Clarity Node-S devices deployed
largest school district in Florida
regulatory air monitoring stations
Air quality monitoring and management have increasingly become a significant concern throughout the United States. Understanding and addressing the impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment require reliable data, effective strategies, and increased community awareness.
Broward County, situated in southeastern Florida, is home to a population of nearly two million people. The county's air quality is typically good, with occasional issues mainly caused by ozone and particulate matter (PM) levels. However, increased urbanization, population growth, and exposure to major highways have highlighted the need for greater scrutiny of local air quality monitoring and management efforts, especially for schools.
One such institution — South Plantation High School — features an environmental science magnet program that provided an excellent opportunity to integrate air quality monitoring and awareness initiatives into the curriculum, led by Dr. Jody Berman, a preeminent science educator and 2019 Broward Environmental High School Teacher of the Year.
With limited knowledge about the impact of air pollution on students' health and well-being, Dr. Berman needed a means of collecting accurate and comprehensive data to better understand the situation and drive informed decision-making.
Levent Akinci, Environmental Project Coordinator for Broward County's Air Program, knew there was a huge opportunity to provide students and residents with up-to-date information on air pollution levels and potentially integrate air quality monitoring into the educational system.
Broward County had recently been awarded two Node-S air quality sensors for testing through a collocation giveaway program. After an initial collocation, Akinci found the data tracked well with Broward’s reference air monitoring equipment and thought that these would work well for Broward County’s Citizen Science Ambient Air Monitoring Pilot Program.
The Pilot encourages local schools to apply to host air sensors to enhance air quality awareness, and through this, South Plantation High School was selected as the recipient of one Clarity Node-S device.
The data collection and analysis were spearheaded by a student, Kira Hepburn, who was inspired by the air quality challenges faced in countries like China and sought to better understand the situation at her school.
"It's important to learn about particulate matter. Air quality is a big broad subject, but the little things that we should learn more about are particulate matter — PM 10 and PM 2.5 — because those are really what harm you."
— Kira Hepburn, Student, South Plantation High School
Broward County's Air Program monitors air quality through regulatory-grade monitors, but these sensors don't provide localized air quality data. Kira’s primary goal was to address the need for more specific data in the school's surroundings, particularly due to its proximity to the Florida Turnpike and bus loop.
Clarity Movement's air quality monitoring sensors were installed in and around the school, including one near a major highway to study the impact of traffic on local air quality. The data collected by Clarity's sensors were made available to both teachers and students at South Plantation High School.
"Working with Clarity was very easy,” said Kira. “Just from getting the data, I just had to click a button and it was all there. And it wasn't time-consuming, which was very helpful at the end of my project."
Kira’s project played a crucial role in gathering, analyzing, and presenting the data, which allowed the school community to better understand the air quality challenges they faced. Adjustments were made to address the feedback received from the project presentation, namely refining the comparison method to account for diesel-fueled buses versus a variety of fuel types in vehicles on the Turnpike.
The Broward County Citizen Science Ambient Air Monitoring Program partnership with Clarity has proven to be a valuable experience for both educators and students. For Dr. Berman and her students, the partnership has allowed them to develop and carry out environmental projects using real-world, hyper-local data. This has not only helped address issues of air quality in Broward County, but has also played a crucial role in connecting students to the environment and the impact it has on their health.
The positive outcomes from this pilot project suggest the potential for further growth and increased impact on students and communities. To enable greater accessibility and widen the reach of such projects, the availability of grant programs or partnerships with other organizations can be explored to make air quality sensors more accessible to teachers and schools without a budget to purchase them themselves.