Sentio: Citizen Science

Environmental Charter School
Case Study

Prototyping a Citizen Science Curriculum Kit

Research Curriculum Designer CAD + Prototyping Content Writer
Environmental Charter School
2 weeks
Sentio is a prototype curriculum kit focused on citizen science for youth, ages 5-14. This kit uses sensory immersion to introduces students to air quality science, specifically in context of local histories, industries, and the socio-economic impacts. The complete kit includes lesson plans, classroom tools, student field guides, and an in-school art installation.

HMW make air quality science a visceral sensory exploration and justice-oriented curriculum?

Sentio leverages the Environmental Charter School's pedagogical framework for "looping" students according to age and grade needs.

  • The first loop sets the foundation for the youngest students to concretize the abstract thinking needed to comprehend the broad-reaching impacts of air quality.

  • The second loop applies this knowledge in context through a focus on local histories and identities that have mutually impacted the regional air quality.

  • The final loop is focused on civic action. Students chart their own relationship to air quality and learn how to use the scientific method to build qualitative and quantitate metrics into advocacy work as citizen scientists. They also reflect on their own relationship to air quality and make a plan for civic engagement, starting by partnering with their own parents and family members.

“Parents are highly motivated and potent potential advocates, they just don’t know where to start."  

Nikole Schaeffer Chief Outreach & Innovation Officer, ECS

Building tools for educators

ECS educators involved with this project shared their concerns across the cognitive development of learners and their own knowledge of complex subject matter. To tackle these challenges, we worked with educators to understand common frameworks for lesson planning, content delivery, and learner needs. Furthermore, we partnered with air quality activists in Southwest Pennsylvania to share their policy initiatives, public outreach programs, and already existing educational materials.

For the final kit, we prototyped the middle loop curriculum and teaching aids. Mirroring curricular frameworks in place at ECS, we built a curriculum for students to use an "Air Magnifier" to document and journal their own experiences with air quality. This Air Magnifier was play-tested with educators (n=4), where all confirmed that the curriculum was suited for the age range, easy to follow, and at an appropriate level of depth for the topic.

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To make air quality concrete, we utilized sensory experience and hands-on making as the focal point of each unit. Ideas like projection mapping, tangible data, and edible air were all explored. The most well received idea was a vinyl installation that obscured vision in decades with highest air pollution.

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