Air Pollution Over Where?

From: http://www.msnucleus.org/membership/html/k-6/wc/atmosphere/6/wcat6_2a.html
Adapted by: Kirstin A. Bittel

2 periods
Preparation Time:
5 minutes making copies
Map of the World
Pollution source locations

In this lesson, students will predict the movement of an air borne pollutant using their understanding of air currents.

Purpose – To apply understanding of wind patterns to predict pollution movement.

Students will be able to:
1. Speculate on the path a source of air pollution might take and present hypothesis to the class.
2. Use air pattern evidence to support hypothesis.

National Science Education Standard:
CONTENT STANDARD D: Earth and Space Science

• Earth systems have internal and external sources of energy, both of which create heat. The sun is the major external source of energy. Two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from the earth’s original formation.

• Heating of earth’s surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.

• Global climate is determined by energy transfer from the sun at and near the earth’s surface. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover and the earth’s rotation, and static conditions such as the position of mountain ranges and oceans.


• Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by the earth’s internal and external sources of energy. These movements are often accompanied by a change in the physical and chemical properties of the matter. Carbon, for example, occurs in carbonate rocks such as limestone, in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas, in water as dissolved carbon dioxide, and in all organisms as complex molecules that control the chemistry of life.

Teacher Background
(See preceding lessons in this cycle.)

Related and Resource Websites
(See preceding lessons in this cycle.)













Day One
1. As students enter the room tell them that today they will be responsible for tracking a source of pollution and determine where it will most likely end up. They will need to determine which governments and/or communities should be contacted to be forewarned. Students should also be directed to explore the properties of their assigned pollutant as this will affect how it travels.

2. Divide the class into groups of three or four. Give each group the coordinates of a specific source of pollution and a map. See the sheet.

3. Allow the rest of the class period to track the possible global route of the pollution. Explain to students that they will be responsible for creating and presenting a poster with the class tomorrow. That poster should state not only the source of the pollution and a hypothesis as to the route it will most likely take, but it must also be supported by facts which will be shared with the class.

Day Two
1. Have groups share their posters with the class. Groups who are listening need to critique the routes being presented. It is the role of the students to ensure that all groups’ presentations make sense. They should be encouraged to actively question the groups if the presentations are not adequately supported by facts.

2. What similarities and differences were there between the patterns of dispersal? What is your response when you hear of pollution problems in other countries? Has your view changed? Why?


Embedded Assessment
Students can be assessed on the development and presentation to class of a hypothesis concerning the possible pathway of an airborne pollutant given details of the pollutant and its origin. Students should also be assessed on their use of air patterns to support hypothesis.
Specifically, do students recognize that the sun causes air heating and the resulting currents? Do students understand the similarities between mantle convection and atmospheric convections? Do students understand that the cells move warm air and therefore understand the relationship between pressure and the winds?


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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