Sense of Air: Lesson Plan

From a pollution-sensing bench to high tech monitoring devices, EPA researchers in Research Triangle Park are at the forefront of monitoring the nation’s air quality.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • EEn.2.5.5 — Explain how human activities affect air quality.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will describe human activities that damage air quality.
  • Students will explore methods to measure and mitigate air pollutants.

Essential Questions

  1. What are four pollutants that threaten air quality?
  2. What are three ways in which human activities affect air quality?
  3. What is the purpose of the EPA’s Air Quality Assessment Division, and where is its national air-monitoring program located?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Ozone
  • Particle Pollution
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Sulfur Dioxide


Students will view the interactive activity Air Quality Index


Students will gather information regarding the influence, monitoring, and control of one of the following air pollutants: ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide.

They should address the following topics during their research process:

  • How the pollutant is formed
  • The human activities that impact the quality of atmospheric composition
  • Strategies to improve air quality

The websites below offer possible sources of information. There are many additional websites that students should find during their research. Remind students to check and see if a web page has multiple pages or links to additional pages with information that they need. 


After working on research individually, the students will gather in small groups to address the following questions:

  1. Define and describe one specific air pollutant.
  2. Describe the human actions that contribute the formation of the pollutant.
  3. Describe the prevalence and dangers of the pollutant.
  4. Describe strategies to measure and reduce the prevalence of the pollutant.


Students will view the UNC Science Now video Sense of Air to learn about pioneering efforts in Research Triangle Park to monitor the nation’s air quality. As they watch the video students should focus on the following questions:

  1. What are three substantial materials found in air?
  2. What is the difference between fine air particles and course air particles?
  3. Why is the Air Quality Assessment division of the Environmental Protection Agency required to evaluate air quality standards every five years?
  4. What is RETIGO, and what is its function?


In the same small groups, have students write and produce a public service announcement that describes the dangers of a given air pollutant, and promotes strategies to reduce that pollutant’s prevalence.