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Near-Ground Level Ozone Pollution

Omowumi Alabi, University of Missouri-Kansas City , From the On the Cutting Edge activity collection

This lab exercise is designed to provide a basic understanding of a real-world scientific investigation. Learners are introduced to the concept of tropospheric ozone as an air pollutant due to human activities and burning of fossil fuel energy. The activity uses, analyzes, and visualizes data to investigate this air pollution and climate change problem, determines the season in which it commonly occurs, and communicates the analysis to others in a standard scientific format.

Activity takes one to two class periods plus homework assignments. Computer with Internet access necessary.

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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The common misconception that ozone and/or the ozone hole are primary causes of climate change is NOT addressed clearly in this activity, but some research suggests focusing on misconceptions may introduce or reinforce them. The educator will need to decide whether to focus on them or not.
  • Ideally student groups research cities of different size and industry so that the class can learn from the distribution of results.

About the Science

  • Activity addresses tropospheric ozone, how it is produced through a chemical reaction of energy-produced pollutants with sunlight. The activity draws the distinction between human-induced tropospheric ozone and natural stratospheric ozone.
  • The activity focuses on tropospheric ozone as an air pollutant. However, common misconceptions exist in terms of ozone, the ozone hole, and their connection to climate change. Tropospheric ozone is not just an air pollutant but according to the IPCC, it is also the third most important greenhouse gas (after CO2 and methane). This needs to be stressed by the educator, ideally avoiding linking this to the hole in the ozone layer caused by human chemicals. See more information here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html#troposphericozone
  • The supporting materials highlight the health consequences of tropospheric ozone and what to do on an ozone alert day and the use of the Air Quality Index.
  • Students synthesize the exercise by developing a scientific report that includes an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and references.
  • Comments from expert scientist: I think it is a great idea to have students access online data resources to come up with their own hypotheses and analysis regarding tropospheric ozone. Introducing them to public resources from government web pages will make this lab exercise much more meaningful than if they were working with fabricated data or, I believe, even if they were working with data from a single place that had been collated for them.

About the Pedagogy

  • Simulation game accommodates different learning styles and could be used on its own with various grade-levels.
  • Educators should stress the scientific process and help students follow it from designing a hypothesis to writing a final scientific report.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Handouts and links to resources are available and are relatively easy to use. The activity does require computer access and the final report requires word processing software.
  • MS Word download of the activity needs updating as it references 2005 data. In addition some of the steps for using http://www.airnow.gov have been redesigned in recent years.
  • Teachers will need to adapt the downloaded instructions for current year and your own location.

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