Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College was awarded a $499,407 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program to advance community resilience through environmental and climate education. The college’s proposal was one of just nine projects across the United States that were awarded funding.
The selected projects for NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program use education to build the foundation for resilience to weather and climate hazards. Together, these projects spread across eight states and the U.S. Virgin Islands will engage youth and the public around extreme weather and other environmental hazards. A total of $3 million was awarded to empower people to protect themselves and their communities from local environmental threats.
“For indigenous peoples, climate change threatens culturally significant traditions that rely on sustainable fish, plant, and wildlife resources,” said Courtney Kowalczak, Director of the Environmental Institute at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. “We will be working to increase the knowledge and readiness of middle-to-high school students to deal with the impacts of extreme weather and environmental hazards that face the Ojibwe Ceded Territories in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.”
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s project includes working partnerships with the Fond du Lac Reservation, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, 1854 Treaty Authority, University of Wisconsin Extension’s G-WOW program, and the Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve. The project is titled Climate Strong: Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency.
“In order to achieve our objectives, we will aim our educational efforts toward both youth and the community as a whole,” said Kowalczak. “Six yearly residential youth camps will be held with each three-day camp focusing on investigating issues of community resiliency, adaption, and mitigation associated with increasing extreme weather events as well as natural environmental hazards. Camps will use place-based, hands-on, experiential lessons to teach about resiliency issues as demonstrated by its effect on culturally important natural resources.”
According to the NOAA web site, projects funded through the Environmental Literacy Program not only engage members of the public in understanding how their municipalities can become more resilient, but also enable people of all ages to take part in building safe and enduring communities. Culturally relevant, place-based education is an important tool to involve students in developing critical thinking skills to assess the issue of community resiliency to extreme weather events and engaging in action to help resolve it.
“As part of our project we will create a network of teachers, students, and tribal elders to serve our communities with educational outreach that engages them in climate science and educates them in extreme weather events and natural hazard issues that affects traditional lands,” said Kowalczak. “Through our work during the next three years our goals are to increase community resiliency literacy and adaptation of stewardship behaviors that reduce climate change impacts and increases adaption and mitigation behaviors by our participants. These behaviors will help increase stewardship practices reducing extreme weather impacts.”
Funding amounts are full federal award amounts for all years of the grant. The nine new projects in the 2018 grant cycle are part of a growing cohort of NOAA-funded resilience education projects that includes two projects funded in 2017, five projects in 2016, and six projects in 2015.
The 2018 competition received 237 pre-applications from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories, with a total request of more than $100 million. Of these, 59 applications were accepted for full review. Grantees were selected through rigorous peer review by a group of experts representing the fields of science education, resilience planning, and education evaluation. Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s grant proposal was one of the nine projects selected for project funding.
For more information about the Climate Strong: Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency project at the College, contact Courtney Kowalczak at 218-879-0862 or via email to courtneyk*AT*


My favorite thing about FDLTCC is the people. I’ve met fantastic students, faculty and staff who go above and beyond what I expected.

It is awesome here at the FDLTCC Education Program because it is like a family here, if you need help or are struggling with anything, you have quite a few people who will help you out.

I chose FDLTCC because of its size and the curriculum. When I first came here in 2019, I was just looking for what I needed to volunteer, perhaps in a crisis shelter. I met with Don Jarvinen, and the rest is history.