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8th Inquiry Activities- Local Pollution Sources and Their Impacts

Activity 1: What Do You Know about Air Pollution in your Community?

Create this Tree Chart in white board or computer projection. Students list what they may know about problems, causes, and solutions to air pollution in their community. Revisit the chart at the end of this module to make additions, deletions, and corrections.

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Problems                                                      Causes                                                            Solutions

Activity 2: Map and Learn from Air Quality Concerns in your Community.

Students view: How to Create a "My Map" in Google Maps

(Students will need a Google account to use this tool.) Working in teams, they create a google map of their community locating pollution sources, schools, homes, and locations such as these:

  • major traffic arteries and hubs including airports, train stations, and bus stations
  • manufacturing areas and industrial areas
  • refineries
  • military bases
  • mountains and the river
  • international bridges

Students check website, to find their city's air quality score for the day.

Students find other sources of air pollution in the area using SCORE website

Activity 3 -- Read About Ozone and Health

Review information about factors affecting ozone formation from EPA's Ground level Ozone and Health at

Read Characterization of Traffic Related Air Pollution in Elementary Schools and its Impact on Asthmatic Children in El Paso, Texas.

Then discuss:

  • Which areas might be high ozone producers?
  • What places should a person with respiratory problems avoid on ozone action days?
  • Where are low-lying areas where ozone can collect?
  • Where might thermal inversions settle?
  • Students chart the ozone action days during the last three years. They discuss the trends they see and why.
Activity 4 -- Demonstration of Thermal Inversions

By Wayne Parker, Guide

First show pictures of your region when the air is clean and when there is pollution caused by a thermal inversion. Click here for photos from El Paso, Texas.

We recommend that you do this activity as a demonstration.

  1. Fill two narrow mouth quart or pint jars with warm tap water and two with cold tap water. The water should be close to the top of each jar.
  2. Put yellow food coloring in the warm water bottles and blue food coloring in the cold water bottles.
  3. Explain to the students what you are going to do. Have the students brainstorm what they think will happen and why. The teachers can write the suggestions on the board.
  4. Place an index card over the mouth of one of the warm water bottles, and invert the bottle and the card over the mouth of one of the cold water bottles. Match the mouths so they are precise. Remove the index card.
  5. Follow the same procedure with the two other bottles except that the cold water bottle should be on top. Record results. Students discuss in groups and as a class to develop an explanation similar to this one. The density of the water, like air, varies with temperature. When the cold water jar is on top, the more dense cold water will sink and the warm water, which is less dense, will rise mixing together. If the warm water jar is on top, the less dense warm water will stay on top and the "heavier" cold water will stay on the bottom and will not mix. Students think about what they have learned and apply these principles to the local atmosphere in order to understand air pollution. Give the students time to think and talk in small groups, then share with the rest of the class.
  6. Watch YouTube Temperature Inversion Cool Science Experiment
  7. Organizing and presenting the information: After students read the Background Information on Thermal Inversions, observed the demonstration, and watch the YouTube Experiment, they work together in teams to present the major concepts about thermal inversion in a graphic organizer.
  8. Add relevant information to the Tree Chart

Activity 5: Community Energy Activity Survey

Students take the survey home and have three people take the survey. They bring the data back to the class and the class graphs the results.

Evaluation Activities:

Studies on "self-persuasion" by Dr. Greg Walton at UT Austin show that "If students watch a video or read an essay with a particular message and then write their own essay or make their own video to persuade future students, they internalize the message more deeply." The teachers wanted culminating activities that were strong in developing student advocacy as well as demonstrating student understanding. They were able to clearly show student success in these three activities, and student engagement was at an all-time high as they made the movie trailers.

  1. Students add "Solutions" to the Tree Chart
  2. Students write 3-5 minute essay explaining what they learned about Air Pollution Sources and Solutions
  3. Students create a Movie Trailer that describes the 'movie' – Air Quality in My Community

Monitor the Particulate Matter in the Air with Experimental Controls

Based on the information learned in the previous activities, students work in teams to design an investigation (controlling variables) using the Air Quality Monitor to compare air quality at several locations. Allow the students to discuss how they will standardize the monitoring -- set at 4 feet high, vertical, 24 hours, put the Vaseline very thin because it will get soft and run, avoid real windy days, think carefully about where and how to hang them, etc. The results can be quantified (to an extent) by counting particulates in the squares and finding the average.

Examining Cars and Fuel Efficiency

Students review new cars and select the one they would like to "purchase". They can get a picture from the Internet, newspaper, brochure, etc. or make their own drawing. Then they check to check their car's fuel economy. "Give" each student three gallons of gas. They figure how many miles their car will travel. The ones with the most miles are the "winners."

8th Introduction

8th Background Information

8th Inquiry Activities