In October students at the new J. T. Williams Montessori School in Charlotte became citizen scientists as they used portable air sensors and tablets equipped with GPS to measure levels of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), an invisible air pollutant on their school campus. Clean Air Carolina (CAC) is helping them learn about air quality and the dangers of particle pollution on health in the process.
These ninth and tenth graders are part of CAC’s AirKeepers Program, a citizen science project designed to raise awareness about hyper-local levels of fine particulate matter the public is exposed to. The data AirKeepers collect is uploaded to www.aircasting.org, allowing public viewing of the results. The data will be used to create the Charlotte Habitat Air Quality Map which will show variation in particle pollution in the Charlotte region.
Most air pollution is invisible to our eyes. Tools like AirBeam monitors and the AirCasting App help make PM 2.5 visible. With these tools, students are starting to identify sources of PM 2.5 around them every day. They are discussing ways to protect their health by reducing the sources of pollution, or by avoiding exposure. Understanding the problem helps people find solutions and become advocates for clean air policies.
Clean Air Carolina’s work with J. T. Williams Montessori students is made possible by a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, targeting schools, and neighborhoods in Charlotte’s Northwest Corridor, an area surrounded by interstates and freeways.