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‘It was a tremendous boost to see how


many scientists were eager to support a


school project. Their help and expertise meant we were


successful in our bid, and provided an


incredible opportunity for our pupils’


from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) offering grants of up to £5,000. It struck me that we could apply for funding for an air-quality monitoring project. Abingdon is at the centre of the “science triangle” between Oxford, Harwell and Culham, and, with poor public transport, the town often experiences huge gridlock and air pollution problems. So monitoring exactly what was going on over a year would provide valuable data for addressing this issue. We decided that air quality was


an important issue with which to engage pupils as it has tangible effects on their health and wellbeing, as has been highlighted recently in national news stories. Raising awareness of how individual actions can reduce local air pollution also links indirectly to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the


48 SPRING 2021 FundEd


same sources. It also addresses calls for schools to better equip pupils to deal with the climate emergency. I floated the idea across our


partnership schools. Holly was enthusiastic, as were other teachers. We put together a proposal to fund several Raspberry Pis (credit card sized computers with plug-in options) into which we could plug air-quality sensors. Our proposal also included a year’s supply of diffusion tubes to monitor nitrogen dioxide levels at 12 school sites. The application was quite in-


depth and it specified that we needed a project sponsor who was a member of the RSC. So I put out an appeal via the PSCI-COM network of science communication specialists for a sponsor. The response was overwhelming.


Indeed, one of the scientists who contacted us turned out to be vice-chair of the RSC Environmental Chemistry Group. She put us in touch with other scientists and soon


we were able to create a whole science team for the project, including a national expert who used to run an air pollution network for DEFRA, and an atmospheric chemist at the University of Chile! It was a tremendous boost to see


how many scientists were eager to support a school project. Their help and expertise meant we were successful in our bid and has also provided an incredible opportunity for our pupils to carry out investigative science in the community with real field chemists. The project began in September,


and, like all good science investigations, it’s been a process of adaptation to circumstances. We’ve discovered many ways we can develop the work further, while some ideas just didn’t work in practice. Our aim is for the children to take ownership of this project. We have pupils at eight primary school and five secondary schools collecting daily weather readings,


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