Northeastern Section - 49th Annual Meeting (23–25 March)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM


WEEDEN, Lori, Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Univ. Massachusetts Lowell, 1 University Avenue, Lowell, MA 01854-2827,

Environmental Geochemistry is a required upper level course for environmental science students. Environmental Geochemistry students should be starting to consider the practicality and benefit of course material when he/she enters the job market. Although the class text provides numerous real-world examples of the utility of environmental geochemistry, the significance of the examples tends to be lost on the average student as he/she tends to lack the ability to put them in context or is simply not interested. In the Fall of 2010, a laboratory component was added to the course with the hopes of increasing student engagement and comprehension. The lab would include a service learning project with the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust.

The students examined the water chemistry of the River Meadow Brook. This tributary of the Concord River in Lowell has a long, unfortunate history of environmental damage. The Trust wanted to evaluate the practicability of creating a greenway along the banks of the Brook. Students collected and tested the water samples for a variety of chemicals using three different testing methods. Each student presented his/her findings in a formal report to be shared with the Trust. Although there has been no formal assessment, students report a mostly positive experience. Several of the students felt that the project was an important hands-on experience, and all of the students agreed that the River Meadow Brook lab assignment was a good way to connect students to the community—a primary goal of any service learning project. In 2013, two of the students presented a poster of their findings at the University student research symposium.

For the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, as well as the city of Lowell, our monitoring of the Brook has that shown the area lacks any measured contamination within the limits of our testing. The city is now planning on creating a greenway along a portion of River Meadow Brook when the Lowell Connector is updated within the next ten years. The service learning component has not only benefitted the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, it has also helped the students by the experience of testing and developing a professional lab report and sharing it with a non-profit organization. The end result is the students are better able to contextualize the material learned in class.

  • Service Learning in Environmental Geochemistry.pptx (4.6 MB)