Air pollution is not equal opportunity. Children are particularly at risk and early exposure to air pollution will lead to a lifetime of unhealthy lungs. Fortunately, children and parents can also be incredibly influential advocates for better air quality in their communities.
It was for these reasons that we teamed up with scientists at Sonoma Technologies to bring an exciting new participatory air quality monitoring research program to 7th grade students at Dana Middle School in San Pedro. Thanks to funding from the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation, the program concluded on Wednesday June 1st with some inspiring results.
Ms. Elise Traylor’s 7th grade science students were the inaugural class. Students learned about the scientific method, air pollution, health effects from air pollution, and air quality monitoring. Students engaged in Google Hangouts with scientists, who discussed their path into science, and air pollution sources in and around the San Pedro area.
The crux of the Kids Making Sense Program is the hands-on air quality-monitoring component. After learning about air pollution sources in their area, students were divided into groups and created their own air quality studies. They wanted to know how the Port of Los Angeles, busy streets, or construction would affect air pollution. After comments on their studies from STI scientists (how lucky are these students to be able to interact with scientists in 7th grade?), students, using Airbeam monitors, walked around San Pedro taking particulate matter readings, while noting all of the sources that caused spikes.
Finally, six groups of students synthesized their experience in a presentation to top local policymakers (listed below).
- Chris Cannon, Director of Environmental Management, Port of Los Angeles
- Patricia Castellanos, Commissioner, Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission
- Heather Hutt, District Director, Office of State Senator Isadore Hall, III
- Lara Larramendi, District Director, Office of Congresswoman Janice Hahn
- Dr. Joe Lyou, Board Member, South Coast Air Quality Management District
- Dr. Clark Parker, Board Member, South Coast Air Quality Management District
- Jeanette Parker, Superintendent, Fresh Start Charter Schools
- Heather Tomley, Director of Environmental Planning, Port of Long Beach
Following the students’ presentations, each policymaker praised the students for their fantastic work, and described their policy goals. Students were also able to ask questions of the policymakers, causing a few of them to shake in their boots!
Our first iteration of the Kids Making Sense Program is now in the books! If you’d like to bring air quality monitoring to your school, contact Nick Burant at 213-223-6867 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kids Making Sense is part of a larger effort to increase awareness of air pollution in our communities. Sign up to become part of the CLEAR Network and learn more at https://www.ccair.org/clear-network.