Captain Planet Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: Founded by media mogul Ted Turner and currently chaired by his daughter Laura Turner Seydel, the Captain Planet Foundation is dedicated to the environmental education of children in all aspects of their lives—schools, communities, and at home. The foundation awards up to $2,500 to support environmental education that is experiential, project-based, and has tangible outcomes, as well as projects that incorporate nature-based design or technology.

IP TAKE: The Captain Planet Foundation seeks not only to educate, but also to "inspire and empower" the children of today to become environmentally mindful adults—or better yet, the next generation of environmental leaders, and its grants are designed to reach as many children as possible toward that end.

PROFILE: Established by media mogul Ted Turner in 1991 (with his daughter Laura Turner Seydel, now chairwoman of the board), the Captain Planet Foundation's mission is "to give the next generation of environmental stewards an active understanding and love for the natural world in which they live." 

On the top of every page of its website, the Captain Planet Foundation keeps a running tab of three numbers: projects funded, children funded, and children impacted (with the latter now reaching well into the millions). It’s fairly easy to see how the foundation comes by the first two numbers, but that third measurement—how the foundation’s direct impact creates a ripple effect—is less apparent. Perhaps more telling than the specific number, however, is the intent behind measuring it: through its support of environmental education, the Captain Planet Foundation seeks to foster the growth of environmentally-minded citizens and leaders.

The foundation has two avenues for financially supporting domestic U.S. K-12 environmental education (as well as international projects that generally have U.S.-based partners). Its Small Grants Program awards project-based support ranging from $500 to $2,500 to environmental education projects that provide hands-on experiences for K-12 students and create their own tangible, positive environmental outcomes, and preference is given to applicants who have "secured at least 50% matching or in-kind funding for their projects." In addition, its Special Grants Program, provides $2,500 awards to initiatives that specifically use nature-based design or technology to address environmental problems.  

Recent Captain Planet Foundation grants have supported a wide range of innovative educational initiatives, all with an eye toward experiential, project-based, and place-based environmental education (those that include leadership building are also valued). A small sampling of recent awards includes support for projects focused on renewable energy, studies of local flora, a river study, an aquaponics study, habitat restoration, and skills-and-knowledge-building outdoor activities. For more information about recent awards, a good place to start is the foundation's Success Stories page.

In addition to direct funding, the foundation's Project Learning Garden provides schools seeking to implement garden-based programs with teacher training, curricula, lesson kits, supplies, a garden, a "fully-equipped garden cooking cart, and [a] summer garden management intern."

Captain Planet Foundation grants are awarded twice each year, for spring/summer projects and fall/winter projects. As suggested by the numbers the foundation keeps at the top of its website, it distributes its funds widely and will support “as many projects as its annual resources allow.” Grantseekers can start the process on the foundation's application page, and it's also worth periodically checking the foundation's calls for proposals