Note on Instructional Sequence
In a previous lesson, students will have become familiar with the relationship between humans and air pollution (DCI ESS2.A; DCI LS4.D). This knowledge will be applied to this lesson and will support the students as they complete the analogy map.
Part 1: Effects of Poor Air Quality
- “Air pollution takes years off lives in northern China”, NEWSELA article
- Chart Paper
- Chart Markers
- Gather materials and make copies.
- Write the word “air pollution” on a piece of chart paper. With help from the students, generate a Word Web around this word as a way to assess student prior knowledge.
- When you are done recording student ideas label the top of the paper “What we Know”. This chart is the first part of a K-W-L you will complete during this activity. (K- “What we Know”, W- “What we want to Know”, L- “What we Learned”)
- With a partner, have students generate questions they have about around the current conversation. Let students record their questions on a new piece of chart paper labeled “What we want to Know”. If they notice another question on the chart paper similar to their question they should put a check next to this question instead of adding their question to the list.
- As a group, examine the “What we want to Know” chart paper and discussion common themes and questions, and acknowledge any unique questions. Some of these questions will hopefully be addressed by the following reading and activities, but it is okay if there are unanswered questions. These unanswered questions can be used to guide extended activities and/or individual student research.
- Provide students with the NEWSELA article, along with the following guiding questions. (NEWSELA requires users to be registered to read and download articles. Registration is free.)
- Air pollution takes years off lives in northern China, NEWSELA article
- What is the main source of pollution mentioned in this reading?
- What is the relationship between living north of the Huai River and life expectancy?
- How did the unique situation north and south of the Huai River in China make it possible for researchers to establish a relationship between air pollution and health? (The Huai River splits the northern part of China from the southern part of China.)
- What did the Chinese government do during and after Airpocalypse to manage this phenomenon?
- Define the following term using the reading:
- Total Suspended Particulate (TSPs)
Suggested Literacy Strategies:
- Have students read the entire article and discuss as a group.
- Jig-saw the reading, by having students read assigned sections and share what they have learned with the rest of the students in the class.
- Have the students take notes, or highlight, or text code as they are reading.
- Provide students with a glossary of new terms they will encounter in this article (e.g. total suspended particulates, pollution, coal, cardiorespiratory, micrograms)
- After students have completed the reading, discuss their answers to the guiding questions with a partner before engaging the entire class in a discussion.
- Return to the “K” and “W” charts from earlier and label a final piece of chart paper “What we learned”. As a group, fill in this chart. Ask the students to answer (in a preliminary way) the guiding questions, their questions on the “What we want to Know” chart to link their interests to the reading, and record any additional things they learned from the reading and discussion. Encourage students to refer directly to the text and provide evidence for their statements. (If students generate more questions they can be added to the “What we want to Know” chart.)
Use this discussion to highlight:
Remember to link back to the core idea and CCC concepts students should be considering- based on both articles together, do they have more evidence to suggest causal or correlational relationships between human activities and effects on Earth systems? Ask students to describe, using evidence from both articles and reasoning, whether the relationship between human activities, air pollution, and any subsequent impacts (e.g., health effects) are causal or correlational. If they suggest correlational, ask students to provide alternative interpretations of the information.
- Again, return to the “KWL” charts from earlier and as group add to the chart paper labeled “What we learned”. Inform students that over the next few class periods, they will be examining air pollution in their area in more depth, and the K-W-L chart will help them keep track of new information and new lines of inquiry.
- These discussions and any additional conversation around the K-W-L chart should be used as a formative assessment to determine student understanding before progressing to the next activity.
Part 2: Air Pollutant Model
- 1 utility candle
- 1 tin can (soup can)
- Paper towel or rag
- Hot mitt
- Gather materials and practice the process a few times before facilitating this activity.
- This activity requires the use matches and fire; they should not be conducted by students without adult supervision.
- Ask students to think about what they learned about air pollution in the previous section of the lesson. Ask them if they think air pollution might be a problem in their home towns, specifically in their schools and areas they spend a lot of time in (home, rec centers, fields, grocery stores, etc.).
