To engage students with air quality issues, APIOPA relies on two key program components:
One-to-two-day, hands-on air quality monitoring workshops, and
Ongoing, customized engagement with school clubs, teachers, and classes that engages students in further investigation and action, and in exploration of environmental justice issues.
APIOPA is also working with a long-time teacher to refine its classroom curriculum and is developing a train-the-trainer program to expand its reach.
The program was developed following the North American Association for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE’s) Guidelines for Excellence. Key aspects of the program include:
Connection to students’ everyday lives. Workshops started with a community mapping activity in which students mapped their favorite places to spend time at school and in the neighborhood. They also mapped where they thought the healthiest and unhealthiest air was on campus. Students read local news articles about air pollution and research about its health effects, and discussed how pollution affects schools and residents in low-income communities. APIOPA staff developed a two-page fact sheet about the movement of goods from Southern California to markets across the United States, and its effect on air pollution. They helped students reflect on how individual and societal consumption can contribute to air pollution.
Hands-on investigation in an expanded learning environment. After learning about particulate pollution in their community, students used the portable sensors to measure indoor and outdoor air quality in their school, on the campus, and in the surrounding neighborhoods. During the investigation, students collected data from the sensors and took photos using smartphones. Student teams uploaded this information to the Kids Making Sense interactive mapping website, and used the site to help them interpret their findings.
Learner-centered instruction. The air quality workshops encouraged students to build on previous knowledge as they learned about air pollution and its health effects. For example, the students used their understanding of the community to identify where residents might be most exposed to air pollution. APIOPA has also encouraged students to ask questions, hypothesize, and think about creative solutions to address air pollution. For example,
Students from Mark Keppel High School compared air quality in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains and at their school, discovering that particulate pollution around campus—even inside the school building—was much greater than outdoors in the Angeles National Forest 90 minutes away.
Students in a northern California high school who had use of air quality sensors for three weeks as part of the Kids Making Sense program hypothesized that particulate pollution would be worst in front of the school, which faced a major road. However, using the portable sensors, students discovered that pollution was worst behind the school where buses idled while parked.
For students, seeing data in the visual context of a map makes all the difference. Over time, we hope to create a global data network so students can learn about air quality in different parts of the world.
Alan Chan, Sonoma Technology, Inc.
Skill-building and personal and civic responsibility. Students in APIOPA’s workshops developed and practiced skills for analyzing and investigating environmental issues. During APIOPA’s engagement with student groups, young people have applied skills in decision-making and civic engagement in a variety of ways. These have included informing local elected officials about air quality issues, making videos to raise awareness at their schools, and working with school administrators to take action on improving campus air quality.
Connection to educational standards. The Kids Making Sense curriculum is linked to national science standards, making it easy to integrate the workshop and extended engagement into established curricula. Together with Sonoma Technology, Inc., the company that developed the Kids Making Sense curriculum and website, APIOPA is consulting with educators to help make curriculum changes and teacher workshops compelling and relevant to teachers.
A broad network of collaborators. To develop and implement its approach to engaging students in hands-on learning about air quality and the link to health issues, APIOPA worked with a variety of partners (see below).