During these challenging times, the National Wildlife Federation’s Emily Fano stands out as a beacon of hope and leadership on some of today’s most pressing challenges in the nation’s largest city.  While the pandemic toll has been so very painful in the New York metro area and beyond, Emily sets us on the right path forward: investment in our children through education programs that connect K-12 students to nature and engage them in actions to reverse the climate change and wildlife crises. 

Like all the recognized heroes, Emily has built a great team and partners to deliver on NWF’s mission, including staff members Sarah Ward, and consultants Heather Sioux, Isabel Avina and Dana Lawit. Big shout out to them for all their incredible work!

Emily was recently named a 2020 NYC Climate Hero by the Human Impacts Institute. The award recognizes Emily’s leadership on “environmental conservation, stewardship, and climate resiliency programs in NYC public schools.” 

Emily and her team have quickly responded to the unprecedented realities of COVID-19 to serve our hard-hit communities, shifting our education programs and public events to support remote learning with indoor and safe outdoor activities that connect people to nature. 

One great example of that work is a recent “Virtual Boat Adventure Into Jamaica Bay” with our partners, the American Littoral Society. 84 attendees, many of whom were NYC students, explored the wonders of estuaries, learning what they are, how they function, what kind of wildlife and plants they sustain, why they are muddy and stinky, who studies and works in estuaries, and how they protect communities from extreme weather events. 

Virtual Boat Adventure Into Jamaica Bay.

The New York City wildlife and education program has also:

1) Added 100 Eco-Schools for a total of 700 in New York City, making the city the National Wildlife Federation’s largest urban Eco-Schools hub, in partnership with the country’s largest and most diverse K-12 school system with 79,000 teachers and 1.1 million students speaking 182 languages. Follow NYC Eco-Schools on Facebook.

2) Planted trees, creating seven new wildlife gardens in Brooklyn, including four certified Schoolyard Habitats, a native wildflower meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and three pollinator gardens in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, for a total of 16,500 square feet of community habitat and outdoor classrooms. We created a new 250-page K-5 urban pollinator curriculum for educators, “Growing a Wild NYC,” featuring 20 Green STEM lessons that support NWF’s goal of connecting urban kids to nature. 

3) Created the Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) 2.0 with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a model climate and resilience education program for middle and high schools focused on coastal hazards and extreme heat and aligned to NYC’s strategic priorities. Both FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have funded and recognized this program as a national model. 

4) Advanced climate change education and policy by convening the Climate and Resilience Education Task Force, a body of more than 100 individuals including representatives of city, state, federal agencies, NGOs, teachers and students. Eleven local high school students were recently recruited for the Task Force’s new Youth Steering Committee, which had its first (virtual) meeting on April 29th. 

5) Convened the NYC Pollinator Working Group—a body of over 100 representatives of city parks, botanical gardens, museums, and community gardens.

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The New York City metro areas is the National Wildlife Federation’s largest urban Eco-Schools hub .

A Hero in Our Ranks

The National Wildlife Federation is incredibly proud that Emily Fano has been named a “2020 NYC Climate Hero.” From being one of Al Gore’s trained “climate leaders,” to leading education programs across the city, Emily has shown exemplary leadership to reach teachers, students and administrators in every borough of NYC, especially underserved areas. Hundreds of schools, thousands of students, and countless partners have been inspired by Emily’s love for nature, wildlife and people. Emily goes to work every day with the goal of bringing people together, especially young people who will be tasked with addressing the climate crisis.  She is continually inspired by the many young climate heroes who are leading the charge for climate justice, climate education, and a just transition. These young heroes give her, and all of us, hope for the future.

The National Wildlife Federation Northeast Regional Center is able to conserve wildlife and their habitat and connect people with the wonders of the natural world thanks to the generosity of our supporters. Please consider making a gift today.


Learn about other 2020 NYC Climate Hero the terrific honorees, like leaders from WE ACT for Environmental Justice, NY Renews, and NYC Environmental Justice Alliance here.