Beach Sisters is a collaborative program between the Marine Science Center (NUMSC) Outreach Program and Girls Inc. of Lynn. The Beach Sisters program helps to pave the way for school-aged girls living in an underserved, environmental justice community to develop scientific inquiry and citizenship skills, and to learn about academic and career opportunities in marine and environmental science.
This program addresses the needs of youth in the City of Lynn by pairing the resources of an informal science education center with a community-based organization. The Beach Sisters partnership began in 2011, and has been supported by several grants and partnerships, notably the engagement of a dedicated AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow each year, each of whom serves 1,700 hours annually.
The program model involves half a dozen high school Peer Leaders that are trained to deliver after-school programming to elementary and middle school youth in formal classroom and informal drop-in sessions. With mentoring and support from the dedicated Beach Sisters Fellow, as well as occasional NUMSC researcher volunteers, the Peer Leaders plan and deliver these educational programs, while also conducting service-learning projects related to environmental issues impacting their community.
Significant financial support for the project has come from the Americorps/Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, Massachusetts Service Alliance/Commonwealth Corps program, Girls Inc, of Lynn, the New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cell Signaling Technology, the Essex County Women’s Fund, New England Biolabs Foundation, Captain Planet Foundation, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay Better Beaches Program, and the NUMSC Outreach Program.
- In 2015 the Beach Sisters Peer Leaders were honored at the Massachusetts State House, receiving the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education for their efforts. Read more about this here.
- Beach Sisters participants in the 2015 Eureka/Bridges summer program collaborated with the MSC’s Coastal Ocean Science Academy to produce an interactive virtual tour of the Forest River Conservation Area in Salem. The final product can be viewed here.
- In the summer of 2015, the Beach Sisters partnered with artist Stacey Wilson-McMahon and her organization apatchworks to create first set of panels for a beautiful marine-themed mosaic. The mosaic was completed by local youth in April 2017 and the completed work is on display in the Murphy Bunker at the Marine Science Center.
- In Fall 2017, The Beach Sister Peer Leaders surveyed water quality at 4 sites along the coast of Lynn and created a 360 Virtual Tour to share the results of their observations in the rocky shore at Red Rock Park in Lynn. They presented this resource at several events in the Lynn community, and in Boston, and with peers in France who made a similar virtual tour, allowing both teen groups to compare and contrast their local coastlines. You can see the 360 Virtual Tour and learn about our results here.
- Since January 2018, the Beach Sister Peer Leaders have worked to advocate for the passage of a bill banning single-use plastic bags in Lynn and across Massachusetts. Several milestones of this project have been:
- Collecting ~400 petition signatures supporting the bill
- Researching the issue, and presenting their case to a variety of elected officials and advocacy groups in Lynn and in the MA State Legislature, including: Lynn City Council, State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Senator Brendan Crighton, staffers of Governor Charlie Baker, Rep. Jeff Sanchez Chair of Ways & Means Committee, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and the Friends of Lynn and Nahant Beach
- Reusable bag drive to help their community transition away from plastic: collected donated bags, created bags from donated t-shirts, and in collaboration with MIT and Woods Hole SeaGrant designed and had printed their own Beach Sisters Reusable bag (pictured below). A total of 750 bags were distributed to the Lynn community.
- Several of the current high school peer leaders participated in Beach Sister program when they were in elementary or middle school, and three have completed a full time summer internship at the Marine Science Center since 2015.
- Each year since 2014, the Beach Sister Peer Leaders have presented their work to fellow teens at the High School Marine Science Symposium, leading workshops on topics ranging from seaweed biodiversity to strategies for reducing human impacts on marine habitats.
For more information
Please contact Sierra Munoz, Outreach Program Coordinator, at [email protected] for more information about the Beach Sisters program.