How’d That Pollution Get There?

By: Kirstin Bittel & Rachel Hughes

Time: 1-2 class periods
Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes making copies of articles
Materials: Copies of articles from internet (sites listed below)
Blank Copy of world map per group

During this lesson, students are introduced to the issue of air and water pollution by sharing prior knowledge and reading an overview of the global pollution problems. Students will read different articles and then prepare a brief summary of the situation to share with classmates. This is the introductory lesson for the quarter long unit of study on the relationship between air and water currents, water and climate, and air quality.

Purpose –Engagement of students in the topic of air and water currents by studying the effect of pollution originating from different countries on the rest of the world. Students will also begin to take note of the health impacts associated with reduced air and water quality.

Students will be able to:
1. Communicate and present findings in an oral format
2. Identify patterns of pollution flowing via air and water currents

National Science Education Standard:
Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

• Natural ecosystems provide an array of basic processes that affect humans. Those processes include maintenance of the quality of the atmosphere, generation of soils, control of the hydrologic cycle, disposal of wastes, and recycling of nutrients. Humans are changing many of these basic processes, and the changes may be very detrimental.

• Many factors influence environmental quality. Factors that students might investigate include population growth, resource use, population distribution, over-consumption, the capacity of technology to solve problems, poverty, the role of economic, political, and religious views, and different ways humans view the earth.

• Natural and human-induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential dangers and risks. Many changes in the environment designed by humans bring benefits to society, as well as cause risks. Students should understand the costs and trade-offs of various hazards--ranging from those with minor risk to a few people to major catastrophes with major risk to many people. The scale of events and the accuracy with which scientists and engineers can (and cannot) predict events are important considerations.

Teacher Background
Local weather and climatic changes are a result of global wind and water patterns. In general warm air and water rise and move. Colder denser air or water rushes in to fill that space. It too is then heated and moves on. As the warm air or water cools, it sinks back down to continue the cycle. As air and water move in these currents they move pollutants from one area to another. Thus North America sends pollution to Europe and Canada. China sends pollution to North America and India (depending upon where that pollution occurs).

The impacts of long distance pollution on local air and water quality initiates a conversation concerning how our health can be impacted and how we impact others health by our practices.

Related and Resource Websites

NASA Satellites and Balloons Spot Airborne Pollution Train

Asian Pollution Cloud Changing Climate, Study Says

New Nasa/Csa Monitor Provides Global Air Pollution View From Space

Bay skies to come alive with the dust of China: Gobi Desert storm sends sand flying 7,000 miles

Breathe, Breathe In the Air, don’t Be Afraid to Care

A Far-Reaching Fire Makes a Point About Pollution (To get this you must register with nytimes.com for free)

Mercury in California rainwater traced to industrial emissions in Asia

Acid Rain

Working Together For Cleaner Air

Mercury Pollution is a Growing Global Menace

1. As students enter the room, have the following question on the board “Where do air and water pollution come from?”

2. Have students take five minutes to record their thoughts in their science notebooks. Once students are finished, allow them a few moments to share their ideas with the class. Students should be encouraged to listen to and record other ideas that they find interesting.

3. Tell students that in groups they will be reading an article about a source of air or water pollution. Their job, as a group, is three-fold. They must first read the articles; secondly they should prepare a summary for their classmates, and third, create a poster showing the point of origin and where the pollution has been detected.

4, Distribute articles printed from the Related Resource list or if you have more current articles on this.

5. While groups are working, walk around the room and engage groups to see if they understand their articles and are preparing accurate summaries.

6. Using a blank map of the world students map how the pollution in their particular article is distributed.

. While groups are presenting their summaries and posters, other groups should take notes for a class discussion at the end.

8. During the class discussion ask students to identify the major sources of pollution from these articles. Does that match with their earlier predictions? What were the sources of pollution? What overall patterns in pollution movement did they see? What does that tell them?

Ask students to share a piece of information they found to be the most interesting or disturbing. Why? What further questions do they have? Have student record questions in their science notebook for later.

If possible, have student begin saving articles about air or water pollution from their local papers. Have them pay attention to the origin of the pollution, the location at which it was found and the health impacts associated with the reduced air or water quality.

Embedded Assessment
Do students work to create a concise synopsis of articles? Do they identify correctly the patterns in the movement of pollutants orally and on the map?

Are students working to create a concise synopsis of articles? Are students participating? Do they see patterns in the movement of the pollutants?












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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Web Master: Travis Biazo