About Us



Environmental Learning and Leadership (ELL) is a learning-packed, eight-week environmental education and volunteer leadership institute offered as a non-credit course through Howard Community College. The ELL course is held 9am-4:00 pm Thursdays from Feb. 2 through March 23 at the Belmont Manor and Historic Park, except for Feb. 11 and Feb. 18 when it is held at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

ELL participants are briefed by nationally recognized experts from NASA, the University of Maryland and other organizations who explain cutting edge research on global climate change, earth systems science, the Chesapeake Bay eco-system, sustainability issues, and how to live more environmentally friendly. The course covers global science, regional ecology, local government's eco-efforts, non-positional leadership training, along with an introduction to local non-profit and county environmental organizations and their volunteer possibilities.

ELL’s partner organizations are:

o Robinson Nature Center

o Howard County Office of Community Sustainability

o Howard County Conservancy

o University of Maryland Extension Howard County

o HoCo Climate Change

o Patapsco Heritage Greenway

o Howard County Watershed Stewards Academy

ELL is a streamlined version of Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (HoLLIE), introduced in Howard County in 2009.  HoLLIE is an intensive volunteer leadership and environmental education program for age 50+ adults in Howard County Maryland, based upon the award-winning Legacy Leadership Institute model developed by Laura Wilson, Ph.D., Director, University of Maryland Center on Aging. The institute’s original outreach was to persons 50+ who want to gain skills and knowledge in an arena that they are passionate about in order to give back to the community.  The program was designed to allow participants to use leadership skills to address environmental concerns, usually with 100+ hours of volunteer service to a local environmental organization.

The 2015 offering, Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (LLIE), differs from its parent program, HoLLIE, in its shorter format, being open to adults of all ages, with optional field trips, and no volunteer requirement following the classes.  However, any LLEI participant who follows up the LLEI course by engaging in an approved environmental volunteer project with a county environmental organization WILL be able to be certified as a HoLLIE graduate.  In 2016 LLIE was renamed to the current Environmental Learning and Leadership.



HoLLIE offered its inaugural institute in 2009 with classes held late January through early March and fieldwork from mid-March through September. Dozens of Maryland citizens have graduated from HoLLIE in the years since then, and are continuing to make significant contributions to county environmental initiatives.


Howard County environmental organizations worked for a year with University of Maryland consultants to identify a critical role description (environmental educator/change agent, habitat restorer, citizen scientist) and a broad, engaging curriculum to equip volunteers with knowledge and skills necessary for that role.


Topics and speakers:

o Top earth system scientists from NASA and Maryland universities explained how they study climate change globally and locally and what that research has taught them, with field trips to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

o Policy makers and leaders of environmental organizations described regional history, regulation, environmental cost-benefit issues, and consequences to ecological systems, including to humans.

o Environmental experts explored environmental sustainability issues of the Chesapeake Bay and Howard County, with a focus on smart growth and on policies and actions fostering individual and organizational environmental stewardship.

o Social scientists helped Legacy Leaders identify their strengths and gain skills in non-positional leadership and change agency.

o Partner organizations introduced their organizations, explained volunteer role opportunities, and showed volunteers their sites on field trips. Other field trips (e.g. to see storm water installations, an organic farm, Patapsco State Park and other natural settings) complemented speakers, bringing environmental issues, resources, and solutions to life.

Graduates describe classes as: “Intellectually stimulating,” “well organized, thoroughly professional, intriguing, challenging, optimistic and encouraging,” and “engaging.


Optional mentored field placements from March through September in partner organizations complemented class learning and further developed participants' site-specific knowledge, skills, and organizational familiarity. They in turn helped partners craft new programs, launch new initiatives, and enhance mission-effectiveness.


Field placement roles have included responsibilities to:

o      Plan and/or implement programming for new Robinson Nature Center or for the Howard County Conservancy.

o      Aid organizations/communities to start climate change discussion groups.

o      After additional naturalist training, lead nature walks for children and adults.

o      Lead stream clean-ups and build a larger regional network of stream watchers.

o      Coordinate volunteer resources for Howard County Public School System environmental education initiatives.

o      Assist partner organizations with capacity building and volunteer coordination.

o      Develop stream testing program for Patapsco watershed.


  • HoLLIE graduates report significant gains in global, regional, and local environmental knowledge, understanding of Howard County organizations’ missions and environmental initiatives, greater recognition of how individuals and communities can make a difference, and increased commitment to sustainability.
  • Most HoLLIE graduates continue to volunteer in their original - and additional - environmental organizations.
  • A number of HoLLIE graduates have been selected to serve on the advisory boards of their chosen partner organization.
  • Other environmental programs and organizations have been initiated by HoLLIE graduates.


For more information, see our website at www.howardllie.com or contact:

Barbara Schmeckpeper, Ph.D. Coordinator (410-381-5279) or

Cathy Hudson, Coordinator (410-796-7232) 

Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment