CEC – For the Community

Our outreach programs for the community focus on translating environmental health research, particularly about air quality and asthma, for laypeople in the community. We use a variety of activities to provide research translation, and also actively encourage local Boston youth to pursue careers in health. For more information, or to include one or more of our activities in an upcoming event, contact Ann Backus.

Hands-On Outreach Activities

Our hands-on engagement activities aim to teach the general public about pulmonary and cardiovascular health. We bring these demonstrations to a variety of community events throughout the year, along with a team of Center researchers and trainees. We are currently expanding our offerings to include education on health factors for asthma, obesity, and the connection between the two.

Combustion LEGO®
Developed by the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, this activity uses ordinary LEGO® bricks to model the chemical reactions of complete and incomplete combustion—one of the sources of air pollution—in a way that is easy to understand.

Inflatable Lungs
Just what exactly does cigarette smoke do to your lungs? Inflate and touch real lungs to see and feel the difference between a healthy lung and a cancerous lung, and learn how to keep your lungs healthy.

Peak Expiratory Flow
Test the health of your airways with a peak flow meter and compare your score to a target range based on age, height, and gender. Then, chart your score to see how you compare to other people in your own community.


Peak-Flow-Handout 4-2021

Science at the Market

Since 2013, we have offered “Science Days” at the Winter Farmers’ Market sponsored by the Codman Square Health Center. Using hands-on activities attendees use inflatable lungs to learn about the health impacts of air pollution and smoking and measure their peak flow to learn about asthma and the mitigation of asthma triggers. Education around the potential hazards of ingredients such as phthalates in personal beauty products is introduced through a label reading/sorting game. For children, we use a special set of Lego™ bricks developed by MIT (Combustion Lego™) to show how particles/air pollution results from incomplete combustion.

Youth Pathway to Health Careers Program with the Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC)


Photo of students
Students and Prof. Gary Adamkiewicz doing a walk around the Mission Hill neighborhood to examine air quality. Photo credit Jeannette Myrick.

Our Center has collaborated with the Boston Area Health Education Center of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) for over seven years to provide an intense summer experience for minority high school youth who are interested in careers in health or public health. The youth gather at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health campus one day per week for 5 weeks and participate in a highly interactive program to learn about public health issues.  The themes may change from year to year and have included air pollution and disaster preparedness.