expand the number of students who participate in field trips at its Inspiring Kids Preserve (IKP) on Henderson Inlet in Thurston County and Bayshore Preserve in Mason County.
The IKP site is dedicated to providing K-12 students learning opportunities regarding estuarine ecology and conservation. The Estuarium partners with Community Land Trust to provide field trips to students from Lydia Hawk Elementary School, one of the North Thurston School District’s most diverse and underserved schools, to experience a forest walk and observations of saltwater and freshwater wetland ecosystems. The grant funding will help the Estuarium offer field trips to another North Thurston school, doubling the number of students who can participate.
At the Bayshore Preserve, Oakland Bay Junior High Students participate in Bayshore Field STEM trips and learn, among other things, how to test saline levels and the impacts of saltmarsh intrusion into the upland habitat.
Student Conservation Association -- $5,000
The Student Conservation Association’s Seattle Community Crews offer financially-insecure and diverse urban youth a paid opportunity to gain environmental education and workforce development skills through hands-on conservation projects at local parks and green spaces. SCA operates two to four Community Crews in the Seattle area each summer, each comprised of 5-8 high school youth and 1-2 leaders who complete four weeks of conservation service that includes building and repairing trails, cleaning shorelines, tracking and monitoring invasive species, and restoring habitats for native species. Grant funding will support SCA’s 2021 summer program.
Washington Association of Land Trusts -- $,5000
The Washington Association of Land Trusts is a statewide coalition of 32 nonprofit conservation land trusts. Their annual Northwest Land Camp brings together private land conservation organizations and other natural resource professionals to promote greater support for open space protection, land conservation and environmental education. Grant funding will support the Association’s 2021 Northwest Land Camp, expected to attract nearly hundred practitioners who work in the Salish Sea Ecoregion.
More information about the Foundation’s grant program, including past recipients, is available at https://ketalegacy.org/grants/.