Marner Primary School - Citizen Science Programme: In Review
Loop Labs initiated the programme with the SHINE school pupils and a group of their parents on November 7th 2015. We had presentations from Nicky Gavron, Sabina Begum, Dr. Awesome and here the Citizen Science Programme was introduced to the audience. We spoke with many of the parents after the presentations. Loop Labs distributed lab coats to all the children and gave activity trackers to the parents. Parents filled out surveys, giving us insight into their awareness of Air Quality. Despite the school being ringed by busy roads and a dual carriageway, many of the parents did not consider the Air Quality to be an issue in the area.
The lessons were held at the Saturday SHINE school and delivered to 60 children (between the ages of 7-11 years old) in 3 separate groups, for 45mins - 1hour. The lessons followed a more informal structure which allowed the exploration of issues that were raised in class. This led to a relaxed environment in which the children felt free to vocalise their thoughts.
Led a discussion about how we make sense of the world around us and the role of science in human progress. The children named famous scientists they were aware of e.g. Einstein, Bell etc and we talked about the role of scientists and what they ‘do’. (The pupils were very keen to become future scientists and make new discoveries and innovations.)
They reacted positively to the letter from the scientist and were eager to highlight scientific ‘errors' found in the notebook and made a list of correct scientific methods. They talked about different types of pollution and the children were shown a cartoon to debate whether there was such a thing as ‘invisible dirt’ and we identified key pollutants in the air.
Explored air pollution via a series of short video clips from the londonair.org.uk:
- What is air pollution?
- History of air pollution in London
- Should I worry about air pollution in London?
- How air pollution is measured in London
The children were asked to make notes on key points from the video and write down words they didn’t understand. The keywords were written on a whiteboard e.g. particulates and the pupils worked in small groups to research the terms using iPads and then made a poster of their findings.
We discussed the potential uses of the internet i.e. open access to knowledge and how to conduct research. I gave an explanation of the ‘Internet of Things’ with regards to how the air quality eggs and the activity trackers work.
The children were informed that they can check the air quality in their borough via londonair.org.uk.
The children were given a fact sheet about air pollution and asked to complete a matching word definition sheet (to follow up on learning from the previous week). A discussion was held about how air pollution affects us e.g. health in terms of asthma. One pupil gave a demonstration of how his asthma pump was used and explained that his condition worsened on the main roads during heavy traffic hours.
The children were generally passionate about the topic and very vocal. They questioned why more public debate was not being held on the issue and wanted more government action. They visualised future solutions ranging from replacing cars with trains, using cleaner energy and the use of hover boards as a means of transport.
The lesson focused on the benefits of walking, mapping where the children live and exploring the green spaces they utilise.
We watched a video clip on London air pollution: which mode of transport has the highest exposure? The pupils were asked to predict which mode of transport would be best to avoid air pollution and then we discussed why walking along quiet roads was the most sensible option. We also watched a short video clip on the benefits of walking, which suggested a healthy number of steps to take per day i.e.10000.
Next, the children predicted how many steps it would take to walk to the end of the classroom and back (due to time limitations we were unable to arrange a longer walk) and then a pupil was selected to demonstrate. They then estimated how many steps they take on their way to schooland pinpointed their address on a map of the area.
The remainder of the lesson was spent exploring walkit.com on iPads and the pupils were shown how to search for the least polluted walk to school and other walks they might take.They were also able to check the precise distance/how many steps they took to and from school everyday.
We also talked about the local green spaces that the children use for play and which parks they are aware of. We showed them the map of parks and open spaces on the Tower Hamlets website to inform them of what is available in their area.
The following findings were made:
- Most of the children live within 5-10 minutes from the school.
- The majority of the children were only using the small green spaces near their flats to play and
- most added that no balls games were allowed.
- The most common park mentioned was Prospect Park and none of the children mentioned Three Mills Green as a top of mind response. Only a few said that they played there in the summer.
- A large number of the children said they were not allowed to go out to play and some said they only played out once or twice a month.
There was evidence that many of the children were actively engaged with the topic. One pupil brought in a poster that she had made at home (cover picture) and a few others reported news stories that they had followed the previous week regarding the high levels of air pollution in China. That said, Marner is a challenging school. There are limited clean air routes to school, parks and open spaces, therefore we had to adapt our model to best fit with this particular site/location. The initial surveys showed the parents had limited understanding of Air Quality.
With the activity trackers, they are paired with a smart phone app. They were not properly utilised by the Marner parents, as smartphone ownership rates and data plans aren’t as common as they are in other communities we’ve worked with. The toolkits we have commonly used within other ethnically diverse communities, haven’t worked here.
A few home visits were carried out due to the technical difficulties arising from the use of the air quality eggs. This gave us the opportunity to speak to the families. None of the parents had cars. They all relied on public transport and said that they tried to walk as much as possible.
The parents were not aware of any open green spaces nearby and said the children played in the small communal area outside the flats. One of the parents said that she would occasionally takeher daughter to Victoria Park but only in the summer.
Another parent stated that there was no alternative school route for her to take other than via the A12 (Blackwell Tunnel Approach) and raised her concern about the level of air and noise pollution they were exposed to everyday.
Tower Hamlets council conducted a survey which revealed the average roam areas for mothers from the Marner School was just 500m.
The assistant Head Teacher at Marner School, Carol Doherty, expressed her concern over the local cement mixing factory (Jim’ll Mix It on Empson Street) and how it contributes to particulates in the air.
On the topic of local green areas she mentioned that although Tower Hamlets Cemetery park was nearby the majority of families would not utilise the space due to cultural beliefs held against playing in graveyards.