ALEX Lesson Plan


Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? #3 (Air Pollution)

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Angela Drown
System: Enterprise City
School: Hillcrest Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34686


Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? #3 (Air Pollution)


In this lesson children will investigate 6 major pollutants in our world and how they can be eliminated or limited.

This lesson is a continuation of the other Are We Our Own Worst Enemy? lesson plans. It can stand on its own but if you haven't taught the others you may want to show the World Population Over Time video before starting this lesson.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
Earth and Space Science
15 ) Analyze evidence (e.g., databases on human populations, rates of consumption of food and other natural resources) to explain how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities (e.g., land use, resource development, water and air pollution, urbanization) affect Earth's systems.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E8.15a: Human activities, such as reducing the amount of forest cover, increasing the amount and variety of chemicals released into the atmosphere, and intensive farming, have changed Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere.

NAEP Statement::
E8.15b: Studies of plant and animal populations have shown that such activities can reduce the number and variety of wild plants and animals and sometimes result in the extinction of species.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth and Human Activity
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Analyze evidence regarding how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities affect Earth's systems.
  • Explain how changes in human population, per capita consumption of natural resources, and other human activities affect Earth's systems.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Population
  • Per capita
  • Consumption
  • Natural resource
  • Environment
  • Earth's systems
  • Consequences
Students know:
  • Increases in the size of the human population or in the per capita consumption of a given population cause increases in the consumption of natural resources.
  • Natural resources are any naturally occurring substances or features of the environment that, while not created by human effort, can be exploited by humans to satisfy their needs or wants.
  • Per capita consumption is the average use per person within a population.
  • Natural resource consumption causes changes in Earth systems.
  • Engineered solutions alter the effects of human populations on Earth systems by changing the rate of natural resource consumption or reducing the effects of changes in Earth systems.
  • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.
  • The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.
Students are able to:
  • Organize given evidence regarding changes in human population, changes in per capita consumption of natural resources, human activities, and Earth's systems to allow for analysis and interpretation.
  • Analyze the data to identify possible causal relationships between changes in human population, changes in per capita consumption of natural resources, human activities, and Earth's systems.
  • Interpret patterns observed from the data to provide causal accounts for events and make predictions for events by constructing explanations.
Students understand that:
  • Human population growth affects natural resource consumption and natural resource consumption has an effect on Earth systems; therefore, changes in human populations have a causal role in changing Earth systems.
  • Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Exploring Planetary Systems
Understanding Weather and Climate

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.6.15- Compare the relationship between human population and food consumption, water use, and land use.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will:

  • investigate the 6 most common pollutants.
  • explain how human population is making pollution worse.
  • examine the effects of pollution on the Earth's systems.
  • devise ways to eliminate or reduce the pollutants.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Health Effects of Air Pollution

World Population Over Time

Student notebooks or paper

Pencils for taking notes

Chart or butcher paper


Technology Resources Needed:

One device with internet access per child preferably, if not - one per two students.

Health Effects of Air Pollution


Per capita consumption refers to the average consumption per person within a population. While this information can be helpful for determining how much a population consumes, it does not account for consumption disparities between individuals.

ppm= parts per million

ppb= parts per billion



Watch the video Health Effects of Air Pollutants.  As students are watching the video have them write down the names of the 6 main pollutants presented in the video on paper or in their notebooks. (You may need to stop the video so they can get the spelling correct.) Once you have viewed the video have them define the six types of air pollution. This is an excellent website with all the pollutants listed - Explain That Stuff. (I have also provided a page with the definitions for the students to copy down if time is a problem.) They should keep the definitions in their notebook so they do not lose them. Explain to the students they will investigate the 6 most common air pollutants, from the video, as a group.


Divide the class into six equal groups. Each group will take one of the pollutants from the six listed. Have them conduct research on the pollutants taking notes on what they find. They should look up answers to the questions below. You may want to write these questions on the board. Tell them that all members of the group need to be involved because they will be the experts to share with their classmates later. They should make notes in their notebook or on paper but tell them they are verbally sharing not just passing the notes for others to read.

  • Where does the pollutant come from?
  • Is it man-made? Why was it created?
  • Is there a reason we need it?
  • Is this something we have always had but we are using more because there is more population?
  • Are there some populations that are using more of these pollutants per capita than others? If so is there a way to make a change?
  • Can we change the chemical composition of the pollutant so it is not harmful?
  • What are some effects of pollutants to our Earth (ground, water and/or air)?

These websites may be used for research purposes.

Once the groups have researched their pollutant tell them they should combine their information into a short presentation to give to the other groups. Then depending on how many students are in each group have the individual members count off. (If ozone has 4 members in it then they will count off 1-4 and the same for each group all starting at 1.) Next, all the 1’s will form a new group, the 2’s and so forth until all members of the class are now in a new group. (If you have some odd numbers just place them evenly among the groups.) Tell the students they will take turns presenting their pollutants to the new group. After they share then the new groups need to answer these questions

  • What are some common traits among all the pollutants?
  • What are some differences?
  • Are there some pollutants that are worse than others?
  • Does the good of what is being produced outweigh the fact that we are polluting our air?
  • Do we need all of these pollutants? If not which could we eliminate?
  • Can we use something else for any of them?
  • Which pollutants does it seem there are more of because of the change in population?
  • What could be done to eliminate or reduce the effects of these pollutants on Earth's system? (Think about not only how adults can use less but students also.)


When all groups are finished sharing and answering the second set of questions come back together as a class and share the findings.

  • Were there any surprises?
  • Were there commonalities among how the pollutants were created?
  • Was there a link to population and pollution?
  • Were there some places that produced more pollution per capita?

As a class discuss ways to eliminate or reduce pollutants. Have the student groups create a poster illustrating ways to eliminate or reduce pollutants. Hang the posters throughout the school to share with other grade levels.

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Assessment Strategies

Conduct a formative assessment to determine if students can:

  • identify the 6 most common pollutants.
  • explain how human population is making pollution worse.
  • explore the effects of pollution on the Earth's systems.
  • look at their notes to see that everyone is working and gaining information on the effects of pollutants to our Earth's systems

Assess the group research findings, presentations, and posters to evaluate if students can devise ways to eliminate or reduce the pollutants and the effects on Earth's systems.


If students finish before time they could look up the history of the pollutant when was it created? Was it an accident or on purpose that this chemical was created?


Students who need extra help can be paired with stronger students who are willing to work together and they can research together.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.