- Ask students to think about the causes of air pollution, and list 2-3 they learned about from their readings and other experiences (e.g., cars, factories, volcanoes). Ask them to describe (list, diagram) why they think those things cause air pollution, based on what they know so far. After students have noted their ideas about real-world air pollution, ask them to share out what they don’t know yet, or have questions about that would help them understand how their examples cause air pollution.
- After students have had an opportunity to share their questions, tell them that you are doing to do a class demonstration to help them think about pollution using a model.
- Let the students know that this demonstration is a model to illustrate what happens during incomplete combustion in cars, which is one of the leading sources of air pollution. Encourage students to share any observations they’ve made related to cars and pollution in their local area. (If you have worked with models prior to this lesson, review models with your students. If the practice of developing and using models is new to your students you might want to pause the lesson here to add content on developing and using models.)
- In their science notebooks, have the students create a chart with four columns. Label column one to four as follows: “part of the model”, “…is/are like…”, “part of the real world”, “They are alike because…”. When the chart is complete the rows will create complete sentences about how the parts of the model are like part of the real world. (See Air Pollutant Model Chart for an example.)
- Lay out all of the materials you will be using for the demonstration and have the students identify the materials.
- Once students are ready, light the candle.
- Wearing a hot mitt, place the bottom of the tin can directly over the flame for a few seconds. The top of the flame should be almost touching the can. (See Figure 1 below.)
Extinguish candle before moving onto the next step.
Modeling based on the demonstration:
Pollution can be an abstract concept, and students often lump various sources of pollution together. In this section, students have the opportunity to visualize particulate matter specifically, and think about how models can be used to learn more about phenomena that may not always be visible. The following discussion connects back to cars as a source of pollution, but you could substitute this for another context that might be more relevant to your students.
- Show students the bottom of the can and ask them to share their observations. What do they see? (Answer: Black, sooty area.) Clean off the bottom of the can with a paper towel. (See Figure 1 above.) Have students also observe the soot on the towel. If possible, have students use a microscope for a closer look at the particle produced by the flame.
- Ask the students to think about what they just observed in the demonstration. How does this demonstration relate to cars contributing to air pollution? If students need more time to develop their ideas let them record their thoughts on paper and discuss with a partner before engaging in a classroom discussion.
- On their own, or with a partner, have the students begin to tease out the parts of the model and how they relate to the real world, and record their ideas on the chart in the science notebook. (See Air Pollutant Model Chart for an example.)
- Have a few students share their charts. The charts can still be a work in progress if students are struggling with different aspects of the model. As students are sharing, ask other students to compare their charts to the ones being shared. Did they make similar correlations between the model and the real world? See the filled out chart below to help you facilitate this discussion with your students.
- As a class, return to the “K-W-L” charts from earlier, and have students add to the “What we Learned” chart. If needed, use another piece of chart paper. Remind students that they are using this chart to help them record how their knowledge about pollution is building over time. Prompt students to include not only information related to the DCI, but information about cause and effect relationships, systems and system models, etc.
- Ask students about the limitations of models- you could do this by posing a question, and asking students to think about how well the model could be used to answer it- what would be missing in the answer? Why might it not be completely accurate? Have the students discuss what some of the limitations of this air pollutant model are. What changes can we make to our models to account for these limitations? How should they impact our interpretations of the models in real world contexts?
Based on their observations, ask students what might happen to the soot if something about the candle were changed- either adding multiple candles, or change the energy source. Ask students to describe their answers by citing patterns and causal relationships they have observed or are reasoning about- if possible, allow some students to describe their thinking derived from the model, and test their thoughts as a class.
Ask students to use this exercise to help them think about what factors may be indicators of air pollution in an area, such as their school. Have students make a list in small groups, justifying features they think may indicate higher levels of air pollution based on their observations from the model.
