The diversity of CA4S projects

Ali @LSx

As mentioned in the previous reports, my main project in LSx is Cleaner Air 4 Schools (CA4S)[1]. After the successful pilot project in 3 primary schools, this year LSx has been working with 4 schools in different boroughs and had inception meetings with several other new schools. Although LSx developed a toolkit with abundant materials, we have to continuously mortify our programme content according to different project. Not only funders have different budgets and requirements, but also schools have varied needs and expectations of the project. This year my role in these projects was more like project manager, instead of an assistant last year. After the training session had delivered by the project coordinator, I coordinated with the school, monitored the project process, prepared activity materials, purchased materials, anaylsed data, trained interns and delegated tasks to them. Luckily, since May we had an Air Quality intern to support our CA4S project.

Instead showing details of the project outcomes, this report aims to outline two very distinct projects to demonstrate the diversity of the CA4S projects and explain how the approach and timeline may affect the achievement and cause obstacles and barriers.

1. Prior Weston Primary School – a standard CA4S with support from volunteers

  • Timeline

8 months from November 2012 to July 2013

  • Funder

Network Rail

  • Direct beneficiaries

With 1-2 teachers’ supervision, eco club members participated in most activities. Several classes and employee volunteers participated in some activities.

  • Project delivery format – champions team and volunteers

The model is similar to the pilot project – we recruited an air quality team composed of pupils, teachers, school governors and parents and delivered a series of training, surveys, citizen science and social marketing activities. Moreover, the funder Network Rail had a team of 7 employee volunteers who came to assist the activities in the school. These volunteers attended the training session in the school with the lead teacher and 6 pupil champions from eco club. All of the school champions and volunteers were enthusiastic and looked forward to participate in this project together.

 

  • Achievement

More than ten CA4S activities were completed:

  1. Survey: idling survey, hands up survey, travel questionnaires for parents, traffic survey
  2. Citizen Science: NO2 diffusion tubes, Ozone strip test, Lichen observation
  3. Social marketing: Moth pledge, Badge design, Zero Hero design & creative writing

Eco club and several classes participated in these activities. Furthermore, the eco club children and the project lead teacher shared their findings in school assemblies with the whole school to teach more staff and pupils about air quality and their findings.

Apart from these standard CA4S surveys and activities, Network Rail delivered an interesting event- Safety mobile truck. The truck is an orange truck with “millionaire quiz” facility which is used for teaching site workers about safety issues. In our school project, the volunteers designed air quality questions for children and brought the mobile truck to the school. During the event, 8 classes from Year 2 to Year 5 took turns and each class attended a 30 min quiz session inside the truck. Every pupil was given a remote control which is used to answer questions. Every time when the volunteers asked a question, children chose the answer via the remote control and immediately the results were counted and shown on the screen. Children were thrilled by the quiz and anxious to know if they had chosen the correct answers. Then the volunteers explained the result and provided more educational information about the questions which covered topics from air quality to health and travel. It was a very successful and all pupils and teachers had fun and learnt from the activity. Although the volunteers were exhausted after delivering the session 8 times in one day, they also said it was joyful because they loved to take responsibility and saw how children learnt from the activity.

  • Obstacles and Barriers

In general the project was a great success, both the school and Network Rail were happy with the results. During the focus group and interviews in the end, the core participants including teachers, pupils and volunteers gave positive feedback. However, we also recognised several problems in the project:

1. School timeline and volunteers’ availability did not match

As volunteers need sufficient time to get signed off from work, we asked the teacher to confirm each activity 2 weeks in advance. However, due to the busy schedule and unexpected matters in school, LSx was often informed in the last minute about the upcoming activities, such as “we will do this tomorrow/ do that next Monday…” In these situations, the volunteers could not manage their time to participate the activity. Honestly, many activities could be done by the teacher and pupils without volunteers’ support, but it made volunteers disappointed as they really wanted to be more involved in the project and contribute their skills[2].

2. Project delayed due to the exam and lack of communication

The original project delivery time was November 2012 to April 2013, but the lead teacher was occupied by the SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) exam in May. She was very stressful and unable to lead the project. Although she said she had handed over the project to another teacher, we could not reach the new teacher lost the contact with these two teachers for nearly two months. It was very frustrating while I had to call and email them almost everyday but never got responses[3]. We had no choice but to postpone the whole project and continue from late May. After May, we finally got contact with the teachers again and delivered several activities with year 5 students but some of the follow-up surveys were not completed before the summer holiday.

3. Unable to engage parents

Like last year, we were not able to engage parents as we hoped. Although the school had sent an introduction letter to all parents, only one parent attended the training session. Since the regular eco club time and the parent’s personal commitment conflicted, she was not able to participate in the project after the training. During the project period, twice we were told that LSx was welcome to attend PTA (Parent -Teacher Association) evening events to deliver quiz or survey, and some of volunteers were interested in the parent engagement, the plan changed in the last minute and we were adviced that these events were not suitable for us to deliver the activity about air quality. In the end of project before summer holiday, we were suggested to help eco club to run a CA4S stall in a big school event to demonstrate their learning and project findings. I prepared a lot of materials and attended the event with another intern. Surprisingly the teachers did not properly organise the eco club children who busy with other school activities. Only two eco club pupils showed up in the stall for 2 minutes. As the result, I and the intern had to run the stall and explain everything to the parents who stopped by. However, the event did give us a chance to meet the parents. We approached parents proactively and had 29 follow-up questionnaires completed. Most of them were worried about air quality and half of them shown their interests in the project. When they visited the stall, some of them were shocked by the findings- they didn’t know the air quality was so bad around the school.

