Protectors of Air and Water (P.A.W)

Apr 21, 2023

P.A.W: Protectors of Air and Water
Exploring local air and water quality through storytelling and community science

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Western science methods together can uniquely provide an insight into our natural world. This project utilizes the advantages of both to help Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) youth and other local youth understand the importance of air quality and how it impacts our environment and our lives historically, currently, and into the future.

This project, beginning in the spring of 2022 with Mrs. Denton’s ninth grade Earth Science class at Cherokee High School (CHS) began working with students to better understand local air and water quality using western science and cultural methods.

Environmental Education

Students in Ronda Denton’s 9th grade Earth Science class learned about local air quality and air pollution through classroom science lessons using both English and Cherokee vocabulary. 

Students participated in a field trip to the two air quality monitoring sites managed by EBCI Natural Resources. 

Cultural Knowledge

Much can be gleaned from stories told by elders and older relatives and friends. The EBCI have been doing this for millennia, in the form of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. 

For this project, students delved deeper into the subject by developing and  conducting storytelling interviews of local elders.  Students worked with project staff to analyze their interviews and used this information to formulate their monitoring plans. 

Western Science Practices

Students collected particulate pollution concentration data using Airbeam monitors around school and at home. 

These monitors measure fine particulate matter, a contributor to poor health and environmental degradation.  



This project has been generously funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

Please, contact Sara Duncan at for more information about the project.