The major coastal metropolitan centres of NSW (namely Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle) contain around 70% of the State's population, light and heavy industry and agricultural areas. In recent years there has been great concern about air quality issues as the centres grow steadily towards one another.
In response to this concern the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) initiated the Metropolitan Air Quality Study (MAQS), a comprehensive scientific study of air quality in the Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle regions. MAQS provided:
- expansion of the air quality monitoring network from which air quality reports are made
- projections of the potential air quality over future decades
- extensive and intensive air quality data for use in scientific studies, including long-term studies by the NSW Department of Health to investigate the effects of air pollution on health.
The information gathered to date has given a clearer, more detailed understanding of regional air pollution, its levels, the way it is produced and changed chemically, and the means by which it moves around the region. MAQS has been essential for understanding the way in which the air quality of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong is directly linked. It has also made available to the public air quality reports, forecasts and warnings via the media and the internet.
Consequently, the Airwatch program has been developed for school students by the NSW EPA to enable them to effectively interpret the valuable information that MAQS offers. Airwatch also draws together many of the factors that affect air quality, such as the movement of air masses, the localised physical barriers and how the practices of individuals can affect air quality on a personal, local and global scale.
Why is Airwatch important?
Airwatch is empowering. It promotes an awareness of social and environmental issues. Airwatch provides an opportunity for students to gather and analyse current local information, both in print and through the internet. It also includes a variety of investigations which link current practices to air quality issues. It provides the knowledge and skills that students need to understand the complex issue of air quality, how it affects their lives, and facilitates responsible action that will benefit the community. Airwatch encourages a sense of citizenship and extends the need for intelligent, co-operative action in addressing the issues of air quality. It highlights the role of the individual in drafting ideas for solutions and the need for responsible lifestyle choices.
How does Airwatch fit into the NSW school curriculum?
The Airwatch program is designed to engage secondary school students in stages 4 and 5 who are undertaking courses in Science and Geography. It assists them to learn about air quality issues through experiences in observation, measurement, design, analysis and interpretation. Its relationship to relevant syllabuses are outlined in the Curriculum links. Airwatch is specifically designed to provide information on factors that affect air quality, which are able to be explored at home, in and around the classroom, and in the local area.
Airwatch investigates air pollutants, why they move around, how they affect people both directly and indirectly and how we might solve air quality issues.
How can Airwatch be used?
Although Airwatch appears to be presented in the form of a 'unit of work', it does not have to be used in this way. Airwatch is a teacher resource. Activity Guides are included for each section. The information may be used as a reference for the class teacher or as a basis for a research project for students. The worksheets may be used as presented in part or whole, or modified to meet the needs of the individual. Selection of material is at the discretion of the class teacher. Airwatch may also be used as project or extension material which can be incorporated into existing units.
The information in Airwatch is divided into sections based on the link between air quality and:
- Our atmosphere
- Air pollutants
- Your personal space
- Your local environment
- The global environment
- Airwatch action plan
Airwatch lends itself to team work and teachers are encouraged to use a group approach in the tasks where students are able to: develop skills in identifying a collective goal; allocate and work in various roles within a team; and adhere to an agreed timeframe.
Your personal space
Your local environment
The global environment
Page last updated: 27 February 2011