Learning Streams International is a collaboration of educators, scientists, students, and local citizens dedicated to improving learning in science through investigations of local environments. Our collaborative incorporates what we have learned from over three decades of research on learning and brain development combined with innovative technologies applied to real science investigations on water and trees, carried out by high school students and teachers. The integration between science, technology, and learning takes place in learning communities that investigate questions identified by students, teachers, and scientists.

LSI transforms attitudes about learning science by both students and educators across school curricula, and in local communities, college classrooms, and government agencies. Near Peer Mentors (NPMs) are university students who act as guides to investigate deeply held beliefs abo

ut climate change and science by fostering inquiry and curiosity in real scientific investigations that can promote equality and environmental justice using trees. LSI uses science as a platform to promote democratic decision-making, leadership skills, tolerance for others, and collaboration. Through the full engagement of both high school students, teachers and undergraduate students in a new learning environment, all learn from each other in a relationship that more accurately reflects successful collaborations in solving problems in the real world.


In summer 2024, the LSI model is the foundation for the SALT-FRESH program funded by the Ohio Environmental Eduction Fund. This year, we are using a teacher-focused learning community model with one Near Peer Mentor working with 2-3 teachers during the summer training and with the students of those teachers during the 2024-2025 AY.

Consistent with previous iterations of the LSI model, we are using a learning community approach, in this case to provide teachers with the protocols, equipment, and skills to identify the impacts of road salt on the physical, chemical, and biological components of local streams. After an intensive summer training institute that includes contributions from GaiaXus, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and Cleveland Department of Public Health, teachers and their students will devise a year-round monitoring plan for a stream near their school starting September 2024.

In spring 2025, learning communities should have enough data to clearly identify a problem in their stream and begin to think about potential solutions. Community Action Plans (formerly referred to as Legacy Projects) are a staple of the LSI model and in SALT-FRESH, are directed toward addressing the problem and offering solutions in ways that are consistent with their local communities. These projects will be shared at a culminating symposium in late spring 2024.


LSI came out of the pandemic with a renewed energy and revised focus on climate change and urban canopy cover. It is anticipated we will keep this focus moving forward. The program is still built around the learning community model (5 high school students, one high school teacher, and a university Near Peer Mentor) that has been the hallmark of LSI since its inception in 2007.

The inaugural session of Tree Canopy Solutions to the Impacts of Climate Change took place in June 2023 on the campus of Hiram College. During this abbreviated residential program, learning communities from Northeast Ohio and the Dominican Republic used the iTree suite of tools to learn how to identify and document urban tree canopy issues. Sessions focused on addressing deeply held beliefs about trees, pragmatic discussions on the economic value of trees and the ecosystem services they provide, and considerations of personal goals and skill development.

LCs met a wide variety of Green Industry leaders and learned about Green Industry roles, responsibilities, and career paths. The program culminated with NPMs facilitating discussions within their learning communities to develop a community action plan that describes how each LC is going to implement their LSI experiences in their own neighborhoods during the 2023-2024 academic year.

Near Peer Mentors are looking forward to working with Learning Communities during the academic year and the LSI community is excited to welcome another cohort of change agents in summer 2024.

2014 – 2019

Krystal throwing the zooplankton netFrom 2014 to 2019, LSI used the learning community model to investigate important local, regional, and international water-related issues.

The first week of the program took place on the urban campus of Case Western Reserve University in the heart of the University Circle neighborhood in Cleveland. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Botanical Garden and other world-renowned institutions are within easy walking distance. In addition to the opportunity to visit some of these institutions, students used standardized EPA protocols to evaluate urban streams and rivers near the CWRU campus to make comparisons to data collected in Hiram, OH later in the program.

After a quick weekend trip to Niagara Falls, participants spent the second week on the campus of Hiram College using the same EPA protocols to characterize local rivers, streams, and wetlands and to explore connections between land and water ecosystems. Students had many opportunities to explore Hiram and the Hiram College campus, a highly regarded liberal arts university in a rural setting.

LSI is truly international, as learning communities are drawn from schools in northeast Ohio and regions throughout Pakistan and the Dominican Republic. LSI has included international students and their teachers since 2014 and past participants have found the cultural exchanges and varied perspectives to be highlights of the program.

LSI group picture

Each learning community developed a legacy project based on their experiences in the LSI program. The project addressed water-related issues important to them and included other students at each school in addition to those participating in the learning community. The results of these legacy projects were presented at a virtual international summit during the spring semester.

A grant to Hiram College from the US Department of State and donations by the Paul and Maxine Frohring Foundation, Gelfand STEM Center, and others covered all costs associated with the program (housing, meals, transportation, field trips, etc).

Contact Jim Bader if your school would like to participate (; (216) 368-5289)