SERVICE LEARNING IN ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY: THE RIVER MEADOW BROOK PROJECT
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.