Gonzaga climate center receives $100,000 EPA grant

Gonzaga University
Credit: Gonzaga University

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University’s Center for Climate, Society and Environment received a $100,000 Environmental Education grant to work with schools in the area in education efforts.

The grant proposal from GU was selected by the EPA after submissions across Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“The Gonzaga Climate Center is proud to partner with the EPA and regional environmental nonprofits to help Spokane students understand and prepare for our changing climate,” said Brian G. Henning, the Gonzaga Climate Center’s director. “Young people are demanding better climate education and we have a duty to respond.”

The grant will also give $5,000 to the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center, The Lands Council, Spokane Riverkeeper, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy and the Dishman Hills Conservancy to help their respective programs. This includes the following:

  • The West Valley Outdoor Learning Center will teach kindergarten to fifth-grade students about climate change and give students opportunities to learn about small things they can do to help with its effects. Lessons will match grade-level needs.
  • The Lands Council will develop and teach a climate literacy curriculum for middle school and high school students during the 2022-2023 school year, focusing on under-represented and underprivileged schools in Spokane. Activities will be practical and hands-on and will include presentations, videos, demonstrations, group activities, guest lectures from professionals in the field, and service-learning field experiences.
  • The Spokane Riverkeeper will lead students from the Salish School of Spokane on educational, water and aquatic ecosystem-related expeditions along the Spokane River and its tributaries. The school is a native-language school teaching primarily Indigenous youth but open to all students. Weekly field lessons will center on the health of our rivers and streams, in part helping to understand the effect of climate change on local waters and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Inland Northwest Land Conservancy will host K-12 students from the Spokane area and adjacent rural Native American communities at the Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve to learn about climate-resilient landscape there. The preserve was created along the banks of the Little Spokane River in 2020 with education as a top goal.
  • Dishman Hills Conservancy will support the Kids in the Hills program at the Dishman Hills Natural Area for fourth through sixth graders from about 10 Title I elementary schools. Class preparation, field study and follow-up include aquatic biology, forestry, wildlife habitat and geology, with attention to climate change effects.

“We look forward to mentoring and working with a new generation of waterkeepers to focus on the developing challenges of climate change and our river,” said Jule Schultz, program lead for Spokane Riverkeeper. “The Salish School lends indigenous knowledge and perspective to issues we face on our river today.”

The grant will allow two climate literacy workshops for 50 middle schoolers, helping teachers apply climate science on the local level, with an emphasis on “student voice, eco-anxiety and the power of student agency,” according to Henning.

The workshops are held online for flexibility and opportunity.

The grant also helps expand the Climate Literacy Fellows program across Spokane Public Schools. The program allows for GU undergraduate students to deliver climate literacy activities in classrooms, such as having kits that explore science concepts related to wind and solar energy.

Four additional fellows will be hired to visit 15-20 classrooms of 25-30 students for an overall engagement of around 375-600 students.

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