GASPer Program Starts Sixth Year in Area Schools

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Hotline, Winter 2002

by Rachel Filippini, GASPer Program Coordinator

Many of you know that GASP is a watchdog on environmental proposals and regulations in the western Pennsylvania area, but did you know that GASP is also an educational organization that conducts presentations on a variety of issues including energy choice and alternative landscape methods? We are working to educate both the public and our younger citizens, especially middle and high school students, about air quality in western Pennsylvania. In fact, this year marks the sixth school year that GASP has been running the GASPer Air Monitor Program.

The GASPer gives students and teachers the opportunity to learn about and monitor the components of a natural resource that surrounds all of us, the air. For a two-week period, teachers and their students use GASP’s sophisticated, yet easy-to-operate air monitor to sense and record the following air components: ozone, particulates, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and dioxide, ultraviolet radiation, ionizing radiation, barometric pressure, wind speed and wind direction. Along with the air monitor, teachers and students borrow a guidebook filled with information about each air component with related articles. A laptop computer with specialized software allows them to download data from the air monitor and automatically produce reports and graphs of the air components for which they’ve monitored. GASP provides training to all teachers who participate, in which they learn not only how to use the equipment, but also about local air pollution issues that they can then communicate back to their students.

This year GASP chose to educate teachers about power plants in western Pennsylvania. The most important part of the program is where students devise their own investigations and experiments. This gives them the opportunity to utilize their critical thinking skills and work as a team with their fellow students. We hope that by being involved in the air monitor program, students and teachers will not only learn more about the air around them, but also think about how humans affect the environment and what can be done to protect it.

The GASPer Air Monitor Program also assists teachers in meeting the new Environment and Ecology Education Standards, specifically the sections Environmental Health, Humans and the Environment, and Environmental Rules and Regulations.

This has been a packed school year, with both new teachers to the program and alumni. We’ve worked with the following schools so far this year: North Hills Senior High, McKeesport High School, Boyce Middle School, Central Catholic High School and Moon Middle School.

We are very excited as we plan the annual GASPer Air Congress, a spring event where each participating school brings a team of students to present their most interesting investigation to the other students and teachers. This year, we have been lucky enough to partner with Carnegie Mellon University’s Environmental Institute to host the event. Not only will students get an opportunity to share their work, but they will also be given the chance to tour the Environmental Institute’s Super Site where they will learn more about research being done in Pittsburgh regarding fine particulate matter.

If you are a middle or high school teacher who is interested in learning how you and your students can become involved in the GASPer Air Monitor Program, please contact Rachel Filippini at (412) 441-6650 or email gasp@gasp-pgh.org. We will be starting to schedule for the 2002/03 school year soon.