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Advice & Ideas

Do you dream of being named "Champion of the Environment" but you don't know where to start? Then read on for some ideas.

Advice for Teachers

Hints and Tips

The most successful projects are those that are homegrown. Think about "local solutions to local problems" and apply that idea to your school or community.

A Champions' project can be a hands-on action project or an education campaign. If nothing comes to mind at the moment, look over some of the suggestions on the Project Ideas page. Choose one that looks interesting, or one of significance to your school or group. Visit the suggested Web sites for more information. Feel free to do your own research, too. You might even find a knowledgeable resource person in your own backyard.

If you previously won an award for your project and want to apply again, be sure to submit a proposal that is different from the previous winning project. You might consider expanding on your previous winning project, but the new activities should be clearly identified in the application.

Print the Grant Application Help Sheet for help completing the application.

If you're doing a composting project, be sure to follow the guidelines outlined in "Composting: A Guide for South Carolina Schools.

Applicants that educate K-12th grade students outside of a formal classroom setting (such as an environmental education center) are encouraged to partner with a school, classroom, teacher, or student. The school partner, and the extent of student involvement, should be clearly defined in the application. For example, if you are not based at the school you will be working with, how will you stay involved with the students throughout the project? How do you plan to coordinate with classroom teachers for special events? In what ways will you track student learning? How will you ensure that students will engage in outreach opportunities for those outside the project? How will the award money be used to directly support the goals of the project?

Judging Criteria for Champions' Award Applications

Projects must address one or more of the following: prevention or reduction of pollution in the air, water or land; waste reduction; restoration, preservation or enhancement of natural areas; water or energy efficiency. Projects should educate the community and make a lasting difference to the environment.

Champions grant winners are those whose projects are well planned, logical and have the potential to meet project goals. Be as detailed as possible when completing the application.

Successful applications answer "YES" to the following criteria:

Benefits to the Environment

    • Does the project offer a definite improvement or protection of the environment through one or more programs?
    • Does the project offer a solution to an environmental issue?
    • Is that solution clearly identified in the application?

Outreach

    • Does the project offer extensive education or involvement opportunities for those outside the project (school, parents, and/or the community)?
    • Have you outlined how the students will share what they have learned with others?
    • Did you define the message the students will share with others?

Student Education

    • Does the project offer strong, clearly defined learning opportunities?
    • Does the application describe the behavior changes or skills the project will encourage?
    • Have you indicated how you'll determine the overall success of the project?

Suitable Use of Funds

    • Does the project budget show good use of the funds to carry out the project goals?
    • Is a list of expenses or an itemized budget included?
    • Are the expenses directly related to the project objectives or education/learning opportunities?
    • If additional funds are being sought from other sources, have you stated this in application?

Student Involvement

    • Is the project largely designed by, and/or implemented by, students?
    • Is student involvement age appropriate?

Realization Factor

    • Are the project goals and objectives clear and realistic?
    • Have the steps of the project, from beginning to end, been clearly outlined in the application?
    • Is the project very likely to be completed, meeting goals and objectives?

Sustainability/Long Term Benefits for the Environment or Environmental Learning

    • Will the project take place over many years and/or be sustainable and have a long-term benefit?
    • Will someone be available to manage the project and perform project maintenance during periods when school is not in session?

Innovative and/or Creative

    • Does the project implement something that has not been done in your school or community, or does it use a novel approach to address a common issue?
      • A "yes" answer to this question makes your application more competitive. Consider starting an environmental campaign that has not been done in your school or community, or use a novel approach to address a common environmental issue. For example, if ten applications are submitted that involve recycling, how will you make your recycling project stand out from the others?

Partnerships

    • Are outside partners or volunteers actively involved in the project?
      • Applications are more competitive if outside partners are indicated. Call on environmental education centers, garden clubs, community recreation centers, Clemson Extension Service, your local Soil and Water Conservation office, and others. Let us know if your school is participating in any other environmental education programs such as Green Steps. You should also indicate whether any volunteers are involved who can bring additional resources, donations, or something extra to the project. Please clearly identify the partners/volunteers and their role in the project, in the application.