Part 3: Particulate Matter Collectors
Each student needs:
- Map of the school or testing area (can be drawn by students or created for them)
Each group needs:
- 1 small glass jar (spice jar or baby food jar)
- 1 large glass jar (pickle, mayo or mason-type jar)
- Petroleum jelly
- Masking tape
- Magnifying glass
- 1 index card
For the entire class to share:
- Chart paper (large, bulletin-board sized)
- Colored construction paper
- Transparent tape
- Gather materials.
- Consider testing possible collection sites for the particulate matter collectors before the experiment. Some sites may not result in a lot of visible particulates and this can frustrate the students.
- Make sure you place collectors in low-traffic areas as to avoid having unaware students and school visitors tripping or breaking the glass.
- Keep in mind that the collectors may have to stay at each site, undisturbed, for a few days.
- This activity is not a rapid or neat experiment. To obtain significant results, the jars need to be placed in very dirty areas.
- Set the collectors on white paper while observing them; it makes the particulates easier to see.
Planning and Predicting
- Share the driving question for this investigation with students Driving Question:
How can we measure air quality around our homes/schools and how can we use this information to improve air quality?
- Ask the students to think about what they might need to do so that they can begin to answer this question. If they need prompting, remind them of the NEWSELA article, the ABC News video and the air pollutant model demonstration they constructed during an earlier part of this investigation.
- Guide students to the idea that they need to collect data on particulate matter around the school, and develop ideas about reducing particulate matter, but before they do this they need to help plan the investigation.
- With your students, decide on several locations around the school — inside and outside — at which students think visible pollutants may be found. Ask them where they might find different types of pollution. (This can help probe student thinking on contributions to pollution, as well as provide controls for their investigations). To complete this step you should include student ideas from the modeling exercise, and might want to include a walk around the school to determine the testing locations, or have the students create a map of the school grounds. Have students keep in mind that collectors should be placed in low-traffic areas as to avoid having unaware students and school visitors tripping or breaking the collectors, and that collectors will need to remain undisturbed for a few days. Students can share suggestions about how to keep collectors safe during this time period.
- Ask students to identify different possible variables that might be involved in the investigation. Also, spend time considering a control jar. Why would we need a control jar? Where should it be places?
- Ask students to make predictions about which area will have more visible pollutants and why. Have students record their predictions in their science notebooks.
- Divide the class into student pairs and assign each group to a different collection site. (Possible locations: Near a road or parking lot, a garage with car exhaust, a sandy/dusty playground, teachers' lounge or where people take smoking breaks, a stove, the classroom air filter/vent or the school's air intake/vent, etc.) To increase student engagement, you could have the groups think about, given the list of places they have decided on, which ones impact/interest them the most- is one of sites close to a classroom they visit every day? Do they have a sibling that has practice outside near a site, when they are usually breathing heavily? Students can then investigate this area, and compare their findings to other areas.
- Distribute supplies to each group (1 small jar, 1 large jar, petroleum jelly, masking tape).
- Demonstrate the collector set up. (You can place the lid on this collector and keep it in the classroom as a control.)
- Smear petroleum jelly on the outside of the small jar.
- Carefully place the small jar inside large jar.
- Use the masking tape to make a label for the large jar; include name, date and test site location.
- Ask the student to think about the design of the Particulate Matter Collectors they just built. Why did we smear the jar with petroleum jelly? Why did we place the smaller jar inside of the larger jar? Why did we only put the cover on the jar that is going to remain in the classroom as a control? What can we do with the data we are collecting?
- Place jars in the test sites for several days. Have the groups check the jars daily and record observations in their science notebooks. Have students design their own methods for collecting the data, reminding them that they should collect the data in a way that will allow them to find and interpret relationships that they can use to answer questions that they have about pollution in their schools, or describe the relative air pollution in a certain area of the school. Have students record their data collection methodology, including how those methods are going to allow them to gather the necessary data. If students ask to have a separate control somewhere else in the school, let them choose where and what that control is, as long as they can justify it.
