As a local placed-based funder, The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) is proud to support the work of our community partners to provide access to outdoor experiential learning opportunities for youth. In 2023, 30 organizations received grants totaling $697,500 for TRFF’s Environmental Education program. These grants will provide access to high-quality programs to approximately 40,000+ local youth and young adults in the Puget Sound region.
Our community partners provide in-person programming and support for initiatives including summer internship programs, maritime and ecology lessons, sailboat voyages, overnight camps, and more. These organizations serve youth in Pierce, Jefferson, Kitsap, King, and Thurston counties.
Environmental education through outdoor experiential learning opportunities is especially important for youth in the Puget Sound region, where the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area are at risk due to human activity. By providing experiential environmental education opportunities for youth, we can help to foster a sense of connection and stewardship towards the natural world and provide hands-on learning experiences that can enhance academic achievement and personal development.
Some key benefits of outdoor environmental education include:
- Opportunities to connect with the natural world as well as the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- A deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment, youth learn about complex environmental issues, such as ocean acidification and habitat loss, and can develop the skills needed to analyze and understand complex problems and come up with creative solutions.
- Foster a lifelong commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability.
- Try new activities that help develop confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills.
- Promote teamwork and collaboration, which are essential skills for success in academic and professional settings.
Details of each grantee are as follows:
Braided Seeds, $12,000
Braided Seeds is a Black-centered nonprofit committed to removing barriers to experiencing the wonders of the Pacific Northwest for the BIPOC community. Funding will support costs associated with its 2023 Reclamation Trips and summer internship program.
Camp Solomon Schechter, $7,500
Camp Solomon Schechter offers environmental education in elementary schools across the Pacific Northwest. This grant will support its Youth Mentor Training Program that helps prepare high school students to serve as mentors to elementary school students at Camp Solomon, which provides hands-on lessons in ecology, team building, and leadership for Thurston County youth.
The Community Boat Project is a partnership working to build a stronger community by giving youth jobs and life skills through adult mentorship. This grant will support the general operations of its Voyaging/Sailor Scientist, Community Builders, and Shelter From The Storm programs.
Environmental Science Center, $25,000
The Environmental Science Center brings diverse communities together to promote environmental stewardship and academic achievement through science-based education. The grant will support youth experiential education, stewardship, and teen leadership programs in south King County.
Foss Waterway Seaport, $65,000
The mission of the Foss Waterway Seaport is to celebrate Tacoma’s maritime heritage. This grant will support the Seaport’s year-round youth programs including their partnership with Tacoma School District to implement their Science of the Sea programming.
Friends of North Creek Forest, $25,000
Friends of North Creek Forests was founded with the mission to maintain and improve the ecological function of North Creek Forest through education, stewardship, and conservation in perpetuity. The funding will support a variety of operating costs from education intern stipends to equipment for lessons and student-led projects.
Garden Raised Bounty, $20,000
GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) is an organization working at the intersection of food, education, and health systems to grow healthy food, people, and communities. The funds will support the general operating costs of their GroundED youth program which is a partnership between GRuB and Capital Region Educational Service District 113 that engaged diverse youth in Thurston County.
Great Peninsula Conservancy, $30,000
Great Peninsula Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to protecting the natural habitats, rural landscapes, and open spaces of the Great Peninsula region of West Puget Sound. The grant will support efforts at its Land Lab sites, which engage Kitsap County middle school students through environmental science projects.
IslandWood is an environmental education nonprofit working to advance innovative education that offers a variety of immersive programs throughout the Puget Sound region. Funds will support youth environmental programs ranging from summer day camps to school overnight programs.
Northwest Natural Resource Group, $12,500
Northwest Natural Resources Group works with landowners to improve the health of forests across western Washington and Oregon to promote the practice of “ecological forestry.” The grant will support their partnership with the Highline School District’s Camp Waskowitz outdoor education camp for youth to experience environmental education away from urban centers.
Northwest Youth Corps, $20,500
Northwest Youth Corps’ mission is to provide opportunities for youth and young adults to learn, grow and succeed. Funding will support its upcoming Sound to Summit (S2S) program and its partnership with Tacoma Public School District and Metro Parks, for Tacoma-area teen and adult leaders to become environmental stewards in South Puget Sound.
Pacific Education Institute, $30,000
For almost two decades, the Pacific Education Institute has been equitably advancing civil and scientific literacy and deepening student engagement through real-world science outdoors. Funding will provide stipends for students participating in the Youth Engaged Sustainability Systems (YESS!) courses focused on green economy workforce skills. This is a partnership with the Highline School District and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.
