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Glasgow City Council

Schools Team up with Air Quality Scientists to Measure Pollution

Published: 11 October 2019

Clyde Primary - Ricardo 2

Keen environmentalists at three city primary schools have been working in partnership with air quality specialists, Ricardo Energy & Environment, as part of a Citizen Science project to measure levels of air pollution within their own school estate.


Each school was given 25 nitrogen dioxide diffusion tubes to be positioned entirely at the discretion of the pupils, who worked as a team to plot their locations on an aerial map of their school grounds. The tubes work by a process called molecular diffusion and can be used to measure how much harmful air pollutant is in the air during the monitoring period.

Learning Session

Prior to the practical exercise, the children participated in a classroom learning session with air quality scientist, Susannah Telfer, from Ricardo Energy & Environment, which gave the children an insight in to the causes and effects of air pollution.

The results which will be scientifically tested in a laboratory, will soon be made available to the schools so they can assess the differences in air quality within their school grounds and discuss with each other why they think this is the case.

To reinforce their learning and to gain a deeper understanding of their results, the children have also been invited to participate in a report writing competition about the experience, with the winner announced in November.

Insight and Understanding

Laura Slinger, Principal Teacher at St Joseph's Primary School, said: "The sessions that Ricardo delivered allowed for an effective balance of theory and practical application. This allowed the children to engage in the distribution and collection of air samples with all the necessary knowledge and understanding. It also gave the children insight into various environmental careers that exist which was an added benefit of the partnership. They are eagerly awaiting the results and will present the process as a written scientific report which will add context to the learning in writing the next block. They will then combine their ideas to create group reports to submit to a competition in November."

The children from St Monica's Primary School, said: "It was so interesting to see how air quality is measured. We can't wait for the results! The morning at George Square was so much fun and so interesting too!"

Neil Scott, Teacher at Clyde Primary School, said: "Children in P5/6 are genuinely interested in climate change and the impact we have on what is happening in the world. What we are doing to our atmosphere, and what we breathe on our way to school, and in our classrooms has become a topic the children are concerned about having seen news reports on Newsround and read articles in First News (the children's newspaper). Scientifically testing the environment they are in and having an actual measurement of the impact of human activity on where they feel they belong - and how that impacts on their rights to health - is tremendously exciting. This is a science project that has real meaning."

Engaging with Pupils

Susannah Telfer from Ricardo Energy & Environment, said: "It's been fantastic working with the schools and listening to each pupils' ideas. The pupils' knowledge of their school and the surrounding area has been essential when designing their study and it's wonderful to see them working together with their classmates. It's great to be able to engage the next generation on such an important and topical issue".


Ricardo Energy & Environment has been providing the Scottish Government and Scotland's private sector with support in resource efficiency, carbon management, renewables and air quality for over a decade.

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