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Lockdown learning inspires plan to teach children perils of pollution

Homeschooling was the inspiration for an innovative project designed to get young children in primary schools across Kent thinking about the air they breathe while encouraging their parents to do the same.

The idea to develop and build an educational resource with an interactive story book, animations and digital games has been awarded a government grant of £103,770 from the Air Quality Grant Scheme run by Defra - the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs.

The project is being undertaken by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s Mid-Kent Environmental Protection Team in partnership with Canterbury City Council.

Improving air quality is the ultimate aim

Improving air quality is the ultimate aim and the resource will encourage children to learn and understand a series of key messages which in turn will prompt them to change their behaviour and persuade the adults in their lives to do the same.

For example, children will learn how much air pollution is created by a stationary vehicle with its engine left running and will be given the tools to let the grown ups know they need to change their behaviour and switch off their engines at the right times.

Key messages include:

  • air pollution is bad for your health
  • walk, cycle or scoot rather than taking the car if you can
  • stay back from the kerbside to prevent breathing in air pollution.

Fun features

The resource will use the fun features of online learning that children are already familiar with from lockdown home schooling to teach what air pollution is, why it is bad for everyone’s health, how it can be reduced and the benefits of cutting air pollution.

Pester power

Cllr Matt Bailey, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s Sustainability portfolio holder said: ‘It's great news that we've been awarded government funding for this project. We know children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of air pollution and we've already been running a Clean Air for Schools campaign for several years. This has involved environmental health staff visiting local primary schools to speak to pupils and encourage No Idling Zones around school gates.

‘This new project will allow us to build on this success with a digital campaign to educate children and encourage healthier day-to-day behaviour.’

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Leader of Canterbury City Council, said: ‘We all know our children learn so much more when they are having fun so the combination of the technology they are increasingly used to, interaction and gaming to teach them about the best ways of improving air quality is absolutely perfect.

‘Added to that, pester power has always been one of the best ways of getting adults to understand the consequences of their actions so this scheme is bound to succeed and be emulated by others.’

It is hoped to have the resource ready for testing within six months.

As well as the government grant announced on 9 March financial support for the project will come from all the Kent district authorities.

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