Air Quality Teaching Box: Ozone

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Goal: Students learn about the sources and impacts of tropospheric ozone.


Engage students with a video introduction to ozone.

  • Ask students what they have heard about ozone. Some may have heard that ozone is helpful in the stratosphere where it blocks harmful radiation. Others might know that it is an air pollutant and greenhouse gas lower in the atmosphere. Explain that in these activities students will explore ozone's role as an air pollutant. Show one or more of the videos linked below to engage students with ozone as an air pollutant.
    • Ground Level Ozone: What Is It? This UCARConnect animation explains what ground-level ozone is, how it is created, the harm it can do, why it's most common in summer months, and what people can do to minimize its creation.
    • What You Should Know - Ozone: Sean Lundbland of the Department of Ecology at the University of Washington gives a detailed introduction to tropospheric ozone and how it impacts our lives. Consider assigning this video as homework before other ozone explorations.

Explore the distribution of ground-level ozone through a research project or a model of pollution in an urban area.

  • Ozone in Our Neighborhood: In this activity, students investigate variations in the amount of ground-level ozone between different places in their neighborhood, town, or city. This is an opportunity for students to formulate and test a hypothesis based on what they learned from the Engage activities about the sources of ozone pollution.
  • Save Smog City 2 from Ozone: Have students explore what factors impact ozone and other air pollutants by playing this interactive online. Challenge students to create the best or worst air quality for a low, medium, and high population level. Then discuss the factors that impact ozone pollution in a city.
  • The GLOBE Aerosols protocol guides students to measure the optical thickness of the atmosphere (how much of the sun's light is scattered or absorbed by particles suspended in the air), as well as observe sky conditions near the sun and perform atmospheric protocols. The GLOBE Observing Visibility and Sky Color Learning Activity guides students to observe sky color and learn to associate a color with the presence or absence of aerosols.

Explain ozone in depth through online reading and in-class discussion.

Elaborate and extend student understanding of ozone sources and occurrence through data analysis.

  • Have students analyze ozone data available on the Global Ozone Project website (Slides 149-158 of the GO3 Curriculum provides guidance for exploring the ozone data) to identify how ozone concentrations vary over time and space. The ozone data is collected at schools all over the world. Analyzing the data collected by other schools provides students with an understanding of the occurrence of ozone pollution.

Evaluate learning by having students interpret ozone hazards in other cities.

  • Using the AirNow website and the Air Quality Guide for Ozone, have students write a paragraph and make a table comparing current ozone in two different cities and describe the health hazards in these places as supported by evidence (data).  Answers will vary depending on the cities chosen and should include ozone levels (good, moderate, unhealthy) and the health implications of the ozone level as described in the Air Quality Guide for Ozone.

Performance Expectations and Standards:

  • NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations
  • NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea: HS and MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts in Earth Systems
  • NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect, Stability and Change, Patterns
  • Performance Expectation: Construct an argument supported by evidence (data) for how air pollution impacts people and communities (based on MS-ESS3-4).
  • Performance Expectation: Apply scientific principles to design a study monitoring human impact on the environment (based on MS-ESS3-3)
  • National Geography Standard 1: How to Use Maps and Other Geographic Representations, Geospatial Technologies, and Spatial Thinking to Understand and Communicate Information
  • National Geography Standard 18: How to Apply Geography to Interpret the Present and Plan for the Future
  • CCSS.Math.Content.7.SP.A.2 Use data from samples to draw inferences.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.MD.B.2. Represent and interpret data.