Into Thin Air: A look into why the air surrounding us is so important

By: Lo Hutelmyer, Venture Outdoors Youth Program Manager and Brittney Aston, Venture Outdoors Trip Leader Specialist

It is generally known that poor air quality can lead to serious health problems. That’s exactly why Venture Outdoors and Women for a Healthy Environment have teamed up. These organizations are working together to share their knowledge with students in a fun, interactive way at several after-school programs around the Pittsburgh area.

into thin air 1
Air quality lessons are just a few of the regular outdoor programs that Venture Outdoors facilitates with its six after-school and school partners: Mt. Ararat in East Liberty; Providence Connections and Manchester Academic Charter School on the North Side; the Center that C.A.R.E.S. in the Hill District; and the Brashear Association and A Giving Heart in Allentown. Through the Youth Outdoor Recreation Program (YORP), Venture Outdoors Trip Leaders meet twice monthly with over 130 area youth in grades K-6 to engage in outdoor recreation and to educate them on environmental topics including air quality.

into thin air 2
On these particular air quality lessons, the Venture Outdoors Trip Leaders were assisted by Chelsea Holmes from Women for a Healthy Environment, another Pittsburgh organization that is focused on educating the public on healthy living. These lessons allow the students to measure the amount of particulate matter in the air through what is known as a Speck monitor – a small, easy-to-use device that can be plugged into a power source and visually shows changes in the level of particulate matter in the air on a screen. These monitors were developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Create lab and can be checked out by anyone from the Carnegie Library. Chelsea and her co-workers at Women for a Healthy Environment have worked with students in using the Speck monitors before but have never been able to bring these lessons outside – until now.

into thin air 3
In order to bring the monitors outside, Venture Outdoors provided portable solar power systems donated by Green Mountain Energy. Similar in size and shape to a standard briefcase, the solar power systems have a portion of a photovoltaic (PV) panel on one side and a flashlight on the other. Energy from the sun hitting the PV panel is converted into electricity that is then utilized to power up a small device that is plugged into the outlet – in this case, the Speck monitor. With two portable solar power systems, students were able to plug in the Speck monitors in various locations outdoors in order to enhance the lesson and increase the amount of data they were able to collect. Additionally, the students were able to see first hand how a solar panel works.
Students recorded the detected fine particulate matter and monitored the changes and trends in particle concentration while spraying hair spray, Axe body spray, baby powder, and even water into the air!

into thin air 4
Students were amazed at how these everyday products change the quality of our air. After using baby powder in the same area as a Speck monitor, students observed the fine particles (PM2.5) raise to over 1,600! This definitely made the students rethink the use of products regularly utilized in their homes.
It’s easy to forget exactly what you are doing to the air around you because you can’t specifically see the damages. That is why Speck monitors are so crucial to this lesson plan and learning development.

WFHE logo

Posted in Uncategorized

OUTDOOR News

  • A Trip to Iceland

    June 20, 2017

    By Alex Downing, Communications Intern

     

    One of the most mesmerizing things about nature is that no matter where you come from or where you have been, there is always somewhere more exotic, somewhere wilder for you to explore. You hiked the Amazon and summitted Everest? Congrats, but what about the Outback or Kilimanjaro? There is so much natural beauty in so many forms that even the most well-traveled of us can always find some location more amazing than the last.

    Growing up in the comforts of suburban Pittsburgh with a few acres of woods surrounding my house,

     » Read more about: A Trip to Iceland  »

  • Karen Gainey’s Fishing Tips

    June 13, 2017

    By Jacob Tumminello, Communications Intern

    Karen Gainey might as well have been born with a rod and reel in her hands. Since she was four years old Gainey has loved fishing and challenges herself to accumulate and share as much knowledge as possible. She is a certified instructor for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, has hosted her own fishing television show, and has fished in professional tournaments.

    “Someone once asked me how passionate about fishing I really am, and I told them I’d be catching fish in my bathtub if I thought there was a way” said Karen.

     » Read more about: Karen Gainey’s Fishing Tips  »

  • The Steel City Oasis

    June 6, 2017

    By: Jacob Tumminello, Communications Intern 

    Although Pittsburgh created its legacy primarily in the steel industry, those familiar with the drastic improvement in the quality of its waters will tell you that the rivers are home to a wide variety of large and small fish. Pittsburghers are often unaware of the quality fishing available in the area. Throughout the years anglers have taken advantage of the many popular fishing spots, allowing for enjoyable recreational outings and a great fishing experience.

    The rivers of Pittsburgh experienced a dramatic decrease in pollution following cleanup efforts after the steel mills closed and now provide a stable ecosystem for freshwater life.

     » Read more about: The Steel City Oasis  »

  • Getting to Know our Staff… 13 Questions with Jayme Penner

    May 30, 2017

    We are continuing our staff spotlight series. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes brain power that goes into planning your favorite programs, be it public, family-friendly, or custom outings. Learn about those who work inside so you can get outside.

    This week we’ll be interviewing Jayme Penner, our Membership and Special Projects Coordinator.

    1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors?
    I grew up in Pittsburgh. I went to Chatham University and majored in Business. For a short time period,

     » Read more about: Getting to Know our Staff… 13 Questions with Jayme Penner  »

  • Rediscovering Nature beneath the Soles of My Sneakers

    May 16, 2017

    By: Cheyenne Knight

    When I signed up for my first half marathon, I vowed to train entirely outdoors. I knew that climbing on a treadmill day after day to stare at the same patch of grass, the same residence hall, and the same students walking to class for four months of training would take all the fun out of it.

    So I vowed to train outdoors, even if that meant enduring weather that I never ran in and exploring parts of Pittsburgh that I never saw before. I took it as an opportunity to challenge myself mentally, physically,

     » Read more about: Rediscovering Nature beneath the Soles of My Sneakers  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Kayak Pittsburgh North Shore is today (6/26) due to high water flow.
#KeepPittsburghPaddling

 

 

Get your 2017 Season Pass!

Featured Outing

Summer Solstice Hike
Wednesday, June 21
7 – 9:30 PM

Join us for an evening of exploration on an easy 3-4 mile hike around Hartwood Acres. On the longest day of the year, we will enjoy the tranquility of the woods, while listening for the critters that become active at dusk.


SIGN UP HERE!