Current Programs – Environmental Education

Inspiring Positive Change – Both Inside & Outside

Lowell Leaders in Stewardship (LLIS) is an after-school environmental education program run in partnership with the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) and Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary (Mass Audubon) with support from the Lowell Public Schools.  Since 2005, this program has offered STEM-based environmental education programs at a variety of locations throughout Lowell.

Program Logistics

Lowell Leaders in Stewardship is run at eight public schools, from elementary to high school.

Who are the teachers?  Each program is taught by a teacher-naturalist from both Mass Audubon and LP&CT within the structure of an existing after-school program.

How long are the programs?  Programs typically run in three blocks of ten-week sessions, meeting once or twice a week for 45-90 minutes from October to May. Many students choose to stay with the program for more than one ten-week block and often continue for the entire year, even extending their interest throughout the summer or, ideally, over multiple school years.

Summer programs run in July and typically meet for one and one half to three hours daily for up to 18 sessions.  Locations are dependent on funding.

Is there a fee to participate?  Currently, all programs are offered free of charge thanks to community support, grants, and funding from local foundations with matching support from the Lowell Public Schools’ 21st Century Program.

The themes of each session can vary by the season, location, or participants themselves.  Often there is a focus on service learning and student-directed projects.

Where are programs offered?  During the current school year, we have students participating in Lowell Leaders in Stewardship in eight different schools throughout the city: Shaugnessy Elementary, McAuliffe Elementary, Bartlett Community Partnership School, Lincoln Elementary, Greenhalge Elementary, Robinson Middle, the Compass Program at Freshman Academy, and Teens Representing Environmental Excellence and Stewardship at Lowell High School. Check this page to see what our students are up to, and to see what we’ve done in the past.

Activities at current program sites are detailed below. 

For information on our past programs, see: LLIS Education Programming from 2013-2016.

Freshman Academy Compass: Environmental Adventures 2016-2017

This program for ninth-graders has focused on human impacts on water quality.  Students visited our rivers and conducted experiments using a new watershed model (Enviroscape).

For their student-designed service learning project they are developing a rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff in the alleyway next to the Freshman Academy in downtown Lowell.

They hope to style this rain garden as a “Zen garden”  that will absorb rain water and also create a small, peaceful retreat for all students to visit during the school day.

The students met with Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Head of School Brian Martin to get permission for the project and bravely ask for funding. After submitting detailed design plans and a budget, the students received full funding for their project.

TREES at Lowell High School (2016-2017)

TREES, Teens Representing Environmental Excellency and Stewardship, has taken on many impactful stewardship projects over the past few years. These highschool upperclassmen have implemented a recycling program and offered programming for local families about Lowell’s green spaces.

This year, they hosted the Lowell Youth Environmental Conference in March 2017, the first gathering of other high school environmental clubs in the Merrimack River Watershed.

The students developed a mission statement to explain their goals: “Our mission is to raise awareness of the environmental issues across the diverse communities that make up the Merrimack River Watershed in Massachusetts. We hope to increase communication between students in these communities, and to share ideas on how we can protect our shared environment by bringing these communities together at the Lowell Youth Environmental Conference.”

Check out this Mass Audubon blog to learn more about the impact of this student-led conference.

Greenhalge (Fall 2016)

First- and second- graders at Greenhalge Elementary had some fall-themed fun to start out their school-year with LLIS. They practiced their observation skills at school and at home noting what animals they saw outside every week.  Students learned how different animals cope with the changing seasons with visits from live animals including a pigeon, American Kestrel, Cedar Waxwing, and a box turtle.

They also enjoyed experimenting with pumpkins and pumpkin seeds on Halloween, and practicing important STEM skills such as hypothesizing, experimenting, and drawing conclusions.

McAuliffe (Fall 2016)

McAuliffe first- and second-graders learned all about adaptations this fall, from how trees adapt to the changing temperatures to how animals prepare for winter in Lowell.  To explore these topics, the students also enjoyed visiting with a rabbit, “walking stick” insects, a Call Duck, and a groundhog.

