New programme to improve air quality in schools

An innovative new programme is being created to improve the air quality and outdoor experience for children and teachers in some of London’s most polluted schools. 

Researchers from Lancaster Environment Centre are working with two environmental charities, Trees for Cities and Mapping for Change to redesign parts of the playground where air quality is particularly poor, by planting trees and other vegetation to filter out airborne pollutants, as well as creating woodland shelters and wildlife areas, the projects will create greener and healthier playgrounds for outdoor learning and play.

The programme, which is called ‘Planting Healthy Air in Schools‘ will work with three primary schools in London, each of which are situated near busy roads where air pollution levels are known to exceed EU standards: Christ Church Bentinck CE Primary School, London Borough of Westminster, Woolmore Primary School, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Tudor Primary School, London Borough of Barnet.

The deputy chief executive at Trees for Cities, Kate Sheldon said: ‘Planting Healthy Air gives schools the tools to take positive action so that they can help protect their pupils from the devastating health effects of exposure to air pollution whilst in the playground.’

With guidance from Lancaster Environment Centre, the primary school pupils will learn how to monitor the changing levels of pollution in the playground over the next 12 months.

The children will play an active role in collecting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) samples.

By mapping and tracking pollutant levels, the children will learn more about the positive impacts of green spaces through a range of workshops and assemblies delivered by Trees for Cities.

Dr Kirsti Ashworth, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin research fellow based at Lancaster Environment Centre said: ‘This is a fantastic initiative and one we are delighted to be involved in.

‘It is an opportunity for us to evaluate the potential of bespoke planting schemes to reduce air pollution in playgrounds and protect children from exposure to harmful levels of pollutants. We will be able to provide important evidence in the debate over the effectiveness of urban vegetation to improve air quality.’

In related news, a Sustrans poll recently found that 90% of parents and residents would back a School Streets scheme in their area.

Staffordshire school children are leading a new campaign to help reduce air pollution outside their schools.

Photo credit – Pixabay