Looking for the Dirty Scoop

By: Rose Gonzalez

Time: 2 Days
Researching city’s urban planning and design.
Materials: “The Negative Effects of Urban Sprawl” reading, poster paper, markers, and colored pencils, computers with internet access


In this engage lesson, the teacher will begin to introduce the idea that there is a connection between geography, climate, city functions, resident activities and air pollution. The reading handout will also serve as a foundation that will help in future lessons when teaching the Big Idea. It would be helpful if the teacher kept this reading handout available for future use. Another idea that the teacher may want to explore from the reading is the idea of the relationship between lower land values, lower income neighborhoods, and the concentration of air pollution.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the transportation modes, commercial/industrial, and waste disposal sites that are unique to their city.
2. Locate the residential area(s) where most air pollution is emitted in their city.

National Geography Standard
(1) How to use maps and other geographic representation, tools, and techniques to acquire, process and report information from a spatial perspective.
(18) How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.
(18.2) Contemporary issues in the context of spatial and environmental perspectives.

Teacher Background
The teacher should familiarize him/herself with local city demographics and infrastructure needed for the activity.



2 Days
1. Begin the lesson by reading “The Negative Effects of Urban Sprawl.”

2. After the reading, ask students to list the main forms of transportation in their city. In order to verify their answers and locate the infrastructure in their city, tell students they will be researching the development of their community in terms of land use.

3. Based on their research the students must answer the following questions:

a. What are the main forms of transportation in your city?
b. In what area of the city are freeways located?
c. In what area of the city is the airport(s) located?
d. In what area of the city are the industrial and commercial sites located?
e. In what area of the city is the city dump?
f. In what area of the city is the sewage plant?
g. Find where the heaviest concentration of pollution is in your city.
*Students can check the internet websites of their local Chamber of Commerce, city government, or Urban Planning and Development Commission to obtain answers to these questions. Also, students may use the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at http://www.epa.gov/eg/.

4. Students will sketch a map of their city and label the areas researched. The map should include a legend that closely resembles an actual map. They should also include a rough scale.

5. Provide a Question and Answer opportunity as an entire class for students to share and discuss their results. What patterns can students identify? Why might there be patterns? What factors might affect the concentration of pollution in an area? What preliminary ideas do they have about how to reduce pollution? Students should write a 1 paragraph summary based upon the discussion and their map creation addressing the aforementioned questions.

Students should then research at least one city in another country in the same way. They should keep to relatively small cities. Students will provide a sketch of this other city including a legend and a paragraph about this city including a comment about how this compares to their city.

Embedded Assessment
Students’ ability to use multiple resources, including maps, to locate and gather information about the infrastructure of a city can be assessed by their responses to the questions.

During the question and answer portion of class, students can be informally assessed as to their ability to use and process information from multiple sources including maps. They maybe more formally assessed through the paragraph summary and map sketch.

Students’ ability to apply this information can be assessed through the homework.


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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