PITTSBURG -- Six East County local schools and nonprofits now have grants totaling $25,300 from Dow Chemical to spend next year on various programs that benefit STEM education efforts (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and/or improve the environment.

A 12-member community advisory panel of Dow's Pittsburg operations selected the six winners from among 35 local groups that applied for the grants that are awarded yearly. Recipients of the 2014 grants, which range from $2,500 to $5,000, are Pittsburg-based Marine Science Institute; Pittsburg-based People Who Care Association; Antioch Middle School; Antioch-based Homeless Animals Lifeline Organization; Liberty Union High School District in Brentwood; and Freedom High School in Oakley.

"In the past couple of years, we've moved more toward that STEM focus and have tried to move most of our giving and outreach toward that" in response to community requests, said Dow spokesman Josh Wimble. "These grants are to enable an organization to start a new program or expand a program. They are not designed for general fund support. A lot of organizations want to try something new."

People Who Care plans to use its $5,000 grant to buy construction materials for building a solar-powered toolshed for storing tools, lumber and other equipment used in its green jobs training program.

"The goal of the program is to educate at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 21 for green jobs and green industry ... It isn't only solar installation. It can be opening a bicycle shop," said Connie Russell, president of the nonprofit's board of directors.

Not only will program participants gain skills from building the toolshed with the help of volunteers, the nonprofit will also save $1,032 a year in storage fees once the project is completed, she said.

The projects and grant amounts awarded to the five other recipients are as follows:

Marine Science Institute in Pittsburg: A $4,000 grant so that low-income Pittsburg students can take guided boat tours of Delta waters to observe fish species being caught and released. Students will also participate in activities and lessons to learn the importance of maintaining the ecosystem.

Antioch Middle School: A $5,000 grant to buy supplies so a sixth-grade class can build a sustainable garden that will help them learn to grow vegetables and the principles of agriculture. The garden will tended by future classes.

Homeless Animals Lifeline Organization: A $2,500 grant to support training and certification of homeless dogs to became therapy animals to help children with learning disabilities learn how to read. The money will pay for special reading materials, certification, grooming materials, reading enclosures and blankets used in the program.

Liberty Union High School District: A $5,000 grant to provide students in advanced placement classes in calculus and environmental studies with hands-on training in monitoring water quality on Marsh Creek and interpreting chemistry data.

Freedom High School: A $3,800 grant to build a garden greenhouse and irrigation system to help students learn about conservation and natural habitats.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

---