CLEMSON — Clemson University has received a $5,000 environmental stewardship grant from the Dominion Foundation to support a new Junior Naturalist program developed by South Carolina 4-H.

Through the 4-H Junior Naturalist program, South Carolina youth aged 9-13 explore the environment with hands-on, outdoor education about natural resources, forest and aquatic ecology, wildlife biology, geology, botany, entomology and more. Experiential-learning opportunities offered by the Junior Naturalist program teach young people to describe plants and animals in their habitats, to better understand various influences on the environment and to become young citizen volunteers and future environmental stewards.

Youth will observe birds as part of the 4-H Junior Naturalist program, as well as be introduced to the Celebrate Urban Bird Project.

Youth will observe birds as part of the 4-H Junior Naturalist program, as well as be introduced to the Celebrate Urban Bird Project.

The grant from Dominion will allow 4-H to pilot the program with 30 youth in Richland, Lexington and Newberry counties with hands-on lessons taught in the greater Columbia area with sites at Camp Discovery and Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center. Instructors will include experts from organizations such as Clemson University Cooperative Extension, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the S.C. Forestry Commission, the S.C. Master Naturalist program and the S.C. Wildlife Federation. Cathy Foster, a volunteer with Clemson Extension’s Master Naturalist program, is leading the curriculum.

As part of the program, participants will develop a floating garden with support from Clemson Extension’s water resources team. The stewardship project is aimed at improving open spaces and protecting natural habitats. Civic engagement is a hallmark of South Carolina 4-H, and studies have shown that youth who participate in 4-H are four times more likely to contribute to their communities.

“Connecting children to nature is good for their health, development, learning and appreciation for the environment, and out-of-school programs such as Junior Naturalist have been shown to improve students’ knowledge in science subject matters,” said Ashley Burns, assistant director of South Carolina 4-H. “We are grateful for the investment Dominion has made in South Carolina youth and the environment.”

The Dominion Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. Since 2003, Dominion has donated nearly $30 million to a variety of environmental projects across its footprint. In April, Dominion awarded $1.2 million in grants to 107 organizations, including South Carolina 4-H, that are working to improve natural spaces or encourage environmental stewardship.