Investigating Air

Grade Levels: 8 - 12

Most people take for granted the ability to breathe. We breathe automatically, thousands of times a day, awake and asleep. As a result, we tend to think there is an endless supply of clean air. But human activity – especially the human activity of using industrial technology to obtain and use natural resources – is having a dramatic impact on the quality of the air we breathe. We can no longer assume that clean air is in endless supply. We now understand that natural resources such as air are finite, and this makes it important that we also understand the relationship between human activity and air quality.

The relationship between human activity and air quality is complex. While science provides the starting point for understanding this relationship, many other factors come into play when we make decisions about improving air quality. Technology, public policy, government regulation, risk and cost-benefit analysis, environmental equity, and urban and land-use planning all play significant roles in our decision-making process. It is important that your students develop an appreciation for how science interacts with these and other areas so they may develop into informed citizens.

Air Quality and the Weather

Students will construct and analyze surface temperature maps, and analyze sounding graph plots for temperature inversion readings.

Teacher Section
Student Section
Student Worksheet
Identifying Temperature Inversions

School Energy Consumption

Using an energy survey, students investigate their school's existing energy usage. To culminate the activity, their findings are reported and suggestions and improvements are presented.

Teacher Section
Student Section
School Energy Survey


Researching the conditions necessary for fog and clouds to form, students learn how visibility is affected by particles in the air, and how visibility is related to air quality.

Teacher Section
Student Section
Visibility Chart

Excerpted from Investigating Air.

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