The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy announced today that it will soon expand its environmental education curriculum and connect with more local youth through out-of-school engagement and establishing a new middle school stewardship program, thanks to a $100K grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Through the organization’s first award from the EPA, the Parks Conservancy will develop a ‘Junior Young Naturalist’ program to give more opportunities to middle school students from Environmental Justice-designated communities throughout the Pittsburgh area to be exposed to environmental careers, learn from racially diverse ecological professionals, and complete projects that help green neighborhoods and mitigate the effects of climate change. 

“Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration, EPA is getting federal funds for community-based organizations who know best how to use the funds to tackle their most pressing environmental and health problems,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “This funding to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is a true investment in America’s future because educating youth and building strong leaders are essential to creating healthy, more resilient places to live, work and thrive.”  

The Parks Conservancy’s current STEM education programs use Pittsburgh’s thousands of acres of parkland as the ultimate classroom, allowing students to learn scientific ideas and concepts in the great outdoors rather than in a traditional classroom. Building upon the success of its already successful environmental programs, the funds provided by the EPA will consist of three activity strands:

  1. Providing regular environmental education to middle school students during Propel Schools’ Summer Camps for five weeks
  2. Creation of a Junior Young Naturalists Program, a 1-week intensive environmental educational summer initiative for 12 students ages 13-15
  3. Targeted out-of-school environmental engagement with five sub-recipients to provide education and diversify recruitment for our Junior and High School Young Naturalist Programs in 2024 and battle tree canopy loss in affected communities

“The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is honored to work with new local education partners to engage youth around urban ecosystems and the need to increase urban tree canopy to mitigate climate change and improve air quality,” explained Catherine Qureshi, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “Not only are we delighted to engage with youth about the importance of caring for our environment, but our educational activities will focus directly on neighborhoods disproportionately affected by air pollution and tree canopy loss.”

The Parks Conservancy will partner with at least five targeted out-of-school partners during the school year to engage up to 100 youth in environmental education and increase recruitment of diverse youth for the Junior Young Naturalists and the high school-level Young Naturalists programs in the coming year.

“One of the best things we can do to tackle the climate crisis is to instill a sense of environmental stewardship in our children at a young age,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “This program will allow Pittsburgh middle schoolers to improve their neighborhoods today while opening their eyes to the opportunities in environmentalism and STEM that lie ahead.”

United States Senator John Fetterman further underscores the importance of investing in programs that educate, empower, and expose youth to environmental careers and the importance of caring for their local green spaces at a young age. 

“This grant from the EPA will allow the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to expand its youth environmental education curriculum, educating children about our climate reality and exposing them to new careers that will serve our beautiful commonwealth and our planet. I’m proud that this federal funding is going to such a great program here in western Pennsylvania.”

The anticipated goals and expected outcomes of these initiatives are for Pittsburgh youth to demonstrate increased interest in and knowledge of sustainability, green technology, and green STEM careers; increase awareness of the benefits of an urban tree canopy in mitigating climate change and air pollution, and support tree planting and maintenance activities to improve the tree canopy in their neighborhoods.

"I am thrilled to announce that Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will receive this well-deserved grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Their commitment to expanding the Junior Young Naturalists program is not only an investment in the education and career opportunities—it’s an investment empowering young people in our communities to enter careers in environmental protection and climate Justice at a moment when their contributions are desperately needed,” said Congresswoman Summer Lee. “The expertise of these young folks - especially those from marginalized and underinvested backgrounds - has never been more crucial and I commend the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and partners for their dedication to our community and to our environment.”

Special thanks to the following community partners for contributing the expansion of the Parks Conservancy’s youth education programs: Bible Center Church, City of Pittsburgh, Propel Schools, Operation Better Block, and Tree Pittsburgh.

To learn more about the Parks Conservancy or its environmental education initiatives, please visit


Contact: Alana Wenk                                                    
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy