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Our Air- Quest for Quality

Middle, Secondary


This resource illustrates the relationship between air quality and human health.  Students learn about air quality issues through discussions, research, and role play, connect this knowledge to their own personal health and explore solutions for improving air quality in the local and world community. Students will then develop and implement advocacy projects to reduce air pollution.

Lesson One: Clean Air- Our Health Matters

After brainstorming about the importance of clean air, students examine diagrams of parts of the respiratory system and use an interactive tool to see what happens when pollutants compromise their functions. In groups they complete an exercise dealing with common contaminants. Students then complete a learner/parent take-home activity in which they track the number of air pollution incidents, source of air, and observed health effects for family members over a 3 day period. This data is later shared with classmates. The role of government, corporations and individuals in addressing the health impacts of common air pollutants is discussed. Links to the EPA website are included in the resource.

Lesson Two: Airing Our Concerns- I Can See Clearly Now

After a teacher demo to promote discussion of possible sources of air pollution and to share prior knowledge, students respond to an air-quality research question by composing a written report. After sharing their research results with classmates the students participate in a role play to identify the rights and responsibilities of various stakeholders in an authentic air quality issue and to develop a strategy for addressing concerns.  Roles include: concerned citizens, EPA rep, government official, member of the health community, factory owner and community planner.

Lesson Three:  Concern and Action= Clean Air Solutions

After reading or viewing the Lorax, students are asked to make "text to world connections" concerning the environmental impacts of human activity. In groups they work through a variety of brainstorming and strategic planning activities to develop an action plan for improving air quality in their community. A final reflection is required upon the completion of the project.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Using speaking and dialogue skills to present and respond to ideas
  • Critical thinking skills to engage in brainstorming, problem solving and decision making
  • Responding to literature orally in a group discussion
  • Working cooperatively with team members to carry out a plan
  • Selecting and gathering information for research from various sources


  • Home survey for respiratory issues brings good local focus
  • Guidelines included for research report
  • Assessment rubric included for research report
  • Graphic organizers and recording sheets are provided for strategic planning, deciision making and reflective feedback in the development of the action plan.
  • Suggestions are given for research projects, but students are also encouraged to come up with one of their own
  • The resource empowers students to take action that protects and restores our plant by identifying the problems, and developing and executing action plans.


  • Limited experiential learning opportunity
  • Reading levels will be challenging for some students
  • Not much background information for teachers or students
  • No case studies

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource could be used to address outcomes dealing with environmental health in the middle level classroom and to illustrate the complex interactions between humans and their environment in science, social studies and geography courses. The resource would also be appropriate for an after school environmental or eco-club to motivate action in the local community.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Air Pollution
  • Citizenship (1)

    • General Guide to Taking Action
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

Students gather facts and information through research, identify the rights and responsibilities of various groups with regards to air quality, and discuss and brainstorm possible solutions. They then make their own conclusions about this issue.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

Learners see the connection between environmental issues (poor air quality) caused by human activity and their own personal health.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The complexities of air quality issues are highlighted through the role play activity in lesson two. Students will see the difficulty in finding quick solutions as they address the concerns of the various stakeholders.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

The focus of the resource is to help students create action plans and develop service learning projects. These can include direct service, indirect service, or advocacy projects.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Group discussions and personal reflections do provide opportunities for values clarification.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Empathy is fostered for those who experience breathing problems and health issues due to poor air quality.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The message that the preservation and improvement of air quality helps all living things on the planet is made clear.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The home air quality survey and the final community action project bring local focus. Students are also encouraged to share their own stories involving poor air quality and resulting health issues.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

The focus of the resource is to motivate students to take action to preserve air quality for present and future generations.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good
Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This is primarily a social studies/ geography resource, but it also addresses outcomes in health, science and language arts.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

A variety of instructional practices are used including  working in groups to identify air pollutants, researching and composing a report, writing reflections, participating in role play, responding to literature, and developing plans of action. There are no specific accommodations suggested for students with learning difficulties.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The  take-home exercise asking students to identify and record any signs of respiratory distress over a period of three days provides some experiential experience.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

There are some rubrics provided for evaluating the research report and answer keys are given for exercises involving identifying air pollutants.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered

The resource does not contain any specific case studies. Students are encouraged, however, to share their own personal stories involving air quality.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The students can choose the research question of their choice and the development of the action plan is completely student-driven.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.