Public Lab Research note

This is an attempt to replicate an activity.
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Air-Crafting: Teaching Atmospheric Attunements with Plant Air Purifiers in Davis, California

by PIAO |


Tim Choy and Jerry Zee worked on replicating the DIY plant remediation kit as an activity for an undergrad seminar at UC Davis called STS180: Air-Craft. The class used crafting exercises as a way of approaching and thinking through a number of questions about bodies, exposures, mediums, and life in the air. The plant filter was a great way of thinking about the chemical environments that we live in, especially as it made us talk about the conditions - political, social, epistemological, material - that necessitated home formaldehyde filters. It also got us all to think about the status of chemical paranoia and vigilance that the filters suggested. We also had a fun time tweaking easily sourced materials and building things out of them! It really played well with the spirit of tinkering and playing that we are trying to develop.

We made 10 hydro culture plant filters, but we did encounter some difficulties in sourcing materials and understanding the instructions--detailed in the following section.

The activity worked in about an hour of class, but a lot of time was required for sourcing and some prep work. We didn't have a water source to clean the roots in the class so we cleaned the roots in advance (at home) and wrapped them in wet paper towels.




Suggestions for refined instructions

-It would be great to have some pictures of the plants as the store we went to didn't know the Latin names and we were not sure if the plants we were buying were the correct ones. Maybe you could list a couple ones? We sourced locally so couldn't find Growstone, that is maybe more easily sourced online.

-It took us a little bit of time to parse the pump reversing GIF. The GIF was with a slightly different model (two motors and not one). A GIF with the appropriate pump and with labels of the parts (maybe just one long freeze frame with labels if that's easier).


-At the aquarium store there are a lot of different kinds of carbon, how do we know which one is best? Maybe pictures of the different kinds of carbon could be helpful and which ones would be best and why.

-We didn't feel totally confident about cleaning the roots, it feels very delicate and like life or death for the plant so some images documenting that process could be nice. We got the hang of it because we did so many but were a little confused at first.

-We were unsure about how far to put the plants into the medium, whether roots should be touching the water or not, whether roots could be exposed/above the top of the medium or not. More details would be helpful.


-Finding pots without holes in them was hard so we used buckets. More ideas for easy to find pots please!

remediation formaldehyde open-air indoor-air



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