Posts Tagged ‘air quality’

Getting students to take note of smog, soot, and visible pollution in their neighborhood can be an eye opener, but it’s also important for students to understand that not all pollution is visible and that we can’t see or smell some of the most harmful pollutants. For instance, carbon dioxide didn’t even qualify as a pollutant until scientists proved that its role in the greenhouse effect helped contribute to global warming.

If you want an interactive fun way for your kids to learn about the major air pollutants affecting our planet and our health, have them perform a play with a very unique cast of characters. “The Awful Eight” is an air pollution play developed by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. Common pollutants are brought to life by students and given personality traits based on their harmful effects. These eight pollutants are picketing against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act. Our now familiar gang of “Particulates” chants “Dust, soot and grime, pollution’s not a crime! Soot, grime and dust, the E.P.A.’s unjust!” while sly Carbon Dioxide brags about sneaking into the air when cars burn fuel inefficiently.

After covering the awful environmental and health costs of each pollutant, Carbon Dioxide points towards the audience with a daring claim. It’s not CO2’s fault the earth is warming: “The reason you’re in such a mess is because you use so much fuel and cut down so many trees!” Harry Wheezer agrees and turns to the audience for ideas on how to fight air pollution.

Connie Lung ends with this: “The bottom line? These air pollutants are a pretty tough bunch– but people help create them, and people can reduce the amounts that are in our atmosphere. Thank you and good night.”

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Thinking about traffic and transportation may have piqued your students’ interest in air pollution. Smog is every city kid’s constant companion.

Why not take the class on an air pollution walk around the neighborhood? They can see soot building up on windowsills and awnings and smell the black clouds behind the bus.

Back in the classroom, ask if any of the students suffer from asthma. Air quality and asthma rates in schools are important environmental justice issues in our city. Check out this NYTimes article covering a five year air quality study New York University researchers conducted in the South Bronx where 17% of school aged children have asthma. The study investigated how local air quality relates to factors such as traffic and the number of waste-transfer stations within a close radius. Researchers took air quality readings at ground level from eight different sites and also had students help out by wheeling around special air quality book bags and keeping diaries of their asthma symptoms.

“The study found a strong correlation between asthma hospitalization rates, poverty, the percentage of Hispanic residents and the number of industrial facilities in the Bronx, with Hunts Point having by far the highest number and density of industrial facilities.”- Bill Egbert, New York Daily News.

For an easy test of the air quality around your school, try hanging a paper coffee filter coated in Vaseline outside your school, and hang one inside a Ziploc bag as a control. Secure the coffee filters so they can’t blow around, and make weekly observations as a class. In a few weeks, you should start to see discoloration and buildup of particulates from the air.

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