The composition of the Earth’s atmosphere has implications for climate change, air quality and public health. As part of Amazing Atmospheres, students across the UK collected and evaluated data to better understand the changing molecular make-up of their local environments.
Armed with mobile carbon monoxide detectors and sensors set-up throughout their schools, students measured the levels of atmospheric gases in their community.
Students around the country set their own research objectives to uncover answers to their questions regarding air quality. For some, this involved comparing the data they collected with information from other schools. Other students measured their teachers and peers’ lung and heart function to see if there were any correlations between the number of particulates identified in the air and people’s health. While their research and conclusions varied, students learned all about data, how to collect it, how to analyse it and why these elements are important when influencing decisions on public health.
A group of students from Camborne Science and International Academy found a correlation between increased levels of pollutants surrounding primary schools in Cornwall and their proximity to the county’s dual carriageway. The Camborne students presented their findings to the council, highlighting that ‘improving air quality’ was one of the local government’s fundamental aims. The students stressed the potential impact of increased traffic levels on local residents’ health.
Young scientists from William Perkin Church of England High School and Ada Lovelace Church of England High School collaborated with a professor at Imperial College on a similar study. After identifying increased numbers of particulates in various floors of the school, they tested individuals’ lung function to see if these levels were having a detrimental effect. Their research showed no impact, which was reassuring. The process gave them loads of experience using scientific instruments and taught them the importance of accuracy when collecting data.
Amazing Atmospheres allowed students to contribute to the current scientific understanding of atmospheric gases. It also allowed them to build the skills, knowledge and curiosity to discover more about the world through research, gearing them up for university.