The Government wants all New Zealand schools to provide quality learning environments by 2030, and that includes the air quality, the temperature and relative humidity within each classroom.
It’s a safe assumption that children find it harder to learn if they are too hot or too cold, the lighting is too bright or too dim, and the level of CO2 in the room is too high and making them drowsy.
This year the Ministry of Education is working with a selection of schools to collect and monitor data so that it can define and set the required standards for all schools by 2030.
Brandon van Blerk, CEO of Tether, a healthy homes, workplace and school environmental tech monitoring company, is proud to be part of a small pilot the ministry is undertaking to start monitoring the environment within classrooms.
“This includes things like thermal comfort levels in the classroom, taking into account temperature and humidity and ensuring it is not too high or too low.
“The environment in a classroom also includes the carbon dioxide levels, which indicates how well ventilated a room is. Too much carbon dioxide makes anyone in that environment sleepy which obviously is not good for kids’ attention spans.”
The environmental monitoring Tether is undertaking in the pilot also includes lighting to ensure it is neither too bright nor too dim and measuring the ambient noise level.
“The average decibel reading indicates how well the room can absorb sound. If it is too echoey, it can be distracting for children.”
And van Blerk understands that nationally a percentage of schools do not meet quality learning environment standards, especially smaller schools in lower decile or rural areas.
“My understanding is that by 2030 the Ministry wants to ensure every classroom in every school is environmentally healthy for the children who spend a large part of their day in that environment.”
He says Tether’s EnviroQ sensors installed in the pilot classrooms measure temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, light, sound, dew point temperature and atmospheric pressure.
The sensors take a reading every 10 minutes and while the data is currently sent to the Ministry, van Blerk says Tether would also like to engage, through its real-time monitoring app, with school staff offering them alerts and notifications if something is amiss.
“If the CO2 levels are too high, the app can send an alert to let them know they should open a window or door to dissipate the C02.”
He also sees the app, and real-time reporting, as a learning tool for children in each classroom, so they can begin to understand what a healthy environment, whether at home or at school, looks and feels like. And they can begin to understand how they can rectify various environmental quality factors in a room.