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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Air Pollution: What's the Solution?

Lesson Description:
Students will:
  • Focus on the science behind air quality issues. 
  • Look for relationships and trends among the data collected via real time sources.
  • Examine the health impact of air pollution.

Lesson Type:
  • Discussion
  • Group Work

Sustainability Topic:
  • Other

Time Needed:
1 class period
Standards Addressed:
Content Standard E: Science and Technology
Abilities of technological design
-Implement a proposed design

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Personal Health
-Natural environments may contain substances (for example, radon and lead) that are harmful to human beings. maintaining environmental health involves establishing or monitoring quality standards related to use of soil, water, and air.

Populations, Resources, and Environments
-Causes of environmental degradation and resource depletion vary from region to region and from country to country.

Natural Hazards
-Human activities also can induce hazards through resource acquisition, urban growth, land-use decisions, and waste disposal. such activities can accelerate many natural changes.

Risks and Benefits
-Risk analysis considers the type of hazard and estimates the number of people that might be exposed and the number likely to suffer consequences. The results are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.

-Individuals can use a systematic approach to thinking critically about risks and benefits. examples include applying probability estimates to risks and comparing them to estimated personal and social benefits.

-Excellence in environmental education (back to top)

-Strand 1 - Questioning and Analysis Skills
a) Questioning--Learners are able to develop, focus, and explain questions that help them learn about the environment and do environmental investigations.

Summarize an environmental problem or situation to provide context for, or explain the origin of, a particular question. create visual presentations (such as maps, graphs, or video tapes) and written and oral statements that describe their thinking about the problem.
Pose clear questions and ideas to test (hypotheses), reformulating them when necessary.
Clarify their own beliefs about the environment and discuss how those beliefs are reflected in the questions they ask.

b) Designing Investigations--Learners are able to design environmental investigations to answer particular questions--often their own questions. define the scope of their inquiry, identifying the main variables and phenomena to be studied.
select appropriate systems of measurement and observation.
select tools that are appropriate for their environmental investigations based on the question asked and the type of information sought.

c) Collecting Information--Learners are able to locate and collect reliable information about the environment or environmental topics using a variety of methods and sources. Observe systematically, measure accurately, and keep thorough and accurate records, which may include written notes and data tables, sketches, and photographs.
Understand and use various systems of measurement and derived measurements such as rates.
Assess, choose, and synthesize materials from resources such as aerial photographs, topographic maps, and satellite images; library and museum collections, historical documents, and eyewitness accounts; computerized databases and spreadsheets; the internet; and government records.
Collect firsthand information about their own community using field study skills.

d) Evaluating Accuracy and Reliability--Learners are able to judge the weaknesses and strengths of the information they are using. Examine evidence, identify faulty reasoning, and apply other basic logic and reasoning skills in evaluating information sources. Identify gaps in information that indicate a need for further discovery or inquiry.
Evaluate data and evidence for accuracy, relevance, significance, appropriateness, and clarity.

e) Organizing Information--Learners are able to classify and order data, and to organize and display information in ways that help analysis and interpretation. Present environmental data in a variety of formats including charts, tables, plots, graphs, maps, and flow charts.
Present environmental data in ways that demonstrate possible relationships between sets of information such as population census counts of a certain bird species and the prevalence of certain tree species or habitat types.

f) Working with Models and Simulations--Learners understand many of the uses and limitations of models. evaluate models based on the question being investigated. Account for variables such as the complexity of the model, its scale, its ability to represent important features of the process being modeled, and its reliability and accuracy.

g) Developing Explanations--Learners are able to synthesize their observations and findings into coherent explanations. Consider the possible relationships among two or more variables.
Propose explanations based on what they observed or learned through research, selecting which evidence to use and accounting for discrepancies.
Synthesize and interpret information from a range of sources.
Use their proposed explanations to form new questions and suggest new avenues of inquiry.

Strand 2.3 Humans and their Societies
d) Global Connections--Learners become familiar with ways in which the world's environmental, social, economic, cultural, and political systems are linked. Describe ways in which the global environment is affected by individual and group actions, as well as by government policies and actions having to do with energy use and other forms of consumption, waste disposal, resource management, industry, and population.
Explain how an environmental change in one part of the world can have consequences for other places. For example, develop a map or another visual presentation that shows the effects of acid rain or nuclear fallout in places distant from the source of the pollution.

