South Coast AQMD Expands K-12 Education Programs

At the September 4th meeting, South Coast AQMD’s Governing Board approved the expansion of the K-12 education programs, Why Healthy Air Matters (WHAM) Program and Clean Air Program for Elementary Students (CAPES). These dynamic programs are designed to build on the agency’s long history of K-12 educational outreach to teachers and students in the region, especially within environmental justice communities. 

Why Healthy Air Matters (WHAM)
The WHAM program is South Coast AQMD’s middle school and high school education program. Students learn about air quality through an exciting, hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) based curriculum. The curriculum features eight units that focuses on regulation, air chemistry, health effects of air pollution, air pollution sources, and reducing air pollution. The curriculum also teaches students how to get involved and the academic and career paths they can take to help clean the air.

The WHAM program will now be offered to 300 high school classrooms this academic school year, up from last year’s 100 high schools. Additionally, WHAM will now be offered to 100 middle school classrooms. Due to COVID-19, South Coast AQMD quickly pivoted in March to adjust the curriculum for distance learning. Some of the planned improvements to WHAM include further options for distance and hybrid learning such as online workbooks, videos, and improved web content.

A specialized curriculum also will be developed by an external expert to enhance the focus on South Coast AQMD, including key issues such as AB 617 and environmental justice, regional air quality, actions students and their families can take to clean the air, education and career opportunities related to air quality, and more.

For more information on the Why Healthy Air Matters program, contact Monika Kim at 909-396-2342.

Clean Air Program for Elementary Students (CAPES)
The CAPES program is South Coast AQMD’s elementary school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) educational program that focuses on engaging and educating teachers, students, and their families on air quality and the health effects of air pollution.

CAPES, formerly known as the Clean Air Ranger Education Program, was launched in 2019. In the pilot year, presentations were made at six elementary schools throughout South Coast AQMD’s jurisdiction, reaching over 2,000 students. Interactive presentations were made at student assemblies that included an interactive dry ice experiment, examples of how students can help clean the air, information on zero-emission equipment, and instruction on how to read the Air Quality Index. Under the expanded program, presentations will be made to at least 20 schools per year, create educational videos, and work with a curriculum specialist to develop educational materials.

Under CAPES, a School Flag Program is also available for participating schools to display an air quality flag indicating the air quality conditions for the day. The flags are used as a tool to promote air quality monitoring as part of the daily school routine. Schools in environmental justice communities are prioritized for the program as they are the most impacted by air pollution.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and after extensive research with school administrators and teachers, South Coast AQMD will be implementing CAPES virtually. A series of interactive online videos on air pollution, the Air Quality Index, science experiments, and careers in STEM are being developed to accommodate the shift to distance learning. The videos will help create awareness about the agency and air quality issues. The virtual format will allow teachers to have flexibility on how they incorporate the material into their teaching plans. South Coast AQMD staff will be available to present to students upon request, either through virtual format or in person when the opportunity presents.

For more information on CAPES or to implement it in your school, contact Alicia Rodriguez at (909) 396-2311 or

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