The College of Natural Sciences actively engages with communities throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, sharing research and resources, and exchanging expertise.

CNS partners with the public around a range of issues in order to positively impact communities and the university. These issues are in areas including: agriculture; education; economic development; health and wellness; and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities. UMass Extension, part of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, offers statewide programs—often in partnerships with other organizations—including workshops, conferences, distance education, training events, consultations, and applied research.

Here is a sampling of ongoing activities:


Sunwheel Project

The long-running Sunwheel Project involves the construction of sun wheels, or solar calendars, all over the world starting at UMass Amherst.
Target populations: K-12 students and teachers; community college
Contact: Steve Schneider,

UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program

The UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program (NEP) provides individuals, families, and communities with the knowledge and skills for healthier eating through research-based nutrition education that makes a real difference. NEP staff are based in offices in Boston, Raynham, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester.
Contact: Lisa Sullivan-Werner,

Community College

Community College Day

Community College Day is a fantastic opportunity for students and faculty from area community colleges to learn about new opportunities and initiatives that UMass Amherst will offer in the coming years. Focuses on community colleges in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.
Contact: Linda Ziegenbein,

STEM Starter Academy Partnership

The CNS-STEM Starter Academy Partnership supports the successful transition of community college students at Springfield Technical Community College, Holyoke Community College, and Greenfield Community College into UMass Amherst.
Contact: Linda Ziegenbein,

K-12 Teachers

Science Education Online

Science Education Online, a collaboration between CNS and the School of Education, offers an online graduate degree program in science education for elementary and middle school teachers. Courses are designed to prepare elementary and middle school science teachers in science content and pedagogy. The program, originally funded by a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant, has been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education for Professional Licensure in five areas.
Contact: Steve Schneider,

UMass Nanotechnology Summer Institute

The UMass Nanotechnology Summer Institute for middle and high school science, math, and technology teachers throughout Massachusetts explores the basic science and engineering concepts of nanotechnology and illustrates how they may be integrated into current math, science, and technology courses in middle and high schools.

K-12 Students

4-H Sustainable Communities Project

The 4-H Sustainable Communities Project engages young people in Springfield to provide educational enrichment and promote life skills development. Youth activities focus on topics like polymers, static electricity, chemical reactions, weather, building materials, and rocketry.

A Student-led Program in Research and Education (ASPIRE)

A Student-led Program in Research and Education provides 20-25 high school students with hands-on lab experiences in polymer science ranging in focus from synthesis to mechanical testing through a series of half-day activities over five consecutive Saturdays each winter.

Advancing Research and Collaboration with High Schools (ARCH)

Advancing Research and Collaboration with High Schools provides bright, enthusiastic, curious, high school students with opportunities to conduct fundamental research on polymers throughout the school year.
Contact: Al Crosby,


Eureka! is a month-long summer program, in partnership with Girls, Inc. of Holyoke, that encourages eighth-grade girls to pursue post-secondary education and career paths in mathematical, scientific, and technical fields. Focuses on schools in Hampden county.
Contact: Jane Markarian,

Genetics and Development for Fifth Graders — Annual VASCI Lab Day

Massachusetts Envirothon

The Massachusetts Envirothon engages young people throughout Massachusetts in hands-on exploration of soil, water, wildlife, and forest resources, and investigates the environmental issues affecting them, their families, and their communities. UMass Amherst is a partner in the Massachusetts Envirothon, joining a network of scientists, educators, local officials, policy-makers, business people, resource managers, community activists, and parents who are committed to preparing the next generation of environmentally literate concerned citizens and professionals. Focuses on schools in all 14 Massachusetts counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester.
Contact: Will Snyder,, Committee Chair, UMass Extension, to get involved.

Polymers All Around Us

Polymers All Around Us, a K-12 interactive science experience, educates students on the roles that polymers play in our everyday lives, conveying the excitement of scientific investigation, and portraying a positive image of research.
Contact: Kathryn Chang,

Science Quest

Science Quest encourages high school students in grades 10-12 from across the Northeast and beyond to visit the UMass Amherst campus to engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and guided lab tours. Students are allowed to select their own schedule of mini-classes offered to explore physics labs and learn more about science. A panel of UMass undergraduate science students are available to talk about their experiences as a science majors and an admission representative will briefly present and answer questions about preparing for college and applying to UMass Amherst specifically. This event is offered twice a year, in October and April.

Supporting STEM Teaching and Learning Through Communities (S²TLC)

Supporting STEM Teaching and Learning Through Communities (S²TLC) is building and supporting a community and pipeline of STEM educators that explore deep content knowledge, inquiry-based, and culturally responsive practices, and the integration of technology in grades 6-12 STEM classrooms. Focuses on schools in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.
Contact: Steve Schneider,

UMA STEM Ambassadors Program (STEM AP)

The UMA STEM Ambassadors Program (STEM AP) employs a novel approach to increase student engagement in STEM subjects based upon the creation of a supportive academic and social community rich in a culture of research and inquiry. Undergraduate students work in small groups with a research faculty advisor and graduate student mentor. They engage in a variety of activities related to STEM research, education, and outreach. Students experience the STEM research culture at the university, engage in group and independent research projects, engage in mentoring middles school students, and interact with a diversity of STEM professionals. The STEM AP receives funding from the Presidential Enhancement Fund, and encourages the participation of students from diverse backgrounds. Related class: UNIVRSTY 198D.
Contact: Carolyn Gardner-Thomas,