OVERVIEW: The Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation dedicates itself to integrating environmental classroom learning with hands-on field study for K-12 students, particularly projects that focus on ecology and conservation.
IP TAKE: This small but passionate foundation looks for ways to make a larger impact in the field of environmental education and conservation. It uses the legacy of its namesake as its touchstone for choosing which projects to support, so be sure to familiarize yourself with Melinda Gray Ardia’s work.
PROFILE: The Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation was established in memory of Melinda Gray Ardia, described on the foundation’s website as “an educator, biologist, naturalist, and artist.” Its website states:
Melinda joined the Peace Corps and taught science at Kiegoi Secondary School in Maua-Meru, Kenya, and Wairiki Secondary School in Taveuni, Fiji Islands. She established laboratory science programs in both schools and learned the native languages. She taught field biology and field ecology at Leelanau School in Traverse City, MI after her return from Peace Corps. She was a teacher and mentor at Newark Middle School in Newark, NY where she taught environmental science and earth science. . . She started a recycling program and Environmental Club and was the club advisor. . .
Melinda received a M.S. in Science Education from Syracuse University and wrote a thesis entitled "Presenting Controversial Issues in Environmental Education". While in Syracuse, she became involved in the Student Environmental Action Coalition. She helped edit the state newsletter and was active in land conservation issues. . .
Melinda was also an accomplished field birder, wildlife illustrator, activist and loved to travel.
It’s important to appreciate what Melinda stood for during her too-brief lifetime, because her interests inform the tenets of the foundation’s grantmaking today. In fact, of one recent grant that went directly to a classroom teacher, the foundation stated that its recipient “reminded us of Melinda.”
Broadly speaking, all of the environmental education programs supported by this foundation strongly reflect Melinda’s work and interests. In its annual giving of Environmental Curricula Grants, the foundation looks for projects that rigorously apply the scientific method, integrate classroom and field learning, address ecological issues, and empower students to draw their own conclusions.
This small but passionate foundation gives a small number of grants annually, generally ranging up to $1,500. In recent years, the foundation's grantees have included the teacher mentioned above (for her 6th graders to study streamside stabilization), a Colorado-based after-school program for disadvantaged students, a few for "environmental curricula," and at least two international awards (in Cambodia and Costa Rica). If you happen to be operating your K-12 environmental education program out of Newark, NY; Clarence, NY; or Buffalo, NY, the foundation also has a program to support your students in attending two different environmental education camps.
Applying is a two-step process, and worth noting here due to its very quick turnaround. Its first step, a one-page “pre-proposal,” is due by an annual deadline set each year by the foundation. If you’re invited to continue to the next stage, a more involved second step is due a mere two weeks later.
The foundation also provides helpful grantwriting advice for potential applicants.
- Daniel Ardia, President