Grants fund environmental justice K-12 curriculum, study of water issues affecting Black people along the Mississippi 

The Tulane University-designed curriculum will teach kids about environmental justice through accessible concepts, including video games.

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Tulane University will help design a curriculum teaching environmental justice to K-12 students in the state of Louisiana with funding from a five-year, $1.2 million grant awarded to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), a Baton-Rouge-based nonprofit organization.

The project will draw from the information archives of LEAN, which “fosters cooperation and communication between individual citizens and corporate and government organizations to assess and mend environmental problems in Louisiana.” According to Nola.com, the project will be free and available for teachers across the world.

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network has been awarded a $1.2 million grant and will be working with Tulane University to design a curriculum teaching environmental justice to K-12 students in the state of Louisiana. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, 11 new projects divided $8.6 million distributed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program. Part of those funds went to the new curriculum initiative.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to take all the things that we’ve been using to inform our work and translate it for a younger audience so that they have the context that they need to hopefully prevent a lot of the problems,” said Michael Orr, communications director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) and the project director for its environmental justice curriculum.

This curriculum, Orr said, will teach younger students about environmental justice through accessible concepts, including educational video games.

“This is really synthesizing all the histories and lessons and tools of environmental justice history into a sort of self-guided empowerment tool for anybody,” he maintained. “There’s a real lack of historical understanding and context about the struggles that Louisiana has been on the forefront of … we’re not teaching it like we should.”

Another academic who plays an integral role in the project, Christopher Oliver, senior professor of practice in Sociology and Environmental Studies at Tulane, said in a news release that the program would prioritize the viewpoint of those people for whom LEAN has advocated for decades.

“These communities need to have their voices heard and deserve the broader recognition of the damaging consequences of the environmental injustices perpetrated upon these communities,” Oliver noted, “this living, publicly available record of the often-numerous negative impacts on their livelihoods and lives.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program grant also awarded $1.1 million to a group led by Tulane research associate professor Joshua Lewis, who serves as research director at the Tulane ByWater Institute.

That team, Nola.com reports, will build an in-school curriculum that centers on “locally relevant water issues that disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous residents of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin region.”

Researchers note that the goal is to share their stories from the frontlines of environmental justice to inspire the next generation to “develop a critical analysis of their surroundings, animate their sense of political agency and creatively engage our dynamic climate future.”

Correction, August 19, 2022, 4:38 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story and a photo caption misstated that Tulane was awarded a five-year, $1.2 million grant. The grant was awarded to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. The story has been updated.

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