Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Enriches Environmental Education Programs with Grant from the PPG Foundation


The PPG Foundation's Generous Donation Ignites Exciting New Opportunities in Youth Environmental Education, Empowering Flagship Program 

PITTSBURGH – JUNE 17, 2024 – The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy today announced that it was awarded a generous grant from the PPG Foundation to enhance its environmental education offerings. This funding will provide hundreds of young people with engaging, hands-on learning experiences that ignite their curiosity and foster essential skills in scientific inquiry, observation, and communication. 

 Each year, in partnership with 23 schools and community-based organizations throughout the region, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy transforms the city's parks into dynamic outdoor classrooms. These high-quality environmental education programs empower students to beautify, protect, interact with, and learn from the natural spaces in their communities, cultivating a deep and lasting connection with the environment. 

 This recent gift from the PPG Foundation will support one of the Parks Conservancy's flagship programs: Ecosystem Investigators (ESI). The ESI program immerses middle school students in real-world scientific exploration through classroom instruction and hands-on activities in Frick Park, Pittsburgh's largest green space.  

During the school year, the ESI program serves over 350 eighth-grade students across 18 classrooms in the Propel Schools network, many of whom are economically disadvantaged and reside in Environmental Justice Areas. This impactful program, developed in collaboration with middle school science teachers and the Schrader Environmental Education Center, emphasizes direct engagement with nature, critical thinking, and inclusivity. 

"Teaming up with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for the Ecosystems Investigators program aligned our shared goals to educate young people in Pittsburgh on environmental stewardship while introducing potential STEM career paths," said Malesia Dunn, PPG executive director, PPG Foundation and corporate social responsibility. "The hands-on nature of this program gave students an opportunity to experience real scenarios and solutions for our region." 

This spring, 256 students from 7 schools participated in the program. During the spring semester, the ESI program turned its attention to stream ecosystems, allowing students to immerse themselves in a real-world scenario involving the health of the Fern Hollow Stream. The students collected, identified, and counted macroinvertebrates to assess the health of the stream, modeled the effects of stormwater runoff on simulated landscapes, and explored mitigation strategies. Students also engaged in stormwater modeling to demonstrate how enhancements like rain gardens and wetlands can improve water quality. In a simulated town exercise, students took on roles as the Mayor and City Councilors to present solutions for their town's stormwater challenges. 

Catherine Qureshi, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, underscored the impact of PPG's generous support to further grow the ESI program.  

"We are deeply thankful to the PPG Foundation for their incredible investment in our environmental education initiatives. This grant will enable us to provide transformative learning experiences that inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and STEM leaders. Together, we are nurturing a love for nature and science that is essential for the growth and sustainability of our community." 

The Parks Conservancy is committed to expanding these invaluable educational opportunities, paving the way for academic success, and cultivating future leaders in environmental stewardship and STEM fields. The support from the PPG Foundation is vital in achieving these goals and ensuring that all students, regardless of background, have access to enriching environmental education programs. This grant comes as part of the PPG Foundation’s commitment to environmental sustainability education. 

To learn more about the Parks Conservancy's full suite of environmental education programs, please visit 


About Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: 
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in December 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh’s historic city parks. A non-profit organization, the Parks Conservancy works closely with the City of Pittsburgh under an official public-private partnership agreement to restore and improve the city’s park system to its full potential. To date, the Parks Conservancy has raised more than $145 million and completed 23 major park improvement projects. The Parks Conservancy works with thousands of volunteers, hosts hundreds of events, and provides programming for more than 7,500



Contact: Alana Wenk

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy



Caroline Constantine

Pipitone Group