UCAN Participants Working on a Presentation

Urban Climate Action Network

For teens ready to make a difference

Take a look around your world. Is your city experiencing the effects of extreme weather? Flooding? Poor air quality? A lack of green spaces?

These are big issues, but the good news is that thousands of communities and cities are working to build resiliency to climate change—and teens have the power to make a difference!

The Urban Climate Action Network (UCAN) is a national climate change youth corps created by the National Aquarium in partnership with the American Planning Association (APA), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE).

UCAN make a difference!

UCAN empowers teens, particularly those from communities most impacted by climate change, to take action, connect with peers in other cities to discuss environmental, social, and economic challenges and, ultimately, to create better places to live, work and play.

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Teams made up of five high-school-aged youth in grades 9 through 12 from within the continental U.S. Each team must be sponsored by a qualified community organization and will work under the supervision of a dedicated adult leader affiliated with that organization.


The 2019 UCAN Conference will take place July 15-19, 2019
Applications are due by January 11, 2019.


National Aquarium
Baltimore, Maryland


Selected teams will receive complimentary airfare or ground transportation, lodging, food and conference activities from the National Aquarium.

More details are available in the FAQ.

Under the direction of designated adult leaders, teams of youth from cities across the US will spend a week at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. UCAN teams will meet dedicated, like-minded teens committed to making a difference in their communities, while learning about climate change, discussing current climate science challenges with science professionals and exploring careers in conservation science, urban planning, communications, civic engagement and more. UCAN team members will build leadership and practical skills to help bring about real change within their own communities.

Working Toward A Better Tomorrow

Following their time in Baltimore, teams and leaders will return to their hometowns equipped with the skills to create action plans addressing real problems in their communities with the assistance of a technical expert from the American Planning Association. Teams will also be eligible for small grants to help make their plans a reality, bringing about meaningful change.

In July 2018, inaugural UCAN teams from Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Orlando, FL; Powhattan, KS and Pago Pago, American Samoa began their UCAN journey. These teams will serve as mentors for three teams in 2019.

Download a printable UCAN PDF flyer.

Selected Teams Will Receive:

  • Complimentary airfare, lodging, meals and five days of training at the National Aquarium with scientists, technical experts and educators.
  • The guidance of a technical expert from American Planning Association dedicated to helping team plans and projects become reality in their city.
  • Access to climate science and project action resources.
  • Small grants (as available) to get your action project off the ground.

How to Apply

STEP 1: Build a team!

Each team must be made up of at least five teens in grades 9 through 12 for the 2019-2020 school year. Only five team members will be able to travel.

Teams must submit member names, addresses, contact info, ages, genders, grades, schools attending and parent or guardian contact info (phone and email).

STEP 2: Partner with a sponsor organization!

Teams must have the support of a sponsor organization committed to the team and its climate action project, and willing to manage funds granted to the team towards the completion of its project. Teams must submit the organization's name, address, phone, email, contact info of adult leader and the organization's federal tax ID.

Examples of sponsor organizations include:

  • Place of worship
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • School-sponsored Club
  • Boy Scouts
  • Girl Scouts
  • Other community-based 501c3 organizations

STEP 3: Create a video of your community!

Using your smart phone or whatever tools you can access, please put together a two- to three-minute video describing an issue in your community related to climate change and how you'd like to tackle it!

Your video should include:

  • A brief explanation of climate change and its impacts related to your community
  • The problem you'd like to address
  • The problem's effect on your community
  • What, if anything, is currently being done to address it
  • What your team would like to do about it
  • An explanation of how your team's participation in UCAN could positively impact your community

STEP 4: Online Application

Before completing your online application, post your video to a YouTube or other web-based service. Then copy down the URL to the video—you will need it for the online application.

