Return to Headlines

WJH Students Become Civic Scientists

When Waller ISD (WISD) Chief Academic Officer Kelly Baehren invited classes to participate in a special STEAM program, Waller Junior High (WJH) Teacher Nancy Kunkel decided to use the opportunity to engage her students. They took on the role of civic scientists to participate in the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation’s (CELF) Civic Science: Inquiry to Actions program. The class was one of 70 middle schools and high schools in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Texas that were chosen to participate. CELF’s goal is to get students connected to real-world problem solving in and out of the classroom.

“I thought this would be something students could get excited about and give them a chance to get away from their desks and connect with science,” Kunkel said. 

Kunkel had eight honor students volunteer to participate in the program: Viviyan Hall, Chloe Cureton, Mia Higginbotham, Caden Sanchez, Alexis Stevens, Akyra Rosales, and Dylan Kelley. The focus of the project was to collect and study data on the air quality of their surrounding areas. Using a Flow Personal Air Pollution sensor, students visited different areas to gather data and noticed spikes in the Air Quality Index (AQI) depending on the area and time of day. Due to the large amount of data to be collected, students focused on the quality of their classroom on April 9, specifically the organic chemicals in the air known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). They discovered that because of the disinfectants used throughout the day VOCs would rise and fall, and came up with a list of healthier alternatives to the disinfectants.

“They were able to work as a team with real-life problem-based learning on matters that directly affect them,” Kunkel said. “It has enabled an increased awareness of their environment and its sustainability with current practices.”

At the end of the project, the group presented their findings to a group of WJH students and staff. They also recorded a video for the CELF Student Symposium where students from across the country presented their findings.

“I hope my students develop a drive for independent thinking with awareness and concern for their environment because of this project,” Kunkel said.