As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, taking place from 2-9 November, the Air Today, Gone Tomorrow project provided an opportunity for researchers from The University of Manchester and pupils from Medlock Primary School in Brunswick to work together on a clean air project.
Pollution, increasing levels of greenhouse gases and its contribution to poor air quality is a concern for Greater Manchester and cities all over the world. Aimed at exploring the role of the social sciences in our everyday lives, the project involved pupils acting as researchers by gathering data on idling car pollution and presenting this data to their local community. The event provided a discussion space for the pupils to share their findings with local residents and explore ideas on how the community can work towards improving air quality in Brunswick.
A class of Year Six pupils from Medlock were introduced to primary and secondary research techniques to explore why individual behaviour is important for the environment, The concept of nudge theory, ‘understanding how people think, make decisions, and behave, to help people make better choices to lead a healthier, wealthier and happier life’was a key element of the project as pupils designed nudges for their local community.
In carrying out their research, the pupils identified the consequences of idling and the damage that this has on the environment and on people’s health. Pupils came up with various ideas to change the behaviour of idlers including creating posters to encourage people to walk or cycle to school and introducing a reward system whereby pupils could save money on school dinners and school trips by acting more sustainably.
Research Impact Fellow Carl Emery said of the event: “As a School Governor at Medlock Primary and part of the University Ardwick Partnership I was very aware through both research and local conversations how big an issue idling cars and air pollution is to the school and local community. This project provided an ideal platform to work with the school on raising awareness of the issue and how it can be tackled though research and local action.”
“The project, in bringing together social responsibility activity and research skills was a very rewarding activity that had a direct impact on how the school day is experienced as well as raising awareness and delivering practical research skills to the children. Overall it was a great success.”