Saved by the Law

By: Rose Gonzalez
Edited By: Stephanie Nardei and Rachel Hughes

Time: 1 _days
1 hour
Materials: Internet access


In this lesson students explain to each other the legislative efforts to improve air quality and local health issues. Part of the objective is for students to begin realizing that change is possible with the cooperation and concern of state and local governments, businesses, and residents.

Students will be able to:
1. Explain the legislative efforts of local or state governments on their city’s air quality issues to their classmates as responses to peer-created scenarios.

National Geography Standard
(16) The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.
16E. Evaluate policies and programs related to the use of resources on different spatial scales.
(14.3) How to apply appropriate models and information in order to understand environmental problems.

Teacher Background
It would be helpful for the teacher to research legislative efforts in the local or state area providing students with background information while they research. The websites below can support this.

Related and Resource Websites



1 Day (can be extended to another half day.)
1. Ask students who is responsible for keeping air clean. Can they name the levels of government involved? What about agencies? Tell students urban air pollution and its health hazards are the shared responsibility of government, community organizations, and citizens, and cities and their states have passed laws combating the problem. For example, some limit car ownership or passed stricter air quality regulations for factories. New York and Washington D.C. have tried to rebuild their infrastructure with a rapid transport system. The state of Maine has several programs reducing emissions of air toxic compounds from mobile sources. One program is their Clean Government Initiative in which the Maine state legislature directed state agencies to purchase alternative use vehicles, highly fuel efficient vehicles, and vehicles with the lowest emissions possible. This initiative also promotes travel alternatives, such as telecommuting.

2. Teacher directs students to research and explain a legislative effort/law in their state or city which helps improve the environmental health effects of air pollution. They can search online or you provide them with information and ask them to explain it in simple terms to their peers. Have students consider the following main focus categories of state or local legislation:
a. Commercial plants
b. Industrial factories
c. Residential areas/homes
d. Public education
e. Open space plans
f. Transportation methods and/or emission standards

3. After 30 minutes, instruct students to find someone who has a different law and can explain to them the legislation writing down the law on the other student’s paper.

4. As a class, the teacher asks students to review their notes and determine which category has the strictest air quality legislation and which category needs more improvement.

5. Have students work in groups developing two air pollution scenarios as peer presentations to figure out what the air pollution violation is and what agency should respond. One scenario should be quite straightforward and the other more complex.

If needed, students can continue more research at home.

Embedded Assessment
Students’ grasp of legislative efforts in this area can be assessed in their scenario development and in peers’ responses.

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

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo