As we take a moment to consider what we can do to better support mother Earth, a Hamilton-based environmental group is looking to empower local students to improve our city’s air quality with a unique endeavour.
Green Venture’s Fresh Air For Kids program has been operating in Hamilton schools since 2012 with the aim of showing elementary school students the impact of air quality on the health of individuals and a community as a whole.
Students are then provided with practical solutions for addressing air quality in their neighbourhood and implementing them.
Megan Sutton, a program coordinator with Green Venture, said that in the past, students would have the opportunity to work with an earth scientist and take real-time measurements of the air quality around their school.
This year, however, the group has undertaken the monumental task of adapting the typically in-person program to the virtual schoolroom.
“It’s still important to connect with students to get them thinking about air pollution and climate change even during a pandemic,” Sutton told IntheHammer.
“Students need the knowledge going forward because the pandemic won’t be here forever but climate change will.”
This particular initiative, which is made possible by grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and funding from Clean Air Hamilton, looks to address idling outside of schools.
In years past, Fresh Air For Kids has helped students develop their own anti-idling campaigns and has supported their mobilization right outside their schools.
Students are also provided with blank pledges for families to fill out on their own with things they can do to help protect air quality and our health in Hamilton.
With classrooms returning to virtual again this week, however, there are no more idling cars outside schools but Sutton said in their team’s efforts to pivot the Fresh Air program they’ve learned that idling, when school has been in session this year, has been worse than ever.
“We’ve heard from teachers through surveys we sent out that because there are fewer students taking buses there are more cars outside of schools,” she said.
The new virtual programming still connects students with Dr. Dennis Corr, an earth scientist who has been part of the Fresh Air program for years.
Corr, and other experts in the field, engage and educate students through a series of pre-recorded videos and then field student questions via live video calls.
The uptake of this year’s Fresh Air program has been somewhat slower, Sutton noted.
Since the beginning of this (2020-2021) school year, Green Venture has worked with five schools, six teachers, and 89 students from grade 3 to high school, Sutton noted
“Teachers have a lot on their plates,” she said.
Green Venture, though, is hoping that in light of Earth Day and with the return to virtual learning, and the changed to the Fresh Air program, now is the perfect time to reintroduce it to the Hamilton school community.
“Remote has been a barrier,” Sutton said. “But it’s still so important for us to engage with classes.”
For more information on Fresh Air For Kids and other programming provided by Green Venture, and to register, visit the group’s website.
Questions about programming can be directed by email to [email protected]