2. Tiverton School– One day event engaged the whole school

  • Timeline

May 2013 – One day event, plus an introduction presentation before the event and a celebration (prize giving) one week later

  • Funder

Manor House Development Trust and Big Lottery. It is part of the PACT project.

  • Direct beneficiaries

Around 445 school members including 10 parents, 35 staff and 400 pupils from nursery, reception to Year 6.

  • Project delivery format– A big Bubble Day

Tiverton Primary School was very keen on learning more about air quality, however they had a full programme of activities running through the year and unable to carry out a standard CA4S project which needs 3-6 months. They asked for a whole day activity themed around air quality and an engagement of all 400 pupils instead of a small group of champions. This format was similar to the Bubble Day last year. Last year I and three interns delivered a 2 hour “Bubble day” event for 2 classes, now it was scaled up to an one day event for 15 classes! I spent a lot of time designing the program and communicated with the school to make sure the program could be achievable. The deputy head teacher was very supportive but she also told me that the school very busy and teachers would not have extra time to support the event – it means all activities must be carried in one day and mostly by LSx staff.

  • Preparation

After one site visit and several discussions via phone and email, I finalised a big programme with 10 activities covering from air quality lessons to hands-on activities of travel mode surveys, traffic surveys, mapping travel method and home location, badges making, lichen identification, sticky tape analysis, ozone strip tests, moth pledge, air quality zero hero design and creative writing.

The delivery required 8 LSx staff and interns but most of them had never been involved in the CA4S projects, therefore we started the internal weekly meeting to discuss and educate ourselves. In mid April we 8 people were divided into 4 teams and each team had to specialized in 3-4 activities. The Cleaner Air 4 Schools activities were mainly designed for Year 1-6. However, for nursery and reception kids, I provided simplified materials for teachers so they could deliver the easier activities without LSx staff’ support.

  • Achievement

Two days before the big event, an introduction to air quality was carried out during Tiverton’s school assembly to all pupils from Nursery, Reception and Year 1 to Year 6 pupils. The aim was to offer a taster of the upcoming Bubble Day, and to offer basic information about key concepts of air quality.

On Bubble Day, 4 LSx teams swap around 12 classes and deliver 2- 3 activities in each class[4]. Each class participated in 4-5 activities through 2 sessions implemented by LSx. Teachers and TAs also assisted with these activities and they carried out Zero Hero design and moth pledge activities when LSx were not delivering activities in their classes. In the end of the day, all of 400 pupils came to the assembly hall and we briefly shared the results of the activities and deliver a quiz carried to assess pupils’ perspective on activities. The quick hands-up survey showed all of them enjoyed the activities, and 99% learnt something about air quality and air pollution. 90% expressed that they learnt ways to improve air quality from the activities and were able to talk to people about air pollution and actions to improve air quality.

One week later at a school assembly, 75 Pupils were rewarded with certificates and prizes prepared by LSx. Six winners from each class were selected by class teachers for 6 themes including: Best air quality badge, Best Zero Hero drawing, Best Zero Hero writing, Longest walking distance, Longest cycling distance, Best Progress in Knowledge of Air Quality.

Apart from the achievement in the school, Bubble Day was a good opportunity for LSx in terns of team building. Two staff, five interns and I worked together and learnt from each other. Unlike the routine work in front of the computer in the office, the team work through the project brought us together made us closer to each other.

  • Obstacles and Barriers

The one day event successfully engaged 400 children, 10 parents and 35 teachers and they enjoyed the activities. However, due to the short timeline, many core CA4S elements were unable to be implemented, such as NO2 diffusion tube citizen science which required one month from deploy, collection and lab test. Also we could not do any baseline and follow up survey to monitor people’s behaviour change. The main obstacles and disappointments are highlighted below:

  1. The original Bubble Day concept was missing

The concept of the ‘Bubble’ was an area covering 1km radius from the school, and pupils were encouraged to travel to school by sustainable means within the bubble zone. We designed a invitation letter for parent to explain the concept and introduce Bubble Day event, encouraging them to participate the event, help their children to wear Zero Hero costume and cycle or walk to school. We had expected that the school could deliver the Zero Hero homework and plan the Zero Hero dress up day, but one week before the event suddenly we were told that they could not deliver any pre-event home work and children would not dress up on that day because parents did have time to prepare it[5].

