Why Study Air Quality?

The study of air quality has typically received little attention in schools, even in relation to other environmental concerns. Air itself seems abstract and boundless, and air pollution seems both more technical and more nebulous than other environmental problems.

Yet, the quality of our air has important and diverse ramifications. Both visible and invisible air pollutants have severe impacts on our environment, our health, and the quality of our lives. It has been well documented that air pollution costs Americans billions of dollars a year through its effects on our forests and crops, our buildings and cities, and our bodies. One illness that can be triggered by air pollution is asthma. According to the American Lung Association, one in ten individuals in Arizona have asthma and Arizona has the highest asthma-related death rate of any state. In addition, asthma is the number one cause of absences from our schools.

Air quality is also of special concern to us here in the Tucson area, where the economic well-being of our community is linked to visitors who come here to enjoy the climate and natural setting.

Air pollution is a growing problem in Tucson and Pima County primarily because of the amount of driving that we do. Motor vehicles are the source of most of our air pollution. Thus, through our daily transportation choices, each of us can be a part of the pollution solution. Because breathing healthy air is one of our most basic needs, and because the cause and effect relationship between transportation and pollution is so closely linked to our everyday lives, the topic of air quality is especially relevant to today’s students. Understanding these connections can empower students to make a contribution toward solving this important environmental concern and make a difference in improving their own future.

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Information about pollutants

Background Information about ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

Online Activities with Teacher’s Materials

CO City

An interactive animation and supporting classroom materials. The student explores the effects of weather and time of day on pollution buildup (specifically carbon monoxide).
(try the animation | get the classroom materials)

Real-time Data Collection Activities (grades 7-12) Activity Materials Downloads
A research activity that takes a few class periods each month for five months. Students learn to analyze and interpret the real-time air quality data that is collected and displayed by the Air Info Now team. 

Acrobat Reader Download SiteTeacher Guides /
Student Worksheets

(In pdf format.
Note: requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Teacher Sheets
10p-254kb-download Overheads
35p-87kb-download Student Sheets

Pollutants investigated include ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. Parameters include weather and climate (temperature, wind, rainfall), asthma attacks, visibility, time, and location.



Experiments (grades 4-12)

What’s making it BROWN outside? (pdf-file)
Students construct and deploy particulate pollution detectors to test hypotheses.

The connection between convection and inversion. (pdf-file)
Make smog in a shoebox or aquarium. Demonstrate convection currents and temperature inversion layers. Discuss the implications for pollution.

Finding a solution to air pollution. (pdf-file)
Students share ways that they can reduce air pollution emissions.

Getting a handle on greenhouse gases. (pdf-file)
Students monitor their family energy consumption, calculate the amount of CO2 produced, and discover how changes in consumption can change the amount of pollution released.