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Stretching Your Buck

The Champions of the Environment program is a competitive grant program. A limited number of projects will receive funding. Therefore, priority will be given to applications that make the most of this one-time funding. Consider using the funds to pay for something you would not/could not otherwise provide. Here are some suggestions to help you stretch your funds and get the biggest bang for your buck:

    • Look to parent/teacher organizations, civic groups, and local businesses to see if you can find someone to donate time, food, giveaway items like t-shirts and prizes, or any items that may be used only once. If field trips will be scheduled, coordinate with parents to serve as chaperones. These steps would free you up to use the award money to purchase items that directly support the goals of the project. If donations have been or will be made, include this information in the application.
    • Try to purchase supplies that can be used over and over again such as binoculars, recycling bins, microscopes, books, etc.
    • If construction tools are necessary for the project, consider borrowing them from parents or teachers.
    • If you need to print outreach materials, consider two-sided printing. It's environmentally friendly and economical!
    • If mulch is needed for a garden project, check with county and city offices. Sometimes they give away mulch for free. Also, check with local garden centers. They might be willing to donate landscaping supplies.
    • Although not required, securing additional funding from other grants, private donations or other sources can strengthen your proposal. Some suggestions include Palmetto Pride's Litter Trashes Everyone Grant and Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant. If other sources of funding have been, or will be, made, include this information in the application.

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Seven Steps to a Successful Project:

  • Identify a local environmental need or problem, or pick an environmental topic that interests you.
  • Determine your target audience and decide how you will reach them and/or involve them.
  • Research your environmental topic.
  • Suggest a solution. This could be an action, a series of actions or an educational effort.
  • Create a plan to make your solution happen. Identify the resources necessary to make your plan happen. Figure out who will do the work, and when and where the project will be carried out.
  • Secure any necessary resources and carry out your plan. Be sure to educate others about the problem. Tell them how you plan to solve the problem, and what they can do to help. Involve the local media.
  • Evaluate what you accomplished. Did your plan work? Has the environmental issue you were dealing with been solved or improved? Is work needed to sustain the accomplishment? Are there other projects that can be carried out in the future?

Tell Us Your Story!

Have you successfully implemented a Champions project that relates to air quality, drinking water quality or the coastal environment? Congratulations! Your actions may result in improvements to the environment and your health.

Ready to apply for a grant? Visit the How To Apply page.

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Ideas

Project Ideas

Water

  • Start a septic tank maintenance program to minimize human health risks from untreated sewage, and educate people about the environmental pollution caused by failing septic tanks.
  • Implement a storm drain-marking program to raise awareness about non-point source pollution.
  • Establish a campaign to pick up pet waste to reduce impacts to water resources and human health.
  • Install a rain garden or rain barrel at your school, and include an outreach campaign encouraging rain garden and rain barrel installation at home.
  • Implement a water efficiency/conservation campaign to raise awareness about the connection between water and energy use.

Air

  • Implement anti-idling policies at your school for buses, carpoolers and delivery vehicles. Purchase and erect "No Idling" signs around school reinforcing anti-idling policy. Generate outreach materials so that people will understand and support the anti-idling policies.
  • Build an information kiosk for air quality lessons for students and information for parents to learn about different air quality topics.
  • Start a Walking School Bus at your school to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution around schools and increase awareness of pedestrian safety in the community.
  • Plant (native) trees and shrubs around your school to help reduce the effects of air pollution. Include an outreach component to educate students about the project. Consider options such as xeriscaping, which can make the most of soil conditions using native plants and rainfall.
  • Start a carpool or vanpool program at school to reduce traffic and improve air quality.
  • Work with your community to assist in holding a Lawn Mower Exchange event.
  • Host a poster/calendar contest to educate students, parents, and faculty about air quality issues.
  • Develop an outreach campaign that educates students, parents, and faculty on sources of local air pollution and the possible health effects.
  • Find out if your community could work with you on establishing an open burning awareness campaign.
  • Provide information to students and their families on using greener products at home to reduce pollutants.
  • Develop a campaign to increase awareness among teachers, students, and parents regarding the availability of the ozone forecast via Twitter or EnviroFlash.
  • Establish a school flag program to help on-campus audiences become aware of the ozone forecast for the next day during ground-level ozone season.

Land

  • Purchase supplies needed for any of the Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow lessons.
  • Start a recycling program for your school. Purchase recycling bins for classrooms, break rooms, and media centers. Install outdoor recycling collection containers to consolidate all the material collected from the classroom, etc.
  • Go green in your school's backyard through the SC Smart Gardener Program.
  • Buy composting bins (outdoor bins or student-built classroom worm bins for inside) and all necessary supplies to implement a composting program by collecting food scraps from the cafeteria. It is important to follow guidelines as outlined in "Composting: A Guide for South Carolina Schools."
  • Start a beautification/anti-littering project that includes outreach/education (students develop a marketing campaign, produce TV spots for their school's morning television) or participate in actual pick-up projects (gloves, safety vests, bags would be needed).
  • Pay for materials or supplies to implement projects that help your school establish or sustain itself as a SC Green Steps School.
  • South Carolina students can learn about the environment by exploring areas of interest beyond what is offered in the curriculum through participation in an environmental club. The "Environmental Clubs: A Guide for South Carolina Schools" provides tips and resources to get started.

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