25 February 2021
Primary and secondary schools across Abingdon are working together in an original piece of scientific research to monitor the air quality in the town. The initiative began last spring after a conversation between Abingdon School’s Science Partnership Coordinator, Jeremy Thomas, and Caldecott Primary School Science Coordinator, Holly Irving. The pair were discussing air quality in lockdown and realised that there was an opportunity to promote science to children in the local community, encouraging them to carry out research and develop enquiry skills while raising awareness of environmental issues surrounding air quality. The project is just one of the initiatives that sees schools across Abingdon sharing ideas and resources as part of Abingdon School’s Partnership Programme.
The Schools Clean Air Monitoring Project in Abingdon, or SCAMPA, was launched in September 2020 following a successful bid to the Royal Society of Chemistry for a Schools Outreach Grant to cover equipment and evaluation. 13 local primary and secondary schools jumped at the chance to take part. Children of all ages have played an integral part in the project, evaluating the equipment needed and establishing testing sites at their schools. Now that the sites are up and running, the next step will be interpretation of the results.
Speaking about SCAMPA, Jeremy Thomas said,
“The commitment from the pupils across all age groups has been exceptional. Many of the town’s senior schools including Larkmead, Abingdon, Fitzharrys, Radley College and John Mason have been involved in mentoring and supporting younger children and setting up testing sites. Abingdon’s primary schools have been involved with collecting data, monitoring monthly average levels of nitrogen dioxide and measuring particulate matter.
“It has been a tremendous opportunity for pupils across Abingdon to get involved with an innovative science project. The sixth formers have been particularly impressive, applying their studies to set up systems for developing and testing particulate matter sensors, mapping data in real time, and assessing geographical locations for testing sites.”
SCAMPA has attracted attention from local politicians, air quality campaigners and scientists, including an invitation to present at the Oxford Air Quality Meeting in January 2021. Professional scientists were impressed by what has been achieved and the potential for engaging schools in further research nationally and internationally. The ATOM Festival of Science and Technology and the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford are also promoting SCAMPA through a competition for schools.
SCAMPA has demonstrated that teamwork and collaboration are essential in science, with pupils, teachers, ICT and science technicians as well as parents and governors all supporting the project and ensuring its success.
The bid to the Royal Society of Chemistry for a Schools Outreach Grant was supported by three members of its Environmental Chemistry Group, Dr Rowena Fletcher-Wood, Vice-Chair; Dr Zoë Fleming, atmospheric chemist at the University of Chile and Dr Valerio Ferracci, instrumentation scientist at the Cranfield Institute. Advice was also given by Tony Bush, an air quality expert of Apertum in Harwell. The project is supported by the Abingdon Science Partnership and the Royal Meteorological Society.