Schoolyard Scientists: An Investigation of Impacts Associated with Urban Youth Engagement in Participatory Scientific Research Activities

This project is significant because it uses the community for learning science of the environment, in an approach called Citizen Science or Participatory Science Research (PSR). The project will target learning outcomes for underrepresented middle and high school students in the urban and diverse East San Francisco Bay Area, and will refine a theory of learning that makes more explicit the connections between science practices, identity, and value and relevance.

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This project is significant because it uses the community for learning science of the environment, in an approach called Citizen Science or Participatory Science Research (PSR). The project will target learning outcomes for underrepresented middle and high school students in the urban and diverse East San Francisco Bay Area. The fundamental issues that will be studied deal with particulate matter (PM) in the local area. The project will generate information that contributes to better understanding the impact of a science curriculum with PSR activities on science learning. The project will provide opportunities for students at a total of 10 different middle and high school sites to engage in a broad range of activities where the students will collect, analyze, and disseminate data generated in local urban communities. An accompanying curriculum that includes new and previously tested skills development activities also will be produced and used to aid students in connecting PSR activities to inter-related topics such as: energy generation and use, global climate, environmental degradation, and community health (asthma, in particular).

The project will refine a theory of learning that makes more explicit the connections between science practices, identity, and value and relevance. The project will yield information useful in the future development of effective learning environments in urban areas, providing positive science education experiences to challenge students' previous notions and ways of relating to science. The students will learn how to identify with science by gaining a deeper understanding of science practices. They will learn how to analyze and interpret data; construct explanations; engage in argument from evidence; and obtain, evaluate and communicate information. The students will be collecting air samples which will be analyzed using an electron microscope. In conducting their research, students will use low cost, highly accurate AirBeam particle monitors and tablet devices to measure and georeference PM concentration levels as they travel within their schools and surrounding communities. These measurements will then be used to assess ventilation conditions within school buildings, and correlated with different transit routes and transportation systems in an attempt to assess exposure patterns associated with different modes of transit in a given area. The result will be an increase in the understanding of the relevance and the value of science in everyday life. The project will also yield high quality particulate matter data that will be useful for local environmental efforts as well as to public health and atmospheric scientists.

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