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Air Quality Research for Primary School Children

Press release issued: 9 June 2020

A resource which uses the UK’s Air Quality Archive and facilitates research by primary children, their teachers, and their carers, has now gone live.

The UK’s Air Quality Archive, one of the most extensive in the world, is run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); it contains some 400,000,000 data-points. Thanks to a BBSRC Citizen Science Award Researchers at Bristol’s Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group, who are working with Bristol ChemLabS Outreach and teachers at the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT), the free resource allows anyone to learn about, and carry out investigations into air pollutants.

The data are readily accessible from the Defra portal and contain measurements on primary pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulates. The resource created not only explains how to access these data from any of the measurement sites across the UK, but also why these pollutants are important. In addition to PowerPoint presentations for the teachers and exercises for the children, profiles of scientists involved with the ACRG are provided, as well as additional writing and numeracy activities for children. There is also an archive of the many articles prepared for teachers and students on climate change over the last 16 years of Bristol ChemLabS Outreach. The last element of their resource to be created was a presentation on the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on aspects of air quality, compared with measurements from 2019.

Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry Dudley Shallcross, who is also the CEO of the Primary Science Teaching Trust, said ‘The UK Air Quality Archive is one of the best curated resources in the world. With some guidance on how to access data and ideas on what to look for, primary aged children through to adults can carry out their own investigations. We hope that by understanding more about the causes of air pollution, citizens will adopt new practices, especially post COVID-19.’

Bristol ChemLabS Director of Outreach and School Teacher Fellow Tim Harrison reported ‘I am delighted that many of the climate change resources we have developed have been brought together with the new materials under this umbrella. Teachers have been asking for such a resource for some time.’

The primary resource may be found here:

https://pstt.org.uk/resources/curriculum-materials/citizen-science-air-pollution

A version of the resource, adapted for Post 16 students and members of the public, was expedited early in the COVID-19 lockdown to assist teachers in their need to provide on-line education support, and several competitions for school groups have resulted in the adoption of these resources.

This edition can be found here: 

https://pstt.org.uk/resources/curriculum-materials/post-16-citizen-science-air-pollution

This project was developed through a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Research Grant (BB/T018933/1) awarded to Professor Dudley Shallcross (University of Bristol, School of Chemistry) under the title ‘Using the UK Air Quality Archive in Primary Schools.’

Our thanks go to the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) in aiding the development of, and web hosting of these resources, and to the Widening Participation Office for support with the Post 16 version.

Further information

Links to the resources can be found below:

https://pstt.org.uk/resources/curriculum-materials/citizen-science-air-pollution

https://pstt.org.uk/resources/curriculum-materials/post-16-citizen-science-air-pollution

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