They sharpened their botany skills by learning about local plants and having in-depth discussions about the functions of various plant parts.


Shaughnessy (Fall 2016)

Moving like worms, scavenging for seeds and nuts for the winter, migrating like geese…third- and fourth- graders at Shauhgnessy were busy acting like Lowell’s wildlife this fall!

Through activities, exploring their schoolyard, and visiting with local wildlife such as the painted turtle, a Canadian goose, and a rabbit, students had fun learning about the rich natural resources right in their city.

Freshman Academy Compass: Tomatoes, Potatoes and Tornadoes (Summer 2016)

Last summer, incoming ninth-graders tackled one of our most pressing problems: how can we fight climate change through the food that we eat?

After exploring the complexities of our food systems and how they impact the environment around us, our students began wondering about the food available to them at school.

A conversation about Aramark’s farm-to-school program in the Lowell Public Schools inspired the students to create a video about the local food they eat at lunch every day. By letting their peers and community know about this program, our students hope to spread awareness of the difference that eating locally can make for our environment, and inspire more support for the farm-to-school program.

      In partnership with the Lowell Public Schools and Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, this program is generously funded by the Massachusett’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s ASOST-Q Grant Program.  In addition to the service-learning project developed and completed by the students, this program will result in a new curriculum on climate change and food access that can be used by educators across the country.

Check out the YouTube channel and video created by the students here.

Bartlett Community School (Summer 2016)

“I didn’t know chickens had ears!” – an excited Bartlett student

Students at the Bartlett Community School enjoyed meeting local animals last summer. From chickens to blue jays to snapping turtles, students learned about animals that call Lowell home while learning about the components of a healthy habitat and how animals adapt to the environment around them.

By introducing local wildlife to our students, we hope that they will become stewards of their habitats – the environment that we share with these animals every day.

Spindle City Corps (Summer 2016)

Four days. Six students. One awesome project!

Last summer, six youth from Spindle City Corps spruced up the Lawrence Street end of the Concord River Greenway.  After vigorously removing nineteen bags of invasive plants from the edge of the trail and adding some mulch, these teens made the bike rack much more accessible.  They also designed, painted, and installed a “Welcome” sign, including the Greenway logo, to invite community members to enjoy the trail.  In hopes of encouraging responsible use of the Greenway, they included an ever-important reminder on their sign to “please carry out what you carry in.”

When I’m older, I’ll be able to come back and see this sign here,” said one excited young woman as she reflected on the group’s impact.

Spindle City Corps is an award-winning program run through the Lowell National Historical Park and Community Teamwork, Inc. in which young people complete service projects throughout the city. The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, in partnership with Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuaryhas the wonderful opportunity to work with a portion of this group every summer on an environmental project designed by the students. Thank you, Spindle City Corps!

Our Sites

Lowell Leaders in Stewardship is implemented at several sites in Lowell, Massachusetts throughout the school year and summer. Sites (current and past) include:

  • Lowell High School-Freshman Academy/Compass Program (school year and summer programs)

  • Lowell High School – TREES, Teens Representing Environmental Excellence & Stewardship (10th-12th grade)

  • Spindle City Corps – Community Teamwork Inc. and Lowell National Historical Park (summer program)

  • McAuliffe Elementary School

  • Shaughnessy Elementary School

  • Greenhalge Elementary School

  • Robinson Middle School

  • Bartlett Community Partnership School – UMass Lowell Graduate School

  • Stoklosa Middle School and Wang Middle School

  • Girls Incorporated of Greater Lowell

  • Light of Cambodian Children Inc.

  • United Teen Equality Center (UTEC)

  • River Ambassadors – Lowell Telecommunications

  • Lowell High School – Environmental Science Club

  • Daley Middle School – Community Science Investigations

Sample Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan- Exploring with The Lorax

  • A free family program offered as a part of Lowell National Historical Park’s “April PLAYcation” week.