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Sensing Quality Air

Theme: 
Air
Grade: 
3, 4
Essential questions
What is matter?
Is air matter?
How do we know air is there?
Why is it important for us to protect air?
What kinds of things impact air quality?
Why is indoor air pollution so dangerous, and what can we do to reduce it?
How can my sense of smell help me identify air pollution?
What is odor fatigue, and how can it prevent me from detecting an odor?
What can I do to reduce indoor air pollution at my home?

This module includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Eco-101: Air Is There: Estimated total time needed: Two 50-minute sessions
In this lesson, students explore air as a type of matter. In the first session, they watch a presentation that defines matter as anything that takes up space. They learn about the three common states of matter and see and discuss how solids and liquids take up space. Then, to help students understand how we can be sure that invisible gases like air take up space, they follow along as the teacher performs two demonstrations. In the second session, students learn that in addition to taking up space, all matter also has mass. To help them understand the concept of mass, students build a simple balance scale and use it to verify that air has mass and different objects have different amounts of mass. At the end of the session, students reflect on the importance of protecting this important type of matter called air, even though it is often invisible to us.

Lesson 2: Eco-Activity: Boost Your IAQ!: Estimated total time needed: 50 minutes
In this lesson, students learn more about the concept of air quality. They are guided to boost their IAQ, or indoor air quality, via a presentation that first introduces key factors that influence indoor air quality and then covers ways to improve indoor air quality. Students apply what they've learned by participating in a sensory activity to experience how quickly a smell can travel through the air. Then they work in teams to brainstorm ways they can use their senses to detect problems in air quality and come up with solutions to boost IAQ.

Lesson 3: Eco-Activity: 20-Second Smells (Estimated time needed: One 45-minute session)
In this lesson, students learn that we often encounter odor fatigue, i.e., we become accustomed to the smells around us after about 20 seconds of exposure, even when those smells are unpleasant or toxic. Students enjoy investigating different smells, and then engage in a thought-provoking discussion about how many smells that are familiar and may even be pleasant to us are actually toxic. They think about ways to “reset” their nose to do a better job of detecting indoor air pollution and brainstorm things they can do to reduce the number of indoor air pollutants at their homes.

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