Six photographs showing students working at a table, pulling up a plankton tow, and holding a crab, images of Boston Harbor Islands, the Charles River Floating Wetland, and a swirl of water.

Six new STREAM Grant projects focus on coastal education, renewable energy, and sea level rise

MIT Sea Grant launched a new grants program this past year, open to a diversity of applicants across Massachusetts. STREAM Grants — Solutions Through Research, Education, and Art in Massachusetts, support one-year projects that align with coastal and ocean-related program priorities and engage local communities and partners in new ways. 

The new program aims to cultivate partnerships and encourage innovative initiatives that help bridge art, education, engineering, and science. MIT Sea Grant funded four projects in the first grant cycle, and has selected six additional projects for funding in 2023.

The six new STREAM projects focus on experiential coastal and marine science education, renewable energy, and sea level rise:

  • Shadowbox Workshop: Modeling and Negotiating Sea Level Rise in Coastal and Island Communities
    This project, led by MIT graduate student Emilie Flamme with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, aims to empower local high school students to explore, understand, and analyze the effects of sea level rise on coastal and island communities. Flamme will engage a diversity of partners to develop a series of hands-on workshops informed by environmental planning approaches to climate adaptation and resilience, nature-based and man-made mitigation, and the negotiations involved in implementing these strategies. Through artistic representations and model-making, the workshops will equip Massachusetts students, including from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, with tools and knowledge to help their communities to become more resilient in the face of climate change.
  • Pilot Programming for Experiential Coastal Liberal Arts Education
    The Gull Island Institute develops experiential, cross-disciplinary undergraduate programs in which students assume responsibility for a coastal area through study and stewardship of its history and ecology. Project leads Dr. Justin Reynolds and Dr. Ana Isabel Keilson, in partnership with local scientific institutions, the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribes, and scholars from public and private universities, created a pilot program that incorporates lessons in marine ecosystems and biology; hands-on aquaculture and gardening on Cuttyhunk and Penikese Islands; Indigenous land management practices; invasive species documentation; and responsible seamanship. In addition, a Pathways to Service Program will further connect the students with internship and employment opportunities in environmental industries.
  • Reference Tidal Turbine for Research and Outreach
    In cooperation with the Ocean Resources and Renewable Energy lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, project leads Dana Parsons and Jonisha Aubain will design and construct a scale model tidal turbine for testing and public demonstration. Tidal turbines can generate energy from strong tidal currents on the sea floor. The lab will provide tours and demonstrations to the educational community, with the tidal turbine providing a participatory visual experience. With the coupling of a pre-visit lesson plan, the project will provide awareness about marine renewable energy to local schools and students of all ages. The team aims to create a lasting initiative that will benefit efforts in renewable energy education and research.
  • Provincetown International Baccalaureate Schools Coastal Learning Lab
    This project, led by Nancy Flasher and Dr. Tessa Bry Taylor, aims to support the youngest learners and their teachers at the Provincetown International Baccalaureate Schools, while enhancing engagement and citizen science opportunities with students in grades 6-8. This initiative will help create vital connections between students and their local environment to encourage stewardship, sustainable life practices, and enjoyment, and support in-person and virtual field trips that connect the school with other coastal communities. Objectives include outfitting a kid-friendly, hands-on marine studies classroom and resource center; developing a Marine Ecosystems Pageant and Puppet Parade; building upon the Provincetown Harbor Mural Project; and strengthening and expanding educational connections with communities, institutions, and visitors.
  • Salem Sound Coastwatch Marine Science Cruise
    Salem Sound Coastwatch will conduct guided Marine Science Cruises, inviting Salem Public School students to get a closer look at the ecosystems and biodiversity at the base of their local watershed. Students will make observations about the areas that contribute to the watershed and discuss climate change and the effects of rising sea levels on the coast. They will examine marine organisms using underwater cameras, lobster cage observations, plankton tows, and microscopes, identifying microplastic particles and discussing the role of human activities in local habitats. The project, led by Alison Frye and Barbara Warren, aims to encourage students to become change-makers and stewards of their coastal community.
  • Charles River Floating Wetland Kits
    The Charles River Conservancy installed a floating wetland in the Charles River as an ecological intervention to provide habitat for zooplankton and help reduce harmful algal blooms. MIT Sea Grant collaborated with the Conservancy to develop educational science kits for students to grow living floating wetland models, hatch zooplankton, and observe how the organisms filter the water. The kits were piloted with Cambridge Public Schools 6th grade students. Now, project lead Vanessa Nason and the Conservancy will expand this initiative, providing more kits to students, creating a video series, and producing new outreach materials translated into several languages spoken in Cambridge to help connect the community to local ecology and the Charles River Floating Wetland. 

MIT Sea Grant plans to open the next STREAM Grant cycle this summer, welcoming coastal, ocean, and community-focused proposals for educational initiatives, small research projects, seed funding and art explorations, and rapid response projects addressing a current challenge.

>>More about the STREAM Grants program

>>Read about the first four funded STREAM projects (2022)