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Students aboard S.C. Department of Natural Resources educational vessel Discovery learn by using field sampling techniques and equipment that echo current research methods. Photo provided/SCDNR

The Harry R.E. Hampton Wildlife Fund has received a $5,000 Environmental Education and Stewardship Grant from Dominion Energy.

The grant will support the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Carolina Coastal Discovery Marine Education program, a day-long, outdoor environmental education program that exposes students to "STEM" careers. The program also serves to create a new generation of environmental stewards of the Charleston area's marine ecosystem.

In 2016, 34 percent of all South Carolina fifth-grade students scored "Not Met" on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) test in science, indicating a clear learning gap and the need for additional methods of teaching science standards, according to a SCDNR release. The Coastal Discovery program's hands-on approach to learning improves students’ understanding and retention of science standards.

Students spend their day in an outdoor classroom and aboard the 45-foot catamaran Discovery, where an SCDNR educator leads hands-on activities such as dissections or marine life identifications. Students use the tools of marine scientists to reinforce the state science standards and gain an understanding of their real-world applications.

The educators also work to help the students understand their role in sustaining this unique marine environment by practicing wise stewardship. More than 250 students from Charleston area schools will participate in the program.

Dominion Energy has awarded $1 million in Environmental Education and Stewardship grants to a variety of initiatives in states where it does business. Donations were shared by nearly 130 nonprofit organizations and schools working to improve natural spaces or encourage environmental stewardship in 12 states.