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Bristol chemists bring climate science to the classroom

15 March 2011

Scientists from the School of Chemistry are to work with teachers at Leweston school in Sherborne, Dorset to implement an innovative science project through a Partnership Grant from the Royal Society.

The project, titled ‘Every Breath You Take: Mining Atmospheric Chemistry Data’, aims to teach senior students how to interpret part of the NETCEN (the UK’s National Environmental Technology Centre) data archive on atmospheric pollutants. The ultimate aim will be to publish their findings in academic journals, but in the short term to appreciate and understand the interplay between and importance of atmospheric pollutants in their future lives.

The main group of researchers (aged 16-18) will take on the challenge of analysing sections of the plethora of data available on pollutant concentrations to look for patterns and connections, while the younger students will learn more about some of the major challenges facing the Earth. The great advantage of this project is that it is possible for students from a wide age group (Key stage 3, 4 and 5) to participate and use the science knowledge they have accumulated and still make an important contribution.

The project offers young people the chance to meet and work with Bristol scientists Professor Dudley Shallcross, Dr Alison Rivett, Professor Julian Eastoe, Tim Harrison and Mary Bartlett and allows them to build and develop their scientific understanding in a way that is exciting, original and relevant to their lives.

Professor John Pethica FRS, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: ‘We’re pleased to be supporting Every Breath You Take: Mining Atmospheric Chemistry Data at Leweston and are looking forward to seeing this imaginative project come to life over the coming months.

‘Science and engineering are exhilarating and dynamic subjects and we hope that by giving teachers the opportunity to introduce innovative science that we can help show young people how much fun in real-life these subjects can be, and inspire them to become the inventors, explorers and innovators of the future.’

Dudley Shallcross, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, said: ‘The data archive is vast and almost an untapped resource that contains important information and data. What we need are enthusiastic young school scientists to be given an opportunity to explore this archive. There is the possibility that they will discover something very important indeed. Our project will bring to life what students learn about in the classroom, it uses real data and has a real and relevant goal. It will help them to understand the impact of science and engineering upon their day-to-day activities and introduce them to the research process. We hope that research papers will arise from this work. This is ‘How Science Works’ in a very real way.’

More information on Partnership Grants is available online.

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