During the academic year 2020/21 pupils at thirteen primary and secondary schools around Abingdon, Oxfordshire monitored air quality and made weather observations using equipment purchased with a Royal Society of Chemistry Schools Outreach Grant.
By Jeremy Thomas
Diffusion tubes measuring monthly average nitrogen dioxide were deployed at eleven of the schools and particulate matter (PM) sensors driven by Raspberry Pi microcomputers were installed successfully at five schools. The project was coordinated by the Abingdon Science Partnership, which is funded by Abingdon School.
The project was conceived during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020 when improvements in air quality were in the news. The two teachers who planned the project are also members of the organising committee of Abingdon's ATOM Festival of Science and Technology. Jeremy Thomas is the Science Partnership Lead for Abingdon School in Partnership and Holly Irving is Science and Eco Coordinator at Caldecott Primary School. At the time, Jeremy and Holly were looking for a theme for the ATOM Festival’s annual Schools Science Fair, which has been a highlight for a number of years and has engaged hundreds of local school children in learning about science and communicating it to others. Previous science fairs had involved pupil teams in engaging with the work of local scientists on a particular topic, such as earth observation or nuclear fusion, but doing their own monitoring of air quality allowed them to carry out hands on measurements and investigations which were not simply based on other people's research.