Sensor kit components assembled with materials you can find at home (rubber bands, cardboard box).

Students learn about San Juan County’s air quality

Islanders are about to find out exactly what is in the air they are breathing. Samuel Garson, a science teacher at Friday Harbor High School, and his junior and senior AP environmental class are on a quest to test air quality.

“We don’t ordinarily think of pollution as a problem in rural areas,” said Alex Huppenthal of Aspenworks, which is an organization focusing on assisting entrepreneurs. He explained that as we monitor air, water and earth quality, plus population growth, it becomes clear the rural environment of San Juan County is stressed. Garson saw a posting by Huppenthal on Facebook’s San Juan Buy Sell Trade regarding an environmental grant, and after applying, Garson was notified immediately of his success.

“We need to know, by measurements, where the sources of pollution are so we can empower our local community leaders to consider policies that mitigate environmental impacts,” said Huppenthal, explaining the importance of the project. The $60 award from the Aspenworks and the Island Club, a nonprofit formed in 2007 to improve the social and economic fabric of San Juan County, will go toward covering the cost of the EPA air quality sensors kits that Garson’s class will now be constructing.

“I hope we can make this gift a regular event, and expand to include more teachers, schools and students in San Juan County,” said Huppnethal. Although the grant is small, its impact could be mighty.

“It will allow the students to have a hands-on approach to learning about air pollution,” Garson said, adding that he is also hoping to collect some real data about the quality of the air in San Juan County. “I am hoping to share the results with the public as well.”

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