Schoolchildren in Melbourne’s inner west are paving the way towards a healthier future one backpack at a time.

In Melbourne, over 300 children from six primary schools will be sporting one-of-a-kind bags that double up as air quality readers* to help scientists explore ways to reduce air pollution.

It’s all part of the study “Breathe Melbourne” where children will become air quality scientists by collecting valuable data while on their way to and from the classroom.

Schools in the council areas of Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay were specifically chosen to be involved in the research due to the high air pollution levels and asthma rates.

This is because of the locations’ industrial* history, proximity* to the Port of Melbourne and the excessive* amount of diesel-fuelled vehicles on surrounding roads, namely trucks.

Consequently*, Professor Lou Irving from the Royal Melbourne Hospital says the area has become a “hotspot for active asthma” with more inner west children presenting to hospitals with the lung condition compared to most other areas of Australia.

“The Breathe Melbourne Study is very important because it focuses on a group of children who we know are already at risk because of poor air quality, and it’s aimed at helping to reduce the risk, as well as aiding* the management of asthma symptoms.”

Appliance giant Dyson and the Victorian State Government have joined forces with Deakin University to bring the study to life, which will see the schoolchildren and some of their teachers wearing the air quality backpacks over a period of four days between mid-March and the end of May.

Dyson engineer and one of the masterminds behind the backpack, James Shale, explained how the air quality readers inside the bag worked. A small fan within the backpack directs outside air through an opening towards the sensors*, which then measures the air particles* and volume of carbon dioxide.*

A GPS tracker is also connected to the bag which allows experts to see what areas have more air pollution.

Meanwhile, the second section of the bag acts as a functional space so children can pack the items they need for school.

Data from the sensors is then analysed* by researchers at Deakin University who will work with participating students to determine ways to improve the air they breathe.

A pilot study* with students from Kingsville Primary School showed children willingly changed their walking routes and the ways they got to school following the experiment as they found healthier alternatives.

While the study will educate children and develop their awareness around air pollution, lead researcher, Dr Kate Lycett hopes the data collected will persuade policy makers* to take action.

“We have a lot of dirty fuel in Australia compared to other parts of the world and we need to obviously incentivise* more electric vehicles, all those types of things … I think there’s a lot at the policy level and some of that is starting to happen,” Dr Lycett said.

“All children have the right to clean air … your postcode should not determine the quality of air you breathe,” she said.


  • quality readers: measuring the quality of the air
  • industrial: area where there are lots of factories
  • proximity: being close to something/someone
  • excessive: exceeding what is proper, necessary, or normal
  • consequently: as a result
  • aiding: helping or providing aid and comfort
  • sensors: a device that responds to a physical stimulus, such as air
  • air particles: microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air
  • carbon dioxide: a colourless, odourless gas produced by burning carbon and organic compounds and breathing
  • analysed: a detailed examination of anything complex
  • pilot study: the initial study
  • policy makers: someone, especially in a government or political party, who decides on new laws
  • incentivise: to encourage somebody to behave in a particular way by offering them a reward


Crocs could be key in fight against human infections

Forever chemicals causing harm

‘Famous’ Prime energy drink warning for kids


  1. Why were those particular suburbs chosen to be included in the study?
  2. How does the Dyson backpack work?
  3. What will scientists do with the data they get back?
  4. Students from which school took part in the pilot study?
  5. Dr Kate Lycett hopes the data collected will persuade policy makers to do what?


1. Healthiest Route to School
Draw a map from your place to your school taking what you believe would be the ‘healthiest’ route. This would be away from main roads and cars or other polluted areas such as factories. It might also be a longer and more scenic route to ensure you get plenty of fresh air and exercise on your way to school.

Label your map when street names, landmarks and sketch some key markers along the way.

Present your map to the class.

You might like to walk or ride this route to school this week or on National Ride 2 School day on Friday March 24th.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking.

2. Extension
“All children have the right to clean air … your postcode should not determine the quality of air you breathe”

How do you think this statement relates to where you live? Are you lucky to live in a fairly non-polluted, healthy environment, or do you live in an inner-city area with more cars and pollution?

Do you think the results of this air study may affect where families choose to live and buy houses? Explain your answer.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. Start by looking at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article.

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Source link