Grant to Create Air Quality Curriculum
STEPHANIE SANCHEZ | October 07, 2011 | NEWS@UTEP
The El Paso-Ciudad Juárez area is labeled at-risk for dangerous air quality by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and The University of Texas at El Paso is working to create a long-term solution to fix this problem.
Three professors are spearheading the Buen Ambiente-Buena Salud: Educational Strategies for Addressing Air Quality on the Border program. As part of this five-year effort, an air quality curriculum will be distributed to area school districts, and more undergraduate and graduate students will be trained in environmental health fields.
The EPA in July awarded a $1.24 million grant to the University's Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM). UTEP also will provide a $920,000 in-kind contribution for the program.
"These are very important issues here in the El Paso and Juárez area," said William L. Hargrove, Ph.D., director of CERM and primary investigator for the grant. "We have a lot of problems."
Pollution can cause health problems such as chest pain, coughing, congestion, inflammation, throat irritation and breathing difficulties. It also can worsen conditions like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, according to the EPA.
Among the contributing factors to air pollution are traffic, the arid climate and industrial companies, Hargrove said. With this program, more than 50,000 students in El Paso will learn about the basics of air quality and its impact on public health, he said.
The air quality curriculum will give students a different approach to science, offer content for English-learning classes and closely examine social justice concerns relevant to environmental issues, said Elaine Hampton, Ph.D., a retired UTEP professor of teacher education who is developing the K-12 curriculum.
About 40 El Paso Independent School District teachers and curriculum leaders will help write the modules. They are working in teams to develop and field test a two-week unit about air quality issues with content specific to their grades, Hampton said. The curriculum should be finished in three years and it will take two years to distribute the materials and train teachers, she said.
In the second part of the plan, Wen-Whai Li, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, will oversee a multidisciplinary internship program that will give 50 UTEP students opportunities to gain experience in air quality-related fields.
"One unique feature of this project is that the (UTEP) students must carry out some environmental citizenship project to take action to improve air quality in the region," Hampton said.