Children air their groundbreaking science project

Pupils from Elm Grove Primary School have made a short film about a groundbreaking science project where they have monitored air quality.

"Testing the Air" is narrated by children and shows how they have been monitoring air quality both in the playground and outside the school. They’ve been helped by Brighton & Hove City Council, Imperial College London, Duvas Technologies and the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project. The project has developed pupils’ interest in science and increased their understanding about the effects of transport activities on local air quality. The air quality results displayed on a big screen inside the school have helped children learn about the environment and whether activities such as the school run affect air quality. Elm Grove has been working with community scientists from Imperial and OPAL, and pupils have been carrying out experiments with a portable unit that they can move around the playground to see how emissions travel. The educational programme has included lessons on the impact of air pollution, the local significance of biodiversity and visits to the ReachOut laboratory at Imperial College London’s South Kensington campus and the nearby Science Museum. Councillor Ian Davey, cabinet member for transport and the public realm, said: “The film gives a good insight into how the children are learning about their environment through practical science and we hope it will inform and inspire others." “Traffic emissions around schools are a big issue in the city and these children have been able to see how it affects air quality in their space. It’s been a valuable project which we hope will encourage a new generation of young people interested in protecting and improving the environment.” Councillor Sue Shanks, cabinet member for children and young people added: “Elm Grove School has an exciting approach to the curriculum and the project has provided a unique opportunity to develop children’s interest in science and the environment, using new technology and practical data.” Physicist Dr Mark Richards from Imperial College London who helped develop the device that measures air quality, said: “Data from this programme will help us understand how localised air pollution propagates around our urban environment. Results from this project will serve as a valuable aid for local environment policy makers and transport planners, and can also assist scientists in developing more accurate data-driven atmospheric models.” Balfour Junior School has also taken part in the project and St Bartholomew’s Primary will join the scheme later this year. The project has been part funded through the CIVITAS project ARCHIMEDES. Council officers are working with five other cities in Europe to share best practice, experience and skills.   About Imperial College London: Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Research at Imperial explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment. Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial’s contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including improving global health, tackling climate change, developing sustainable sources of energy and addressing security challenges. More at OPAL: Led by Imperial College London, Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) is a nationwide partnership initiative that inspires communities to discover, enjoy and protect their local environments. OPAL provides the skills and materials needed for the first national community-led study of the world around us. OPAL was first runner-up in the National Lottery Awards for Best Environment Project in 2011 – more at Find out more about DUVAS at

Author: Debbie Reed


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