Strand 2.4--Environment and Society
a) Human/Environment Interactions-- Learners understand that human-caused changes have consequences for the immediate environment as well as for other places and future times. Describe intended and unintended environmental and social consequences associated with the changing use of technologies. consider consequences that may be positive as well as negative.
Explain how human-caused environmental changes cause changes in other places.

Strand 3--Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues
a) Identifying and Investigating Issues--Learners are able to use primary and secondary sources of information, and apply growing research and analytical skills, to investigate environmental issues, beginning in their own community; clearly articulate and define environmental issues.

b) Sorting out the Consequences of Issues--Learners are able to apply their knowledge of ecological and human processes and systems to identify the consequences of specific environmental issues. Describe the effects of human actions on specific elements, systems, and processes of the environment.

c) Identifying and Evaluating Alternative Solutions and Courses of Action--Learners are able to identify and develop action strategies for addressing particular issues. Identify different proposals for resolving an environmental issue. Recognize and explain the perspectives on the issue that are embedded in those views.

Strand 3.2--Decision-making and Citizenship Skills
a) Forming and Evaluating Personal Views--Learners are able to identify, justify, and clarify their views on environmental issues and alternative ways to address them. Discuss personal perspectives with classmates, remaining open to new ideas and information.
Justify their views based on information from a variety of sources, and clear reasoning.

Massachusetts curriculum frameworks for science (back to top)

Strand 1: Earth and Space Science
1. Matter and Energy in the Earth System1.14: Explain how scientists study the earth system through the use of a combination of ground-based observations, satellite observations, and computer models of the earth system, and why it is necessary to use all of these tools together.

Strand 4: Technology/Engineering  2. Engineering Design 2.1:  Identify and explain the steps of the engineering design process, i.e., identify the need or problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best possible solution(s), test and evaluate, communicate the solution(s) .

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Science (back to top)

Standard 5.1 (Scientific Process)
All students will develop problem-solving, decision-making and inquiry skills, reflected by formulating usable questions and hypotheses, planning experiments, conducting systematic observations, interpreting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.

a. Habits of mind
-Communicate experimental findings to others.

b. Inquiry and problem solving identify questions and make predictions that can be addressed by conducting investigations.
Collect, organize, and interpret the data that result from experiments.
Select and use appropriate instrumentation to design and conduct investigations.

Standard 5.3 (Mathematical Applications)
All students will integrate mathematics as a tool for problem-solving in science, and as a means of expressing and/or modeling scientific theories.
d. Data analysis and probabilityrepresent and describe mathematical relationships among variables using graphs and tables.
Use computer spreadsheets, graphing and database applications to assist in quantitative analysis of data.

Standard 5.10 (Environmental Studies)
All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a system of interdependent components affected by human activity and natural phenomena.
a. Natural systems and interactionsdistinguish naturally occurring process from those believed to have been modified by human interaction or activity, such as ozone production

b. Human interactions and impactdescribe the effect of human activities on various ecosystems.
Evaluate the impact of personal activities on the local environment.

New York State Learning Standards for Science

Standard 4 - Science
Physical Setting 2: Many phenomena that we observe on earth involve interactions among components of air, water, and land.

-Living environment 7: Human decisions and activities have a profound impact on the physical and living environment.

Standard 6 - Interconnectedness: Common Themes
Models 2. Models are simplified representations of objects, structures, or systems used in analysis, explanation, interpretation, or design.
Patterns of Change 5. Identifying patterns of change is necessary for making predictions about future behavior and conditions.

Standard 7 - Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
1. The knowledge and skills of mathematics, science, and technology are used together to make informed decisions and solve problems, especially those relating to issues of science/technology/society, consumer decision making, design, and inquiry into phenomena.

2. Solving interdisciplinary problems involved a variety of skills and strategies, including effective work habits; gathering and processing information; generating and analyzing ideas; realizing ideas; making connections among the common themes of mathematics, science, and technology; and presenting results.
Materials Needed:
-Handouts attached
School or Group:
Green Education Foundation (gef)
Contact Email:
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf 7.1.pdf
Lesson Documents:
image/gif 7.2.gif
Located in: Science

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