- On the final day of observations, bring the jars back to the classroom for comparison.
- Have students observe the amount of pollutants on their collectors. Ask them to think about how we can measure the particulate matter on their jars?
- Have students rank the jars from the one with the fewest visible pollutants to the one with the most, lining them up across a counter or table. Remember to include the control jar.
- On a map of the school grounds, have the students record the ranking for each of these sites, and record them on a map of the school- ask students if they see any patterns across the school.
- As part of their data analysis, have the students discuss their observations with a partner. Do they notice any patterns or trends in the class data? Are there any anomalies? Can they make a claim or statement about the areas around the school and the quality of air? Why might certain areas be more polluted than others? Encourage students to think back to the first activity, including human and natural causes of air pollution. Would any of the previously studied causes play a role here? (Particulate matter sources can include driving or idling cars and buses, factories, fires, volcanoes.)
- Have the students watch the BrainPop video on Air Pollution. Keep in mind that some students might need to watch the video a few times to fully comprehend the material.
- Discuss why certain areas have more visible pollutants than others. Remind students that these particles are in the air they breathe. Ask them to write about how they feel about this in their science notebooks.
- As a class, return to the “K-W-L” charts from earlier, and have students share their analysis and add to the “What we Learned” chart. If needed, use another piece of chart paper.
Part 4: Performance Task
Copies of Writing Performance Task Rubric
Gather materials and make copies.
- Ask the students to think about their results- based on the patterns they observed, and the information they gathered from both the investigation and other sources, what are some of the major causes of air pollution in our school? What could we do to improve air quality? Give students an additional opportunity to gather information if necessary.
- Ask students to now use their knowledge to think about another area in the community they really care about- this can be their homes, grocery stores, recreation centers, parks, etc. Ask them to think about 1) what may be causing air pollution in those areas, 2) what the effects of that pollution might be, and 3) what some ways to improve air quality in those specific places might be.
- Ask students to draft a plan in which the particulate matter collection tool is used to accurately measure the air quality around their homes/other area of interest.
- Review the previous activities and the K-W-L charts in preparation for the performance task. Remind students that they can use the information recorded in their notebooks and the K-W-L chart to support their writing.
- Review the Performance Task Rubric with students
Be prepared to present your plan to the class.
Performance Task Scaffolds:
- Provide sentence starters.
- Have the students discuss their thoughts as a group before they have to write their response.
- Have students peer review the performance tasks and offer suggestions to their classmates.
- Allow students to complete performance task through writing, drawing or presentation.
Air Quality Data
- More sites that examine air quality by zip code and state. Students can compare and contrast their neighborhood with other neighborhoods in their state and in other states.
Additional Resources and Information
- Students can test their proposed air quality monitoring designs.
- Students can conduct individual students research or class research on any of the questions that remain unanswered on the “What we want to Know” chart.
- Make a school map on large chart paper. For each test site, cut a jar shape from colored construction paper and write on it the ranking, location and number of particles collected (if possible to count). Adhere each cut-out jar to the correct location on the map. What conclusions can you draw from the map? Write a few of these conclusions neatly on index cards. Display the map and index card conclusions in a school hallway for others to see.
- Post a chart listing the causes of visible pollutants and what can be done to prevent them. Leave the chart up so students can add to it whenever they have an idea.
- For the student experiment, try all the different types of collectors in the same place. Does one type do a better job (collect more pollutants)? Do they each attract a different type of pollutant?
- Have students make a bar graph showing the quantity of pollutants (vertical) vs. the jar locations (horizontal). What conclusions can you draw from the graph?
- Find our about factories in your area. What do they make? What types of waste do they produce? How do they dispose of the waste? In the U.S., you can check them out on the EPA website.
- Invite someone from the EPA (or other local person responsible for monitoring air quality) to your classroom. Encourage students to ask questions about the types, causes, and levels of air pollution in your community.
- Other suggestions to extend this activity can be found at TeachEngineering, including the original Got Dirty Air? lesson.