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Clear science inspiring the next generation of citizen scientists this Clean Air Day

Date published: 20 June 2024


This Clean Air Day, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are supporting a day of learning where young people will be encouraged to lead change, tackle air pollution and protect the future of our environment through science.

Over 300 pupils have been invited to a special event at the Glasgow Science Centre today (Thursday, 20th June 2024) to celebrate the schools that have taken part in the "Our Amazing Air" Learning Lab programme run by the science centre in partnership with SEPA.
All young people visiting the centre on Clean Air Day can enjoy a range of themed activities including interactive exhibits and experiments, talks with experts from SEPA, University of Strathclyde and Nooku, and a brand new Our Amazing Air science show, which will run to the end of August as part of the centre’s public programme.
Launched in 2022, the Our Amazing Air programme is a STEM learning initiative aimed at P5 – P7 pupils that teaches young people about the importance of clean air, how the air environment functions, and the effects of air pollution on our health and the environment.
The programme includes training sessions and free lesson plans for teachers so they can support their learners to explore the air around us and investigate how it supports life through hands-on activities, group discussions and experiments. A total of 1200 pupils from 50 classes are taking part in the learning lab this term.
Dr Colin Gillespie, SEPA’s Air Modelling Unit Manager, said: “Good air quality is essential for a good quality of life, helping maintain our health and wellbeing and our climate and habitats. Everyone has a part to play in helping to improve air quality and tackle pollution – and education is a vital part of this.  
“It's fantastic to see so many young people engaging with issues surrounding air quality and inspiring to see them turn these learnings into positive actions that will make a real difference to communities and our environment. 
“Clean Air Day gives everyone an important opportunity to consider how we can change or adapt our behaviour to improve the quality of our air and spread the positive message about the benefits of clean air.”  

Tara Gibson, Senior Learning Coordinator at Glasgow Science Centre, said: "Our Clear Air Day activities have been made possible thanks to our partners ICLEI, University of Strathclyde and SEPA, resulting in us delivering a great programme of workshops and shows for hundreds of school pupils to take part in. 

“The day’s events also allow us to showcase the wide range of engaging and accessible resources and experiences available to schools through our Learning Lab programmes."

Tackling air pollution and raising awareness

While air quality in Scotland has significantly improved over the past three decades, air pollution still poses a significant risk to our environment and wellbeing.

Air pollution is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the biggest environmental threat to our health, with recent scientific evidence from the WHO supporting the development of more stringent guidelines for air pollutants due to the impacts on human health.  

Children are particularly at risk due to their developing lungs, brains and immune systems, yet millions across the UK are still exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution at home and at school, where traffic and idle vehicles at the school gates can be a real concern.

Coordinated by environmental charity Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day is a national air quality campaign that brings together communities, schools, businesses, local authorities and other organisations across the UK to address the issue and build awareness of the impact of air pollution.  
Now in its eighth year, this year’s campaign is focused on promoting greener travel to reduce localised air pollution and ensure people have the option to travel in ways that are better for our health and the planet.

Clear Science for Clean Air

Alongside the Our Amazing Air event, SEPA’s air quality scientists also visited a school in North Lanarkshire this week to celebrate Clean Air Day with pupils and share the results from monitoring air quality around the school gates. 
Working together with East Renfrewshire and North Lanarkshire local authorities, SEPA have issued sensors to eight primary schools over the past few months to monitor the air quality, investigate the data produced and support teachers and pupils with initiatives such as encouraging active travel on the school run. 

SEPA staff returned to St Brendan’s Primary School in Motherwell on Wednesday, 19th June to present pupils with their findings, which revealed elevated levels of air pollution in the area, particularly at drop off and pick up times. 

The information gathered will support the ongoing anti-idling campaign championed by pupils at both St Brendan’s and Muirhouse Primary Schools, with youngsters aiming to reduce the number of vehicles at the school gates to cut down on localised air pollution.
Dr Colin Gillespie added: “It is encouraging to see young children keen to see the data produced from the air pollution monitors outside their schools and proactively lead change in their local communities. 

“Making this information transparent and available to all allows young people and their families to make decisions on their behaviours and day-to-day activities which can have a positive impact on air quality, the wider environment and their health. 
“With a long history of supporting air quality around schools in Scotland, we really recognise the importance of clean air, especially on young lungs, and promoting the fact that we've all got a part to play in protecting and inspiring the next generation of citizen scientists.” 

Notes to editors