Studying Ozone and Air Quality with Elementary Students

Contributed by Erica Volz, student at SUNY Fredonia 

For this project, I took a deeper dive into an area of science that did not particularly interest me in high school: Earth System Science. I chose this topic because I wanted to challenge myself to expand my interest in studying Earth science. I also wanted to find ways to teach the impact of aerosols on the ozone layer. Because of my lack of initial interest in this topic, I was able to learn quite a bit about why this is an engaging aspect of science.  

Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) 

cover page of the Natural Inquirer "No Littering O-Zone" article with text and images of scientists who did the research
I chose the article “No Littering O-Zone” in the Northern Research Station issue of the Investi-gator to focus on how rising ozone levels affect the Earth, specifically tree growth. I liked how right away the article included examples of real-life scientists to show students that this is an important issue and to answer students’ famous question: “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” The article is written in a very kid-friendly way to provide students with the basic knowledge and understanding of the topic. I would use this article with my students by discussing the questions in the reflection sections, and by doing the “FACTivity” as a whole group. By using the resources from this article, students will be able to understand the importance of protecting the ozone layer and making a difference in the community around them. 

Elementary GLOBE Air Quality Module 

student activity page for Elementary GLOBE activity "Why (Not) So Blue?" with diagrams for students to draw on that show how water looks after adding various amounts of milk
In the activity “Why (Not) So Blue?” from the Elementary GLOBE air quality module, students will make a prediction about how drops of milk will affect the visibility of color in cups of water and observe a series of five cups of water, each with increasing amounts of milk (representing aerosols in the atmosphere). Students will observe and record how the visibility changes depending on the increased level of milk. Students record their observations by using a set of classification categories and will notice patterns along the way.  

Other GLOBE Resources 

GLOBE has many valuable resources to use when teaching science to children. Students and teachers can use these resources to learn more about the Earth and lead to investigations of the world around them. The modules introduce students to different aspects of Earth System Science while challenging them to extend their understanding or knowledge to the real world around them.  

Each module of Elementary GLOBE includes the following three components:  

  1. A science-based, fictional storybook in which kids explore an aspect of the Earth system using their scientific skills.  

  1. Three learning activities that further explore the lesson content and help students develop sound science and engineering approaches to complex problems. 

  1. A glossary and teacher’s notes that provide educators with the necessary background information to further assist their students with each module. 

The Teacher Implementation Guide contains an overview of Elementary GLOBE and provides the connection between the curriculum of science and other elementary subject areas such as literacy. This guide also emphasizes the usage of science journals and scientific inquiry in the elementary classroom, while providing alignment with the standards for the given grade level. 

GLOBE and Natural Inquirer Connections 

The GLOBE activities and the Investi-gator article connect because both highlight the various features of ozone. The GLOBE activity breaks down the topic into a lesson with guided purpose, overview, student outcomes, estimated time, and materials. Both resources provide a child-friendly vocabulary to learn about the complex impacts on the ozone layer. The articles also connect by showing that aerosols and other harmful chemicals have a negative impact on multiple aspects of the environment (ex: tree growth and sky color). By incorporating the Investi-gator article into the GLOBE unit, students in my future class will develop a deeper understanding of the ozone layer’s importance by recognizing that there are multiple parts of our world that rely on the ozone layer. 

GLOBE and NGSS Connections: Disciplinary Core Ideas 

From the Elementary GLOBE Teacher Implementation Guide 

  • ESS2.D Weather and Climate 

Image Captions (top to bottom) 

  • Cover page of the Natural Inquirer "No Littering O-Zone" article
  • Student activity page for Elementary GLOBE activity "Why (Not) So Blue?" 

Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by USDA Forest Service Eastern Region (Agreement no. 20-PA-11090100-026). Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA Forest Service.

This blog post is part of the GLOBE and the Natural Inquirer Crosswalk Project. Other blog posts are available on the U.S. GLOBE Teacher Resources page

Natural Inquirer issues can be downloaded and classroom sets of many issues can be ordered from their website. Find the complete list of issues available and instructions for ordering on the Natural Inquirer website

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