Columbia Museum of Art & Congaree National Park receive “America’s Best Idea” grant

Columbia Museum of Art & Congaree National Park receive “America’s Best Idea” grant

The Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) and Congaree National Park received one of 39 America’s “Best Idea” grants given by the National Park Foundation this year to recognize their innovative arts and science education program called LEAF (Linking Ecology and Art of the Floodplains). The $17,500 grant helps support LEAF, which connects science, art, and the ecological experience of the primeval forest at Congaree National Park to teach over 1,300 third-graders about landscapes, soils, and habitats.

The National Parks Service announced the list of national parks across the country selected to receive the award. The grant program, inspired by Ken Burns’ critically acclaimed documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” builds partnerships between national parks and community, state, and other public organizations that engage diverse audiences in meaningful and relevant ways with national parks and inspires participants to become stewards of our National Park System.

The award-winning program also received recognition on national television on Time Warner Cable’s “It Ain’t Rocket Science” show that aired in October. The show is part of the cable company’s charitable initiative called “Connect a Million Minds” STEM campaign, which spotlighted the LEAF program as an innovative education program linking art and science:

“We thank the National Park Foundation for their support and are honored that the LEAF program received this national recognition,” says Karen Brosius, CMA executive director. “Our museum is focused on art as a gateway to learning and creativity, and it has been a pleasure to partner with Congaree National Park to reach more than a thousand third-grade students with such a valuable and fun art and science experience.”

Beginning in 2007, the LEAF program has reached a total of over 4,000 students and over 200 teachers in Richland and Lexington Counties, which is the central region of South Carolina. This free, outdoor field trip is part of an ongoing initiative by the CMA to integrate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) education in school curricula. The STEAM movement recognizes the importance of connecting science with arts education, which is critical for 21st-century achievement and innovation. LEAF promotes arts education, science literacy, and environmental education through outdoor activities that connect to South Carolina visual art and science education standards.

“Good artists make good scientists and good scientists make good artists because observation is key to both,” says Congaree Education Coordinator David Shelley.

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of the National Park System. Additional support for the grants comes from the Geological Society of America and the National Park Service Geologic Resource Division.

For more information about the CMA’s education programs, visit

Image: Congaree National Park Education Coordinator David Shelley leads third-graders in an exercise about soil weathering, erosion, and deposition.

Via: Columbia Museum of Art