Lessening our exposure to air pollution creates benefits that last a lifetime, particularly for children. This is a big reason why the Coalition for Clean Air has led a program over the past several years to help raise awareness of air quality issues among young adults in middle school and high school. The program fills an important gap for teachers who want to instruct their students in air quality. The key component of the program involves student’s using air quality monitors linked to mobile phones to conduct experiments in their community. Along the way, they connect with scientists who guide their research design and help them to analyze and interpret results. The program concludes with students presenting their study results to policymakers in their community.
Last month, students at Hughes and Rogers middle schools in Long Beach completed the program and presented the results of their air quality experiments to members of the Long Beach Unified School District. A video of the student presentations is available online and starts around 11 minutes 25 seconds. Two weeks later, the students presented their work to local leaders and policymakers that included representatives from the Long Beach City Council, CA Assembly, Port of Long Beach, and AQMD Governing Board.
The Long Beach community is an important community to host the program because the port, together with its neighboring LA port, is a gateway for 40% of all the imports to the United States. Typically, moving these goods from the ports requires the use of trucks, trains, and equipment that emit varying levels of air contaminants. These emissions may negatively affect the health of members of the community.
What kinds of air quality explorations did the students conduct?
The Rogers Green Team focused their attention on exploring air quality differences among various campus buildings, including temporary structures used as classrooms. They were happy to report that air quality observations on the campus were within acceptable limits of the Air Quality Index. However, they acknowledged that air quality in the Long Beach community could vary significantly depending on time of day or season of the year.
The Hughes Air Benders also compared air quality differences among various campus buildings but added the results of a campus wide asthma survey they developed. After analyzing the results, students were surprised to find that about 75% of those surveyed had asthma or knew someone who did. Air Benders vowed to continue learning about the impacts of poor air quality on human health and to raise awareness about personal actions to help mitigate those impacts.
The curriculum was a great reminder about reducing our impacts on our environment. … I am interested in doing more research on human impact on the environment with my students. I will definitely teach this curriculum next year!! Very worthwhile and relevant to our NGSS standards. Thank you for the opportunity
– Danielle Van Divort, teacher, Hughes Middle School, Long Beach
Students and teachers from both schools committed to taking the Clean Air Day pledge and help raise awareness about air quality issues in their communities.
Thank you to Boeing and the Zolla Family Foundation for providing grants to make the program possible in Long Beach.