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Border Air Quality Education - Curriculum

Most of the schools in the El Paso Independent District are located in areas that are close to major air pollution sources such as the busy interstate highway, three international bridges with long lines of trucks going both directions delivering international cargo, a large military base, a busy airport, a large oil refinery, and a sister city of 1.5 million. Today, El Paso meets air quality standards most days, but there are still ozone-alert days in the hot dry summers, dust storms with zero visibility, and brown inversion layers that spread over the area. Master teachers in the El Paso district worked with university educators to create this curriculum that informs the citizens about air quality issues and to bring about community and personal actions to decrease the air pollution. The product is an imbedded series of learning experiences for 50,000 students and their families addressing issues that are important and relevant to this border region. We share them with all educators.

Third graders learn about particulate matter and ozone. Coco the Chameleon teaches them how to read the air quality index so they can avoid playing outdoors when breathing the air may be unhealthy. more…

Fourth graders learn about air pollution caused by burning hydrocarbons from fossil fuels. They explore what it feels like to breathe if you have respiratory problems, and they make plans to have less air pollution around their school. more…

Texas is a good location for producing alternative energy – plenty of sunshine and windy plains. Fifth graders use inquiry learning experiences to explore wind, solar, and biofuels; and then make multimedia presentations to inform others. more…

Sixth graders measure temperature changes in ambient air compared to CO2 to understand the greenhouse effect and the foundation of climate change. They create public service announcements about the climate issues for the school news channel and their families. more…

Students in seventh grade use scientific data bases about cities with high air pollution levels to examine the relation between income, education, and health. They propose reasons why environmental conditions and poverty affect health. more…

El Paso is located in an area where inversions occur and a brown-gray haze often hangs over the city. Eighth grade students explore causes of thermal inversions and use data sources to find the major pollution sources affecting local air quality. more…

Using the important environmental history of the ASARCO copper smelter located near downtown El Paso, chemistry students learn how to identify sources of air pollution, the chemical behavior of these polluting compounds, and then explore options to reduce chemical air pollutants. more…

Students in Environmental Science classes examine environmental justice through the history of the copper smelter and use wind rose data to identify trends and ways that wind direction may affect air quality. They use scientific data to understand how our actions affect our neighbors in Mexico and develop solutions to improve regional air quality. more…

Watch short video about ASARCO workers visiting our high school class:


Suggestions for Greener Schools lists ways to reduce energy use at your school.

Earth Day Community Energy Activity is a survey that students can use in several ways to explore how to save energy and reduce carbon production.

Smelter in the City uses the story of a copper smelter that operated near the heart of El Paso for more than a century to examine the complexities in environmental education. Includes information and activities for secondary classrooms.

Web Resources for Teachers provides quick access to many lessons, information, and opportunities about environmental education.

Air Quality Monitor Grid template to make simple air quality monitors for student use.

Map of El Paso District Schools and Zones of High PM Readings

World Health Organization Report on Air Quality

Teaching Unit on Coal

Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence Alignment with BAQ Curriculum

Air Quality Index Chart for Elementary Classrooms

Air Quality Index Chart for Secondary Classrooms