Classroom Science Project: Fairbanks Air Quality Module
Proposed as an Extended Learning Program, 5th Grade Project
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Outcomes: Students learn about data collection, data analysis, air quality, applied science, and how to be a better judge of particulate pollution levels.
Each day a student in the class would check the Air Quality Index site and record the PM 2.5 24-hour average micrograms (or microns) per cubic meter. The report given is the average as of a given time, say 4 pm. If for some reason the daily data is not collected on a day, the student could call the Borough Air Quality office, 459-1005, to try to collect missed data.
Also, class members would check the Weather Underground site for air pressure, wind speed, temperature, visibility, and precipitation. The class can choose which of these data to collect. If for some reason the daily data is not collected on any day, it can be retrieved later. Ideally, the air pressure, wind speed, temperature, visibility, and precipitation would be average calculations for the same 24-hour period, but the class could choose instead to use atmospheric data for a particular time, say 4 pm.
Atmospheric data collected would be graphed by the class weekly.
Atmospheric data could be exported to Excel to speed the calculations necessary to plot the information on the graphs. The six Air Quality Index Categories are coded with six colors which could be added to the graph to improve readability.
By evaluating the relationships in the lines on the graph, the class would make its own conclusions on how the atmospheric conditions affect the daily PM 2.5 level and the healthfulness of the air. Precipitation, for example, washes the fine PM 2.5 particles (smoke, haze) out of the air. By looking at visibility also, students would learn to gauge PM 2.5 levels themselves.
For further explorations, the class might be able to make a field trip to the Borough Air Quality Office, tour the Borough monitoring stations, and see the mobile air sampling vehicle. The class could request that the mobile sampling vehicle come to their school. Maybe the class could even ride in the vehicle to conduct sampling at some of the most affected sites, such as schools like Woodriver Elem or Randy Smith Middle.
Depending on how far the students want to take this, the class could propose a policy to protect school children from PM 2.5 during recess. The school district appears to already have a policy on reducing “prolonged and heavy exertion” during recess and canceling recess at higher PM 2.5 levels. The class could come up with its own policy to recommend to the school district to adequately protect children (considered one of the “sensitive groups” in the Air Quality Index prepared by EPA).
Links we’d need:
FNSB Air Quality Index:
FNSB Judging Particulate Levels in your Area:
The Weather Underground site data for 99701 (can be exported to Excel):
FDNM article referring to ‘When the level (24-hr PM 2.5) reaches 100 micrograms per cubic meter, the school district states that elementary schools should “reduce prolonged and heavy exertion” during recess. At 200, recess is moved indoors.’
FNSB School District has regulations and guidelines for activities during unhealthy particulate levels, called Administrative Regulations 960.1 Guidelines for Student Activity in Adverse Conditions.