Change is Simple (CiS) was recently named the third recipient of Woodard & Curran Foundation’s Impact Grant. The $100,000 grant will be dispersed to the organization over the course of three years to bolster its mission to engage Boston-area students in environmental sciences. CiS was selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants this year.
The Foundation is thrilled to offer this large grant to CiS, which will support their innovative approach to experiential learning. The organization’s mission is to impress upon young learners lifelong social and environmental responsibility through experiments and activities that inspire action for healthy people, planet, and community. Their project-based approach has reached more than 20,000 students in eight years, transforming classrooms into construction zones and ecosystems, and students into engineers and scientists. College science students lead the classroom utilizing relevant everyday scenarios in which students apply science, math, English, health, and social studies to address critical world issues.
Funding three environmental non-profit organizations to date
Three years ago, the Foundation launched the Impact Grant as an extension of its Giving While Living grants that range between $500 to $2,500. Former Foundation Board President Tom Francoeur said at the time, “We are truly grateful for all the support we have from our donors that enables us to provide funds to organizations, dedicated as we are, to enact meaningful and impactful change.” A significant portion of the Foundation’s endowment comes from Woodard & Curran employee and corporate contributions, as well as like-minded organizations and individuals.
The first Impact Grant went to University of Rhode Island Foundation on behalf of the URI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The project, which is receiving its final grant disbursement this year, has worked to bridge the gap between macro-scale climate change science and drinking water system development for communities worldwide by developing an innovative Community Climate Change Strategy (CCCS) to design sustainable water systems for climate change adaptation and mitigation. It also aimed to improve the effectiveness of the CCCS by implementing a climate-ready drinking water system for a newly constructed school in Cumayasa, Dominican Republic.
Last year, Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) received the second Impact Grant. Based in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, which historically has faced disproportionate rates of industrial pollution, high rates of unemployment, and ongoing marginalization, LEJ is working to complete a water harvesting, storage, and distribution system. This will ultimately include a climate-smart native plant garden, interpretive signage, and educational programming at California’s first urban state park Candlestick Point Park.
As with each previous recipient, this year’s organization will be required to submit a narrative update and financial status report over the course of the three-year grant term, with a final report at the conclusion. This interim narrative is an opportunity for CiS to show the Foundation its progress, while also allowing the Foundation to monitor the projected versus actual budget. This creates not only accountability, but a partnership between the Foundation and its long-term grant recipients.
Teaching the next generation of scientists and engineers
CiS plans to utilize the $100,000 over the next three years to build a one-of-a-kind trailer known as the Mobile Sustainability & Climate Innovation Learning Lab (SCILL). Currently, CiS visits schools, turning classrooms, a gym, or other common space into a unique learning center. A mobile learning lab not only makes traveling between school districts easier, but it is fully equipped and ready for students to dive into hands-on programming. Through a partnership with Northeastern University, CiS trains college science students to mentor elementary students. The goal is to develop interest in science, but the benefit is learning how to live more environmentally conscious at such a young age. Students go home and become champions for sustainability.
CiS envisions rolling up to a school with SCILL, sliding out a solar awning and screening videos projected onto the side of the trailer. Inside, students will find a three-dimensional interactive watershed model with water running through it. In the lab, CiS would present students with an environmental challenge for which they are expected to solve. Instantly, these kids are acting as scientist or engineers, working as a team, not just reading about hypothetical scenarios in a textbook.
The Foundation is hopeful through its support of CiS, students will be inspired and intrigued by science. This type of programming is just a stepping stone to a new generation of scientists and engineers.