The EcoSonic Playground Project™ is a cross-disciplinary program developed at The University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2016 to address three pressing issues faced by the global learning community: equal access to arts education, adequate support for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), and the fostering of environmentally sustainable practices. Led by founding project designers and researchers Dr. Elissa Johnson-Green and Dr. Christopher Lee, the EcoSonic Playground Project™ lets students design and build musical instrument structures using recycled materials found in their local communities. Students work with a design curriculum (incorporating music, visual arts, math, physics and acoustics) that guides the making process while allowing them to practice social-cognitive and STEAM skills.
Environmental Education
A school and community outreach campaign collects clean reusable materials and teaches students about sustainable practices.
Students engage skills in science and math (acoustics, physics) through experimenting with and shaping the sound properties of collected materials, and architecture and design (visual art, engineering, technology and math) through building instruments and play structures.
Open Access
to Musical Play
EcoSonic™ curricula and structural materials will be made freely available to economically disadvantaged communities through grants and partnerships.



The EcoSonic Playground Project™ provides a research platform to explore music cognition, improvisation, effectiveness of STEAM integrated curricula, social and cognitive aspects of play, and inquiry-based learning. So far, we've completed two qualitative data collections in the areas of socio-cognitive play and STEAM integration. Please check back for updates on forthcoming publications.

Our Research Team

Elissa Johnson-Green
Elissa Johnson-Green

Ed.D., Lead researcher

Elissa Johnson-Green is an Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Johnson-Green received a Master of Music Education and a Doctorate of Education in Music and Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to becoming a professor, she worked for several years as a full-time music teacher and children’s chorus director in K-8 education.
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    Christopher Lee
    Christopher Lee

    DMA, Co-lead researcher

    Chris is a composer and percussionist whose music has been performed by Speculum Musicae, the California EAR Unit, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, Analog Arts Ensemble, VOX, the Kuttner and Enso Quartets, university ensembles across the U.S., and many others. He has also performed with many jazz, rock and classical artists and has taught extensively in public and community music schools.