Nebraska’s NRDs have a variety of projects and programs to educate youth about conservation and natural resources. Below you will find information and links to Central Platte NRD’s Outdoor Classroom Program, Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival, Arbor Day Seedlings, High School Contests (Envirothon, Land Judging. Range Judging), and the College Scholarship Program.

Outdoor Classroom Program

The NRD’s Outdoor Classroom Programs were developed to provide funding to promote the education of our natural resources through hands-on learning.  Funding is provided through three types of grants: Outdoor Classroom, Community Grants, and Mini-School Grants (applications below).

Providing lessons in nature ensure that children today are growing up with meaningful daily connections to nature. When children spend time in nature-filled outdoor learning environments, research shows that conflict is replaced by pleasant and positive exploration.

School Outdoor Classroom Grant – up to $2,500

Central Platte NRD provides up to $2,500 per school per year with matching funds/labor required for requests over $500. Outdoor Classroom Grants totaling less than $500 require no matching funds. Grants totaling $500-$2,500 require matching funds amounting to 50% of the grant over $500. While finding other funding sources is encouraged, schools and organizations may use their labor involved in the project to satisfy part or all of the matching fund requirement.   Application
Projects that provide awareness about water, soil, wildlife, forestry, grassland, and other environmental connections are eligible. Funds can be requested by teachers and administrators for materials needed to create or expand an outdoor classroom site on school grounds. Appropriate expenditures of funds may include: rain gardens, rain barrels, butterfly/pollinator gardens, seeds, bulbs, live plants, trees, native grasses, wetland or pond habitat, bird/wildlife feeders, identification signs, etc.

Latest Projects Approved

Kearney Public Schools Foundation: $1,335 approved to improve educational opportunities in the Outdoor Learning Area at Kearney High School. Copies of the book 40 Chances by Howard Buffett and signage for the school’s wetland area were approved for funding in the amount of $1,335.
Stick Creek Kids Child Development Center: $2,500 approved to expand the sensory garden in their natural playground including native plants and learning features such as a mud kitchen and a farm-to-kitchen garden in conjunction with the Wood River FFA chapter. The center is licensed to enroll 80 youth from infants to 12 years old.

Community Outdoor Classroom Grant

The Community Grants Program is to promote water, soil, wildlife, forest, grassland conservation and environmental awareness. Community organizations may request up to $2,000 to provide natural resources awareness to the public or youth. This is a competitive grant and may be applied for at any time. NRD boundaries include all of Dawson County and parts of Frontier, Custer, Buffalo, Hall, Howard, Nance, Merrick, Hamilton Platte and Polk counties in Nebraska.   Application
Community organization and/or non-profit groups may request funds to help with costs to promote indoor/outdoor conservation projects, presentations, print materials, activity materials, educational resources, etc. The Community Grant requires no matching funds. The methods used to promote environmental and conservation awareness and a timeline to meet your goal(s) must be included in the application.

Mini Classroom Grant

The Mini Classroom Grant provides $35 to classroom teachers for natural resources classroom activities, field trips, etc. Additional funding is available for environmental education activities and projects.    Application

Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival

The Groundwater Festival is normally held each May at the Central Community College & College Park in Grand Island, NE. In 2021, the Festival will be held as a Virtual Event for schools to participate in starting April 1, 2021. Click the Groundwater Festival link below for details on how to participate.
The festival reinforces groundwater quality, groundwater quantity, and natural resources education that students receive by bringing 50 water and natural resources professionals together to teach up to 1,000 5th-grade students in one day.  Approximately 125 volunteers from surrounding communities and businesses volunteer for the event.
At the festival, students attend six in-depth classroom activities and a stage show. Schools that were scheduled to attend this year will be invited to attend the festival in 2021.  This event was the first groundwater festival to be formed and has been replicated in 42 states in the USA, Mexico, Canada, India & the United Kingdom. Over 30,000 students have been educated at the Festival since 1988. Groundwater Festival Page

Free Arbor Day Seedlings  Arbor Day is Friday, April 30.  Central Platte NRD will be providing free seedlings to students to help celebrate this Nebraska-born holiday. The seedlings are 6”-12” tall and will be contained in plastic plugs to make it easier for students to take home. Planting instructions will also be provided.To order contact Marcia Lee or call (308) 385-6282 Include the following information:
* Teacher Name(s) *# of seedlings per classroom *Phone # *Email *School addresses

High School Contests

The Envirothon is an environmental and natural resources education competition, reaching more than 25,000 high school students across the United States, Canada, and China annually. The Nebraska Envirothon is a competition designed for high school students (9th-12th grades) to test their knowledge about the environment.
Five-member teams compete on the regional level in seven areas of environmental studies: soil, aquatics, forestry, policy, wildlife, range, environmental policy, and current issues. For the state competition, an oral presentation, on a topic selected by the North American Envirothon Committee, is added to the testing stations.The state and national hands-on competitions are held outdoors to give students a chance to take their classroom learning and apply it in a natural setting.
Land Judging
Land Judging is a high school competition that challenges students to gain a better understanding of soil structure and land evaluation. Land Judging enables each participant to learn how to recognize the physical features of the soil, determine land capability for crop production, and evaluate management practices needed for proper stewardship. Soil, land and home-site evaluation provide a setting for students to investigate the soils in their region, the environment that surrounds them and their effect on their daily lives. There are three divisions as part of the contest – students, adults, and professionals.
During the competition, students judge four soil pits using an evaluation card to make assessments on: soil depth, surface texture, permeability, slope, thickness of surface and erosion. Each evaluation card is scored and added together to determine overall scores for individuals and the team. In order to compete in the state contest, teams advance from one of the seven regional competitions hosted across the state in October.
Range Judging
Range Judging Contests are high school competitions that provide students opportunities to have fun while becoming better educated on sustaining the yield of rangeland products by enhancement and protection of the range resources of soil, water, and plant and animal life. The Range Judging season consists of six regional events followed by a state contest.
The contest rotates to different counties each year and tests participants on range plant identification, rangelands and plant community change, and range condition.

College Scholarship Program

CPNRD-Ron Bishop Memorial College Scholarship   This program awards $1,000 scholarships to 5 students majoring in a natural resources field. College juniors and seniors are eligible.  Return applicants and recipients are welcome to apply.
College Scholarship Page  |  2021-2022 Application

 Contact Marcia Lee at (308) 385-6282 or

Virtual Classroom Links

Need new ideas for your classroom?

Check out the links, activity ideas, and resources on our virtual page for water, soil, plants, trees, wildlife & habitat.

View Virtual Page Here