Thousands of Greater Manchester primary children investigate air quality in their local area through The University of Manchester-Royal Society partnership

14 March 2022

Pupils from 25 primary schools across Greater Manchester will be working scientifically to investigate air quality in their local area next week, thanks to a partnership between The University of Manchester and the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.

The ‘Great Science Share Clean Air Challenge’ is designed by the university’s Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub (SEERIH) to inspire 7-11 year olds to think and work as scientists during British Science Week (11-20 March).

Each school is partnered with a scientist from The University of Manchester or local industry, providing more than 3,000 pupils with access to first-hand expertise throughout their project.

‘Engaging directly with scientists and STEM visitors has been a real challenge over the pandemic, so it’s fabulous to have so many volunteers to support children in this way and share how science works in real life,’ says Dr Lynne Bianchi, SEERIH Director.

The children will use a simple investigation to observe and measure airborne particles in spaces around their school. A programme of professional development for the teachers as well as a £500 grant from the Royal Society supports the schools to engage fully and for the project to have legacy within the school. Groups will hang small sheets of laminated graph paper coated with sticky Vaseline around their school grounds and local area for a set time period, and then count the particles they collect.

Just as all good scientists do, they will make predictions about what they expect to find and test them against their results, as well as recording data and drawing conclusions.  They will share their findings through the Great Science Share for Schools 2022 – a national campaign that champions children’s scientific questioning.

SEERIH will continue to support the ongoing improvement of science in each school, encouraging teachers to apply for a Royal Society Partnership Grant to give further opportunity to work with science professionals and develop science enquiry across the school.

Shelley Kinman, Assistant Headteacher at St Mary’s R.C. Primary School in Swinton, Greater Manchester, said: “We’re very eco-friendly at St Marys and the Clean Air Challenge seemed like a really good way of getting all the children involved in British Science Week.  It will be great to see how each year group works through the science investigation and also how they use and interpret the data they collate.

“The children are very aware of pollution and environmental issues, it’s everywhere they look, on the news, in the school newspapers and regularly discussed in their Geography lessons. By taking part and meeting with our link scientist, we want to build on their understanding and show how they can play a part as well.”

Professor Sir Jim Hough, Chair of the Royal Society’s Partnership Grants Committee, said: “This is a very interesting and exciting project and I look forward to seeing how schools’ investigations progress and what the next steps will be as the teachers develop longer term sustained research plans.

“It is crucial that the Royal Society support the development of experimental science skills in these young children. Working with partners, such as SEERIH, enables us to support schools across the UK and reach a wider and inclusive audience for our work.”

Find out more about the Royal Society's Partnership Grants scheme.