Apply Now

Eligibility Requirements

  • Each team must consist of at least five (5) high school-aged youth (grades 9-12) and one designated adult team leader. Only five team members and their leader will be able to travel to Baltimore for the UCAN Conference.
  • Teams must be sponsored by a qualifying organization.
  • Ideal teams should be comprised of minority, low-income students from urban settings experiencing the effects of climate change (frequent flooding, loss of tidal land, heat island issues, shorter/longer growing seasons, more frequent drought conditions, higher average precipitation, changes in plant and animal species that live in your area, higher rates of asthma in your community etc.).
  • Each team must send five team members to Baltimore during the week of July 15-19, 2019, for a the UCAN Conference. (Travel, lodging and programming expenses will be paid by the National Aquarium).
  • All teams must be committed to working on this project over the course of the next THREE YEARS and have a plan to replace members as needed.
  • Each team must have an adult leader to facilitate communication between team members, guide the team in their decision making, and be a supportive advocate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Sponsor Organization?

A sponsor organization can be a church, synagogue, school, club (i.e., Boys & Girls Club), scout troop or other 501c3 community organization with a viable federal tax ID number willing to receive and hold grant funding to support teams in completing their projects. Sponsor organizations may also provide logistical amenities like meeting space or other resources to their UCAN team.

Do we have to have a letter of support from our sponsor organization?

Yes. Every team must work under the auspices of a sponsor organization. Sponsoring organizations must demonstrate a commitment to the project and be able to receive small grants for action projects. When your UCAN application is received, your sponsor organization will be contacted to verify their participation.

What is an Adult Leader? What is their role?

The adult leader is a responsible adult working under the auspices of the sponsoring organization who supports the team, facilitates the running of the team, participates in the leadership training in Baltimore, and acts as a liaison between the team and the sponsor organization.

How do we know if the environmental issue we'd like to address in our city is related to climate change?

Climate change science is at the root of so many issues that we all face every day. Click here for more information on climate change. Or, check out these resources about some examples in different cities:

What should we include in our video?

Your team's video submission should consist of team members explaining the climate change-related issue within your community that your team would like to address over the three-year course of the UCAN program. Please include the problem, its effect on your community or city, what—if anything—is currently being done to address it, your proposed solution or action plan and your desired outcome. Be creative and think outside the box!

What should our video look like?

Your team's video need not be professional or perfect! You may use a smart phone or whatever equipment you have available. Your video should be about 3 minutes long, and it should address the climate issue you see in your community and your proposed solution. Your video should feature your team explaining your project in your own way. Get excited, be creative, be authentic, be you!

How should we submit our video with our application?

Once you have completed your video, your team must post it to a web-based video sharing platform (i.e., YouTube or Vimeo). You will then submit the URL address for your video in the designated field on the online UCAN application.

May we have more than 5 team members to help with our action project?

Yes. While only five team members may attend the UCAN Conference in Baltimore (July 15 – 19, 2019), teams are encouraged to have more members in case team members graduate, leave the program or are unable to participate in UCAN travel during the three-year commitment of the program. Extra members may also assist in the hands-on completion of the action plans.

How old or in what grades do the team members need to be?

Team members must be enrolled in grades 9 – 12 for the 2019-2020 school year. As team members graduate from high school, they should be replaced with interested students to maintain a minimum number of five active team members.

What happens during the three-year duration of the program?

Teams selected to participate in UCAN will have three years to bring their action plans to life within their communities. During that time, teams should expect to travel to Baltimore or another city about once a year to meet with other teams and learn more.

What if I can't make it to the 2019 summer workshop? Can I still participate?

Five representatives from each team and their adult leader must attend the summer leadership workshop. If entire teams are unable to attend, an alternate team will be chosen. If a member of a selected team cannot attend, an alternate team member may attend in their place.

When will we know if we were selected?

Teams will be notified in February 2019, if they have been selected. Selected teams will receive a packet of information about the Baltimore UCAN Conference, travel logistics and other information.

Where can we find more resources on climate change?

Who should we contact if we have questions about the application process?

Please contact youthclimate@aqua.org with any questions.


UCAN is a partnership between the National Aquarium and these organizations:

American Planning Association Logo Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition Logo National Religious Partnership for the Environment Logo

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [grant MG-10-17-0012-17].

Institute of Museum and Library Services Logo