Ahead of Clean Air Day today (Thurs 16 June), science-minded youngsters at a north Glasgow school have been working on a project to find out more about the air around them and ways it can be improved.
The pupils of Abercorn Secondary School – which caters for young people with additional support needs, have embraced the unique online learning programme ‘Our Amazing Air’ which is part of Glasgow Science Centre’s Learning Lab programme.
Delivered by teachers in the classroom with support from the Learning Lab team and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the 8-week programme included a visit to Glasgow Science Centre, lesson plans, video content and sessions with STEM professionals to support young people investigate the importance of air and the negative impacts of air pollution.
Building on a strong track record of learning about environmental issues, the pupils undertook team activities to investigate air pollution across Europe and closer to home – conducting their own experiments to measure levels of harmful pollutants in the air around their school which is situated near a busy road and the M8 motorway.
This practical learning was reinforced through expressive art, with the two winners of a competition run by SEPA to highlight the ways air quality can be improved, seeing their artwork turned into large, vibrant banners which will be displayed outside of the school.
Patricia McGowan, Headteacher at Abercorn Secondary School said: “As a school for children with additional support needs, the harms of air pollution and how it can exacerbate existing health conditions are of particular relevance to us, so we were absolutely delighted to get involved.
“The children have thoroughly enjoyed participating in ‘Our Amazing Air’ and it has really enhanced their appreciation of the precious world around them whilst also extending their scientific skills. It has also opened up opportunities to be creative and showcase their unique talents to the wider community.”
Cllr Angus Millar, Glasgow City Council’s Climate Convener said: “Each year, Clean Air Day draws significant attention to the harms of air pollution and the actions we can all take to improve the quality of the air we breathe.
“The young people of Abercorn Secondary School have clearly embraced learning about the air around them and their creativity really shines through.
“Whether it’s through the expansion in scope of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone from next year, or policies that support and encourage travelling actively or more sustainably, we’ll continue to strive for better air quality across the city.”
Dr Sharon Macnab, Science Partnerships Manager at Glasgow Science Centre said: “Glasgow Science Centre’s Learning Lab programme aims to make STEM education engaging, accessible and inclusive to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
“Feedback from teachers and pupils on ‘Our Amazing Air’ has been excellent and we’re delighted to have had support from SEPA in developing the programme to explore the science of this precious resource.”
Dr Colin Gillespie, Air Modelling Unit Manager at SEPA said: “Good air quality is essential for maintaining health and wellbeing, our climate and habitats.
“It’s been great to see pupils learning about ‘Our Amazing Air’, creating colourful banners and using these to tell their communities about the impacts of air pollution and their pro-active messages such as walking and cycling.
“Education is one way to improve air quality – whether that’s SEPA providing the science behind Scotland’s Low Emission Zones or developing learning programmes such as ‘Our Amazing Air’. We can all play a role in improving air quality and help move towards becoming a net zero nation.”
John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland said: “Citizen science projects help young people better understand air pollution impacts and pollution sources. This contributes to their households making informed choices about the simple steps they can take to reduce their contribution and exposure to pollution and encourage cycling and walking.
“There is an ever-increasing body of evidence that suggests air pollution affects every part of the human body, from the lungs and heart to the brain, and even during pregnancy.
“On Clean Air Day, we can all take our own actions to cut air pollution and benefit our health and the planet. Let us all work together to make Scotland’s air quality the best in Europe.”
Now in its sixth year, Clean Air Day, is the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. It seeks to drive a positive shift in public knowledge and action as well as encouraging people to find out more about air pollution and make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone. In Scotland, the campaign is coordinated by Environmental Protection Scotland (EPS), on behalf of the Scottish Government, working with UK organisers Global Action Plan.