ATENC!Ó Project Presents its Preliminary Results to Students

Over 2,100 high school students have participated in an experiment to determine whether air pollution in classrooms affects attention capacity


The ATENC!Ó project has closed its field work with an activity that took place on May 18 in the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (RBB). The event was an opportunity to thank over 2,100 high school students that participated in the study and present them some preliminary results. ATENC!Ó, a project coordinated by the Barcelona Institute for Globla Health (ISGlobal) and the Centre de Recerca per l’Educación Científica y Matemática (CRECIM), is funded by RecerCaixa, a programme by “la Caixa”. Other institutions participating in the project include the Institute of Environmental Diagnostic and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC), the department of Economy and Business of the Pompeu Fabra University, and the Advanced Architecture Institute of Catalonia (IACC).

Based on previous scientific evidence pointing to the detrimental effect of air pollution on cognitive skills , this citizen science project proposed an experiment: randomly divide each class into two groups, both with an air purification system installed, but only one where the system would be actually functioning. The goal was to determine whether differences in air quality could lead to differences in attention span scores .

The project fieldwork lasted 8 months and included 33 high schools in the province of Barcelona. Now, the project will start with the data analysis, which will be published in scientific journals. Meanwhile, preliminary results were presented to the students that attended the closing event, such as the percentage of those that thought were in the classroom with purified air, the levels of air pollution in their schools, or the overall attention test scores.

In addition to encouraging students to contribute to a scientific project, ATENC!Ó has been integrated into many of the schools’ course content through a learning unit co-created by CRECIM and science teachers, where students learn about chemistry, physics and biology under the lens of air pollution. In addition, the students have designed and implemented their own studies on air pollution using Smart Citizen kit sensors designed by the IAAC. The results of these studies were also presented during the closing event at the PRBB.

"We are very satisfied because in one single academic course we attained the participation of over 2,000 students. In addition to providing data, it is greatly rewarding to see how they have become involved with the air pollution problem, and to think we may have awakened someone’s interest in a future career in science", says Xavier Basagaña, ISGlobal researcher and project coordinator.