by Ruth Amos (UCL Institute of Education, UK)
On Saturday 6th June 2015, 47 science teacher educators, primary and secondary science teachers gathered at UCL IOE for the annual ASE London summer conference. The PARRISE project teamed up with not-for-profit organisation AirSensa to give a workshop on the importance of socio-scientific inquiry-based learning (SSIBL) in the context of tackling air pollution. We explored supporting and managing students asking authentic, open inquiry questions in science by asking ‘what’s in an electromagnet?’ First, teachers engaged in the classic inquiry aimed at designing a strong(er) electromagnet from simple electrical components. We then discussed the ‘hidden’ issues such as where the materials for the electromagnet came from, who was involved in their manufacture, etc. and then linked to electricity generation in coal-burning power stations and high levels of pollution in cities. AirSensa elicited the teachers’ beliefs about the nature of air pollution using ‘risk’ activities, which highlighted the considerable hazards of air-borne pollutants to health.
The SSIBL activity will grow into a large citizen science project in the capital.
AirSensa are commissioning the construction of 10,000 ‘X-Box’ sized pollution monitoring units with support from local businesses, which measure levels of NOx, CO2, CO, dust and particulates. Schools can have a unit on the side of their building for free. Students decide where to locate the unit and then have access to daily local data on levels of air pollution in their school. Students can then take action by suggesting ways to reduce pollution around their school, which will provide benefits for London as a whole. Already students are becoming alert to what is going on: parents dropping their children off to school are being asked to switch of their car engines rather than letting them idle, some students have decided to walk or cycle to school instead … change is happening! Through the project, students can engage with the impacts of science and technology in society and make begin to make a difference. Ultimately, students with respiratory conditions such as asthma will use the data to decide which side of the road to walk down on a particular day … powerful personal decision-making in action. Deliver Change are launching the AirSensa project at the Wellcome Trust, London on Monday, June 29th.