Note: the following information was provided by UMass Lowell.)
LOWELL, Mass. – Earth Day is observed every April 22 across the globe to raise awareness about environmental protection and sustainability. But in Lowell, the celebration is bigger than just a single day.
Since 2016, community partners including UMass Lowell have expanded to offer eco-conscious activities and educational events across the city throughout the month of April.
Lowell Earth Month is a collaborative effort of many organizations – including UMass Lowell, the city of Lowell, Middlesex Community College, Lowell National Historical Park and Mill City Grows – and includes whitewater-rafting trips on the Concord River, greenhouse tours, screenings of films about climate change, art workshops, sustainability lectures and more.
This year, thanks to more than 50 such partners, the community is launching its first-ever Festival of Learning to coincide with Lowell Earth Month 2018. The festival marks the beginning of efforts to define Lowell as a City of Learning, celebrating and promoting the multitude of educational and skill-building opportunities available throughout the community.
Organizers say they hope to see Lowell as the first UNESCO-designated Learning City in the U.S. Such cities, located around the world, are places where lifelong learning is used to promote sustainable development, cultural prosperity and individual empowerment, according to the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.
“This year, we are building on the success of our Earth Day celebration by launching a Festival of Learning that will bring together just a sample of the opportunities for learning in Lowell. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to learn something new in Lowell, from understanding climate change, playing an instrument, to cooking and writing poetry. Lowell as a Learning City brings these opportunities together and says to the world that this is a city built on knowledge, education and community sustainability. If we are successful, Lowell will join some 140 cities around the world designated by UNESCO as cities of learning,” said UMass Lowell Political Science Prof. John Wooding, a member of the university’s Climate Change Initiative, which is comprised of students, faculty and staff.
An introduction to the City of Learning efforts will be held Wednesday, April 18 at 6 p.m. at the Mayor’s Conference Room, Lowell City Hall, 375 Merrimack St
. The event will feature Wooding and representatives of Cork, Ireland, a current UNESCO City of Learning. Prof. John O’Halloran, deputy president of University College Cork, will speak about being part of the effort, followed by his colleague Prof. Mary Murphy, who will discuss what Brexit means for Ireland.
An array of other educational community events will be held next week, leading up to the annual Earth Day Parade and Festival, which is Sunday, April 22. At 12:30 p.m. the parade begins at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center at 246 Market St
., and makes its way through downtown Lowell to UTEC at 35 Warren St
. There, the free festival will feature live music and dance performances, workshops by Mill City Grows and more than 30 nonprofit organizations and companies focused on the environment will educate the public about sustainability.
Since its founding, the celebration, which began as Lowell Earth Day, has received support from a wide range of sources, including local nonprofits, cultural organizations and members of the community, as well as the university. This year, UMass Lowell’s Office of Sustainability, the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and Toxics Use Reduction Institute have played a key role in coordinating the City of Learning kickoff and Earth Day Celebration.
“The festival will provide UMass Lowell students with opportunities to connect with local organizations,” said Tyler Arrigo, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.
“A lot of the organizations are looking for interns or have job opportunities, so it’s a great way for students to make connections with a wide array of community partners,” he said. “It’s also a great way to see what’s out there in the city in a very unique way.” A full schedule of events, along with parade and festival participants, can be found at www.lowellearthday.org.