Submitted by Grit City Strategy and Communications.
Friends of the San Juans has received a $5,000 community conservation education grant from Kitsap-based Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation.
Last year, Friends of the San Juans 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 at youtube.com/watch?v=vP6ZlXe9Jik.
Four of the six funded projects around the Salish Sea 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.”