TRECF Foundation Expands Grant Program for Presque Isle School Field Trips

From the Erie Times News and GoErie.com

In addition to funding transportation, grants will now provide money for students to attend educational classes and see movies.

By Dana Massing

When students visit Presque Isle State Park or its Tom Ridge Environmental Center on field trips, environmental educators ask if the children have been there before.

About half answer that it’s their first visit, said Anne DeSarro, environmental education specialist supervisor.

“We want to give every kid in our area the chance to experience the park and Ridge Center,” she said.

But some schools simply can’t afford to take their students to the peninsula.

What is now known as the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation, formerly the Friends of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, had been providing grants to fund transportation to get students to and from the park and center, 301 Peninsula Drive. Realizing that the number of field trips had decreased by about a fourth because transportation funding wasn’t enough, the foundation decided to help with other field-trip costs..

He and DeSarro said grant money is now available for busing and also so that students can take part in classes presented by environmental educators, which are $3 per child, or see movies on the center’s Big Green Screen, which are $5 per student.

The foundation recently funded $11,000 worth of grants and has a little more than $6,000 still available. The money has been raised through foundation events and comes from donors and an endowment.

DeSarro said the grants are open to teachers of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Erie, Crawford and Warren counties. The application deadline is April 30 and applications are submitted through the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit.

To be eligible for one of the new grants, field trips must take place between September and March. DeSarro said those months are less busy, with the majority of field-trip requests coming in for April and May. But she said there is still a lot happening at the peninsula from September through March.

Environmental educators can provide lessons on topics including migratory birds, weather forecasting, aquaponics, biomimicry and engineering, careers with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and more.

DeSarro said the field trips provide powerful learning experiences that teach children that places like the peninsula are worth protecting.

For more information, call 835-1384, visit www.trecf.org or email judy_baker@iu5.org. To apply for a grant, go to www.iu5.org.

Dana Massing can be reached at 870-1729 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNmassing.