CReSIS environmental science club starts up at Southwest Middle School


By Lauren Debes | Edited by Vicky Diaz-Camacho
Summer 2014

CReSIS environmental club starts up at Southwest Middle School

Southwest Middle School in Lawrence now has a bi-weekly environmental science club.

On Sept. 16, the school established the Environmental Club with the help of middle school teacher, Marci Leuschen and CReSIS Education Outreach staff member, Krystle Neal. Leuschen recognized a need for a club after many students expressed an interest in learning the science outside of the classroom. She asked CReSIS K-12 Education Coordinator, Cheri Hamilton, if education outreach could put a program together. Then, Neal started creating lesson plans. 

Krystle Barnett and the science club students,  consisting of sixth through eighth grade.

From left, Krystle Neal, CReSIS Education Outreach staff member, worked with middle school students for the first science club at Southwest Middle School. Credit: Krystle Neal

"One of my favorite activities, and definitely the messiest, was a filtration exercise the students and I did together," Neal said of her position as the sole teacher for the club.

Neal brought in numerous natural filtering elements and hosted a competition to see which pair of students could create the best filter and measured their filtered water sample with a turbidity scale.

"One of my students who is sometimes disengaged in our experiments won the competition and he was so proud, showing everyone his clear water sample," she said. "As a teacher, I live for those moments when students really grasp an idea and they are proud of their work."

The club aims at educating students with a variety of engaging hands-on activities. The first activity centered around air pollutants, beginning with a dirty air filter as a visual aid. The students then made their own pollution catcher out of paper plates and petroleum jelly. The students raced through the school to hang up their catchers in the spots they thought would contain the most pollutants. The results would be observed the following week.

Leuschen thinks implementing a science club at the school will spark student interest in science and the environment.  

"Plus it gives the kids another positive connection to the school, which has been shown to help with their learning and engagement in other classes,” Leuschen said.

The club meets every other Tuesday from 3:15 p.m. until 4 p.m., and is open to all students from sixth to eighth grade.

To get a program started like this in your school, contact Cheri Hamilton at