Port Townsend Marine Science Center, $20,000
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center aims to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea by providing programs for youth to participate in first-hand experiences in the marine environment. The grant will support outdoor programs and activities for students in Jefferson and Kitsap counties.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, $20,000
The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance was the first and is still the only organization entirely focused on stopping water pollution sources throughout the Puget Sound basin. Funding will support the partnership between Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Unleash the Brilliance (UTB), a youth-mentorship organization, to create a paid summer internship program for UTB’s Youth Leaders to use Springbrook Creek as an outdoor learning classroom.
Sea Potential, $18,000
Sea Potential is on a mission to cultivate BIPOC representation in the maritime industry. Funding will foster youth appreciation and connection to the marine ecosystem through healing activities and ocean justice conversations for youth from Pierce County and South King County.
SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve, located in South King County, acquires and restores critical lands to permanently protect and steward dwindling wildlife habitat. Funding will be allocated to environmental education programs that engage youth in opportunities at the Nature Preserve.
Puget Sound Estuary Association, $12,500
The Puget Sound Estuary Association creates opportunities for the public to learn more about Puget Sound. Funding will support educational field trips for youth from Thurston and Pierce counties and cover a variety of estuary and marine topics.
Summer Search, $25,000
Summer Search Seattle is one of five sites across the country focused on supporting young people to thrive and become financially stable adults with a strong sense of purpose in the world. Funding will support their Experiential Outdoor Summer program in the Olympic or North Cascade National Parks.
Trout Unlimited, $20,000
Trout Unlimited brings together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams so that children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Funds will support two staff positions coordinating the Lake Sammamish STREAM Connections program, which engages diverse cultural and economic demographics.
The UW Botanic Gardens engages children and families in environmental issues and the natural world through a variety of experiential learning opportunities. This grant will support internship stipends for high school students and fund an internship coordinator position for the Inclusive Pathways for Environmental Leadership Program.
Mount Rainier Institute is an outdoor school program for students in the fifth through 12th grades, specifically working with unserved communities in the greater Puget Sound and Mount Rainier region. Funding will support general operations for their overnight and day programs serving participants from traditional school groups, families, and homeschool groups.
Vashon Nature Center, $22,500
Vashon Nature Center’s mission is to create transformative nature experiences that benefit their island and the Salish Sea region through community science, education, and research. The funding will support Vashon Nature Center’s staff and program expenses to deliver programs to students from Vashon Island and beyond.
The Washington Outdoor School Consortium is a coalition of Washington outdoor school providers who aim to reduce barriers so that all students have access to high-quality programs. Funding will support a range of coalition activities such as convening summits and providing and maintaining technology infrastructure for contact management.
Washington Trails Association, $25,000
Washington Trails Association (WTA) mobilizes hikers and everyone who loves the outdoors to explore, steward, and champion trails and public lands. This funding will support WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training program in Pierce County/South Puget Sound region by empowering teachers and youth group leaders with the skills and resources needed to lead youth in safe and fun outdoor experiences.
Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute, $25,000
Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute is a Native women-led organization providing youth outdoor skills, environmental science, and Tribal knowledge to establish and retain a connection to the natural world. Funding will support training costs and stipends for youth interns during summer programming and cover additional expenses such as supplies.
Western Washington University Foundation (SEA Discovery Center), $25,000
The SEA Discovery Center has a long history as an educational resource built by the community to serve the community. These funds will allow staff to deliver programs for students in fifth and sixth grades in Kitsap County public and tribal schools.
Wild Society, $25,000
Wild Society is a non‐profit organization based in Kitsap County working to cultivate wonder and belonging in the natural world. Funding will support general operations for the organization to provide programs for outdoor experiences.
World Relief Seattle, $25,000
As Washington’s largest refugee resettlement and service organization, World Relief Seattle works with refugees and immigrants. Funding will support activities including paid youth internships for refugee youth to combine sustainability training with place-based environmental service-learning at a community garden.
The YMCA’s vision focuses on individual and community resiliency. Funding support will make it possible for YMCA’s Earth Service Corps (YESC) to provide programming for 1,000 youth to take a hands‐on role in creating a healthier environment in their schools and communities while nurturing a respect for diversity within the natural world.
The YMCA has a long and storied history of serving the people and communities encompassing Pierce and Kitsap counties. This funding will support general operations of the Outdoor Environmental Education program that will serve youth from Kitsap, Pierce, King and Thurston Counties.