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Monday, 29 October 2018 15:14

Community walk to school project sees commerce and charity join forces

A community-focussed project aimed at encouraging parents and children to walk to school in Nottinghamshire has seen a commercial company of air quality experts join forces with a not-for-profit organisation.

EarthSense will use their air quality sensors to capture levels of air pollution on the school run in a team up with organisation Happy Crocodile, who are providing an innovative, community-oriented service that hopes to reduce local congestion and increase communal health, cohesion and well-being.

The project, which won the Geovation Greener Smarter Communities award in 2017, will support a community-wide change in attitude towards adopting active travel options, such as walking.

Happy Crocodile Brookside School  Zephyr copyWorking with Brookside Primary School, East Leake, the project aims to enable more children to walk to school each day with a "Walking Bus" scheme run by local volunteers.

There will also be a "Park and Stride" or car-pooling option for those that have no choice but to use the car for at least part of the commute.

Anne Brammall, Co-founder of Happy Crocodile says: "Every parent wants to see their child grow and develop healthily while enjoying their time at school.

We want the school commute to shift away from children being car-bound and stuck in traffic, often breathing in toxic fumes, to enjoying fresh, clean air with all the accompanying mental and physical advantages of taking regular exercise. We did some research and realised there had to be a better solution."

EarthSense Zephyr sensors will measure levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) at peak times of the school run to compile an evidence-base of local air pollution trends.

The air pollution data will be used to encourage parents, schools and local councils of the value of Walking Bus schemes to child health and wellbeing.

In initial trials, the data will also be used to understand parent and child behaviours around the school commute, identify the obstacles of walking to school, and investigate the impacts on children and communities of not being able to walk to school.

Under consideration is the possibility of further using Zephyr sensor data in combination with GPS to develop a smart app that parents and schools can access to coordinate and monitor the Walking Bus.

happy crocodile earthsense zephyr"The health, safety and well-being of the school's children is of equal importance to the overall learning experience," says Gary Kenny Head Teacher at Brookside Primary School, East Leake. "Working with EarthSense and Happy Crocodile will give us the added benefit of seeing what the air pollution is really like around our school, how it might affect our children and how we can protect them on their daily commute with the Walking Bus."

 

EarthSense Managing Director Tom Hall comments: "Clean air is a necessity for everyone, especially primary school children who are more prone to health problems from air pollution.

Using a mobile Zephyr in a back-pack to take live air pollution readings, the data will be used in two ways. Firstly, to identify routes with poor air quality that can be factored into planning the Walking Bus route. Secondly, to provide tangible evidence that Walking Buses in clean air neighbourhoods do work and are worth local support and investment."

The scheme will have the added advantage of engaging local businesses by designating available car park space to create successful Park and Stride neighbourhood hubs.

It is hoped that the Walking Bus scheme will attract volunteers from the population who might otherwise suffer isolation, such as retired individuals or grandparents that live locally. Another possibility is the recruitment of diploma or college students who will achieve accreditation from their courses in return for time spent leading the Walking Bus.