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K-12 Students Honored as Climate Educators

Commuters in the Northeast, Midwest to Learn About Extreme Weather Events through Artwork

One of the winners of the 2019 Cool Science poster contest poses on a Lowell Regional Transit Authority bus displaying his artwork. Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Cool Science winners from Massachusetts will have their artwork displayed on Worcester and Merrimack Valley regional transit authority buses next year.


Contacts for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, and Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664 or

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell’s annual Cool Science contest, which calls on K-12 students in Massachusetts and the Midwest to help teach the public about climate change, has honored a Bay State second-grader as this year’s top winner.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Cool Science teaches young people about science and art by asking them to create displays that illustrate concepts behind climate change. Adapting the competition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the best of these submissions from contest years 2020, 2021 and 2022 will appear in and on transit-authority buses in Massachusetts, Kansas and Missouri next year, with the goal of educating tens of thousands of passengers and others each day. More than 4,000 students have participated in Cool Science since it began in 2012. 

Margaret Deglialberti of Boylston, a student at Boylston Elementary School, is the 2021 recipient of the UMass Lowell David Lustick Award, presented to the competition’s overall winner. Margaret and the contest’s other winners from Massachusetts will have their artwork displayed in and on Merrimack Valley and Worcester regional transit authority buses next year.

Cool Science winners and runners-up, their parents, teachers and mentors involved in the program were honored during online award celebrations this month held for participants from across Massachusetts, Kansas and Missouri. 

The researchers behind Cool Science are studying how effective the student artwork is in teaching people about science.

“We’ve found that bus riders have increased knowledge about the science topics covered in the students’ art after the artwork is exhibited on public buses. The students’ work is engaging and easy to process for the general public, thus it provides an easy avenue for adult learning in informal spaces. We are excited to be engaging youth artists in science learning while also growing informal science education on public transit,” said College of Education Associate Prof. Jill Lohmeier of Acton, who presented the Lustick Award to Margaret.
The honor is named in memory of David Lustick, a former Nashua, N.H., resident and UMass Lowell College of Education professor who was a nationally recognized champion of environmental education. Lustick and Lohmeier co-founded Cool Science to study the effectiveness of using public artwork to stimulate interest in learning more about scientific concepts. 

Lohmeier continues this work with UMass Lowell Associate Prof. Stephen Mishol, chairman of the Art and Design Department; Prof. Robert Chen, interim dean and professor in the UMass Boston School for the Environment; and researchers from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, University of Kansas and Kansas City Art Institute. 

“I’m learning so much from viewing the students’ art. By blending art and science approaches in the development of their responses to the Cool Science contest’s questions, the students are proving that the future is bright. The next generation is ready to tackle the really complex problem of climate change with their innovative and creative ideas,” Chen said.

Mishol, one of the contest’s judges, is impressed each year by the quality of the artwork submitted. 

“As an artist, I’m always fascinated to see how these young people are able to use their experiences and imagination to create images that engage and educate the public on the important subject of extreme weather. The students work with a variety of media: drawing, painting, and collage, as well as digital image-making technology, and create work that is both scientifically informed and creatively inventive. Varied and quite often skillful and accomplished, the images continue to show they have the ability to transcend traditional boundaries, connecting and communicating with people across a wide segment of the community,” he said.

Students from across Massachusetts chose to compete to have their artwork displayed on either Worcester or Merrimack Valley regional transit authority buses. In addition to Margaret, 2021 contest winners whose entries will be shown on the Worcester lines include: 
  • Xavier Cardenales of Westfield, a fourth-grader at Munger Hill Elementary School; 
  • Ruby Henry of Montague, an eighth-grader at Four Rivers Charter School; 
  • JenaRose Zawalski of Belchertown, a seventh-grader with Pioneer Valley Homeschoolers; 
  • Anna Alcorn of Amherst, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School;
  • Sarah Nicholson of Hadley, a freshman at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.
Contest runners-up also honored include:
  • Elijaah and Yeremiah Fagan of Leominster, a fourth- and fifth-grader, respectively, at Johnny Appleseed Elementary School;
  • Kona McConkey of North Hampton, a third-grader with Pioneer Valley Homeschoolers;
  • Miroslav Wang of Amherst, a sixth-grader at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School;
  • Paolo Kago of Brockton, a senior at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School;
  • Jack Vaughan of Rochester, a junior at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School;
  • Brittany Riley of Stoughton, a junior at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Contest winners whose artwork will appear on Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority buses include: 
  • Zoya Pathan of Lowell, a third-grader at Islamic Academy for Peace;
  • Annalise Philpot of Westford, a fifth-grader at Stony Brook Middle School;
  • Anushka Takede of Westford, a sixth-grader at Stony Brook Middle School;
  • Sherry Ye of Westford, a sixth-grader at Stony Brook Middle School;
  • Heiel Gomez of Lowell, a junior at Greater Lowell Technical High School;
  • Desmond Marrero of Lowell, a senior at Greater Lowell Technical High School.
Runners-up also honored include:
  • Ailyn Craig, a second-grader from Middleborough;
  • Soriya Soeun of Chelmsford, a fourth-grader at South Row Elementary School;
  • Dhiren Kamesh of Westford, a fourth-grader at Norman E. Day Elementary School; 
  • Annabelle Schneider of Somerville, a fifth-grader at John F. Kennedy Elementary School; 
  • Cora Hogan of Whitman, a fourth-grader at Louise A. Conley Elementary School;
  • Ocean Farinella of Beverly, a home-schooled seventh-grader;
  • Sabina Lochtefeld of Ipswich, a sixth-grader with Pioneer Valley Homeschoolers; 
  • Leo Huang of Westford, a sixth-grader at Stony Brook Middle School; 
  • Benjamin Hart of Westford, a sixth-grader at Stony Brook Middle School;
  • Alyssa Bellardino of Middleborough, a freshman at Middleborough High School; 
  • Mikayla Begeal of Lowell, a senior at Greater Lowell Technical High School; 
  • Andrew Long of Newbury, a sophomore at Newburyport High School.
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