  1. No time to carry out scientific activities

Year 1 and Year 2 pupils did sticky tape analysis to see visible particles while Year 3 to Year 6 pupils did lichen observation which indicates the levels of nitrogen concentration and ozone strips which showed the levels of ozone. These interesting activities made air pollution “visible” to children. However these three methods were not as accurate as NO2 diffusion tubes[6]. In most of our CA4S projects, diffusion tube is an important method to monitor air quality and it needs to be put outside for 2 weeks and the lab test requires another 2 weeks. In the Bubble Day event, we had to give up the lab-related activities and only use the quick hand-on tasks which did not involve lab, easier but less accurate.

  1. Lack of proper Monitoring & Evaluation

Given that the activities took place over one day, the project lacked proper M&E to measure the performance. The deputy head teacher helped collect a short 3 question survey from class teachers and the results proved that they were very impressed by the programme[7]. The nice quotes and photos proved that the client (school) was satisfied with our performance. However, we were not able to correctly measure the improvement of knowledge or behaviour change of the 445 participants.

In was very exciting to see that in the travel hands up survey, only 3% of pupils were currently cycling to school, but 60% of them wished they could. The quick quiz in the end indicated that 99% learnt something about air quality and 90% learnt ways to improve air quality and were able to talk to people about air pollution and actions to improve air quality. However, without follow-up survey it was impossible to know how many people had really changed their behaviour as a result of the Bubble Day event. Also we knew that the air quality quiz day using hands-up was not truly convincing as children often raise their hands when they see other people do so. The common M&E methods LSx used including surveys, interviews and questionnaires were not delivered on Bubble Day. After the Bubble Day, we asked the school if we could implement a follow survey before the summer holiday to compare the result with the data we collected from Bubble day, but the teacher apologied and refused it as the school was totally occupied by other scheduled events.

 

  • I learnt to delegate tasks to other interns, review their work and provide feedback.

could support us and I could delegat workload to the air quality intern and other projects interns.

 

Finally, I should emphasize that although I pointed out many obstacles or unsatisfying things, these projects were basically successful and LSx learnt from these experiences. For myself, I improved my project management and communication skills, learnt how to negotiate with schools and suppliers and delegate tasks to other staff and interns. Their support and encouragement helped me overcome the stress and accomplish these tasks.

Besides these CA4S projects targeting primary schools, I also helped develop a new CA4S program for secondary schools and write a new proposal that schools and communities will work together to monitor air pollution and improve air quality in their local area.

 

Photos

1. Prior Weston school

Network Rail Volunteers and eco club pupils in the training

 Prior Weston school

Mobile Truck and Millionaire Quiz

 Mobile Truck and Millionaire QuizMobile Truck and Millionaire Quiz2

 Sharing findings: pupils explain the project to parents

 Sharing findings pupils explain the project to parents1Sharing findings2 pupils explain the project to parents
2. Tiverton school Bubble Day

My favorite Zero Hero drawing:

 My favorite Zero Hero drawing1My favorite Zero Hero drawing2

Make your own Air Quality badge

 Make your own Air Quality badge

 Delivery interactive travel survey with year 2

 Delivery interactive travel survey with year 2

Traffic survey: count different type of travel methods

 Traffic survey count different type of travel methods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy kids with their certificates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] I estimate my workload allocation: 70% CA4S, 15% other projects, 15% office administration tasks including supporting human resource (recruiting interns).

[2] Most of the volunteers are young passionate environment managers or environmental specialists.

[3] When losing the contact from the teachers, we were not just worried about the project, but also worried about the teachers themselves. I called the school reception to check if they were okay. Actually several times I was told that s/he was sick and did not attend the school. One time I had made appointment with the teacher and when I arrived at the school on time, I was told that she had called sick that day due to sudden illness.

[4] Four teams include:

– Team A and Team B practice same activities: Y1&2 Air quality learning & sticky tape. Y3-6: Air quality learning, Badge making, and Mapping travel methods

– Team C: Y1&2 Travel methods survey & Badge making. Y3-6: Ozone strips test & Traffic survey

– Team D: Y1&2 Travel methods survey & Badge making. Y3-6: Lichen observation

[5] However, LSx provided certificates and prizes for “Best Zero Hero Costume” and encouraged the school to organise an “Air Quality Zero Hero” dress up day in the future.

[6] Why these monitoring were not accurate? some examples:

– Sticky tape: we told Y1&Y2 kids to stick surfaces of wall or furniture but many kids enjoyed stick each other!

– Ozone strips: the product had only 4 rough results. If the ozone is high, the strip would change colour from white to light yellow, dark yellow to brown. On Bubble day the strips did not change colour much after the 10 minutes exposure as the weather was windy and cloudy and the ozone level was low.

– Lichen observation: some pupils incorrectly identified lichens as some types look very similar to one another. Also due to the time limit, we only observed around a small residential area outside the school without comparing the results from busy roads and green space.

[7] Some teachers pointed out that the program was too intensive and some activities were not completed due to the time restriction. It was true because I underestimated the time required for some of the activities and our team was unable to complete all activities within the scheduled session. For example, “mapping travel mode and home location” and “badge making” took much longer time than I expected. Several classes did not finish the mapping activity, and we had to take one class’s badge images to the office to produce the badges and then posted to the school.

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