NYC Middle School Civic Science Program
Students were provided with “AirBeam” air quality devices and mobile apps used for monitoring data. Mount Sinai Health System provided research on the impact of air pollution on human health and CUNY Law School helped make connections on how public advocacy can lead to legislative change. CELF staff worked with these professionals and middle school teachers from NYC DOE public schools and several independent schools to develop a citizen science unit that is easily integrated into existing curriculum as a place-based action research learning opportunity.
Civic Science: New York City Students Gather, Monitor and Analyze Air Quality Data
Air pollution surrounds us daily, but it is not always as apparent as other forms of pollution such as litter in the street. Despite improvements over the past decade, air pollution is still a significant threat. The World Health Organization estimates that 9 out of 10 people globally breathe air containing high levels of pollutants and that 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.
CELF’s research-based learning experience allows students and teachers the opportunity to engage in personal and collective actions that affect their local neighborhoods and community health first-hand.
Middle school teachers from both public and independent schools participated in CELF’s semester-long civic science professional learning program along with program partners, Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, Habitat Map, NYC DOE Department of Health and CUNY School of Law. Participating teachers received on-site support from CELF educators. Teachers reviewed their existing curriculum and class projects to identify relevant opportunities for integration of the civic science unit. CELF’s syllabus was approved as a “P-Credit” course by the New York City Department of Education After School Professional Development Program (“ASPDP”).
Student teams from each school analyzed and identified pollution hot spots and tried to connect them to specific sources. The school teams participated in a Student Symposium held at CUNY School of Law where they shared air quality data analysis, outcomes and action plans with representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, UNEP, the NYC Department of Health, and dozens of parents and other community members.
The curriculum developed was designed to be easily replicable and appealing as a fundable pilot to expand to additional schools in new markets. The teachers and students are now trained in AirBeam and AirCasting technology platforms, which engage students as civic scientists within their school communities.
CELF’s Civic Science: Inquiry to Action Program is now in schools in Los Angeles, Houston, New York City and schools throughout the Lower Hudson Valley area. It is offered both as a blended-learning professional learning program and a fully virtual professional learning course, all leading to an authentic Student Symposium with local decision-makers.