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Teenagers from Across the Region Hold "Air Congress" to Compare Notes on Unique Air Pollution Curriculum; Students From New York and New Jersey Give the Hands-On Approach an A+

Release Date: 05/17/2000
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(#00096) Newark, New Jersey -- Nearly 50 students and teachers from Brooklyn, New York and Newark and Camden, New Jersey gave high marks to hands-on environmental learning today as they gathered in Newark. The students demonstrated what they have learned about air pollution by using state-of-the-art portable air monitors and specialized computer software to sample air in their schools and their communities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided funding through its Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) program to allow students from 9 schools in New York and New Jersey to try out this new approach to learning about air pollution.

The monitoring program is part of an innovative curriculum, called the Air CURRENTS Project, designed by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), a regional consortium, to give students hands-on experience measuring air pollution and to demonstrate the potential for lowered pollution emissions in their communities. Students from schools in Buffalo, New York also participated in the project, but they will hold a separate Air Congress in Buffalo next week.

EPA's Regional Administrator, Jeanne M. Fox, who attended today's Air Congress, noted, "The future of our environment is in the hands of these kids, and, by incorporating environmental issues into core classes like math and science, this curriculum helps make them better environmental citizens. The program goes beyond book learning and brings the students into the field to collect real, scientific data." 

Jason Grumet, Executive Director of NESCAUM, stated, "Knowledge is power. This hands-on environmental curriculum is creating the clean air advocates of the future. This program builds upon New York's and New Jersey's national leadership to ensure the public's environmental right-to-know."  How is This Curriculum Different?  The Air CURRENTS curriculum includes field tests and classroom exercises  to give students a firsthand understanding of air quality at a variety of schools and educational organizations throughout New York and New Jersey. Students and teachers work together to develop sampling plans, take the samples then analyze the results. This active approach to learning fosters a real interest in science and math while informing the students about the quality of the air in and around their schools.

Students are encouraged to share local air quality data with other students participating in the project and with local community groups, which helps them also become more invested in their communities.  Local Support/The Schools Who Makes it Happen Local sponsors did much of the leg work and worked directly with teachers and students to get the projects up and running in the schools. The Council on the Environment of New York City, a privately-funded citizens' organization in the Office of the Mayor, was project coordinator for Brooklyn, New York where the Automotive High School, Junior High School 126, and High School for Environmental Studies participated in the project. Science Preparation Alliance of Rutgers & Camden, a group that strives to get college-bound students interested in science, was the  project coordinator for Camden, New Jersey, where the participants were Camden High School, Woodrow Wilson High School, and Medical Arts High School. In Newark, New Jersey, The Greater  Newark Conservancy, a private, nonprofit environmental organization, was project coordinator helping East Side High School, West Side High School and Science High School participate. The Erie County Department of the Environment and Planning acted as project coordinator in Buffalo, where South Park High School, McKinley High School, Hutchinson Central Technical High School and the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School participated.

The Role of NESCAUM
NESCAUM represents the air pollution control authorities of New York, New Jersey and New England states. One of NESCAUM's traditional roles is representing Northeast States' interests in development of national environmental policies and assisting states in effectively implementing federal requirements, as well as forwarding environmental education.

What is EMPACT?
Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking is a new approach to working with communities to collect, manage, and present environmental information. Through EMPACT, EPA works with communities to make timely, accurate, and understandable environmental information available to millions of people in the largest metropolitan areas across the country. 

For more information, look on EPA's EMPACT web site at