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Database Provider

Author

Grist

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Health

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, Oregon, Willamette Valley / Portland Metro

Format

YouTube Video

The Pollution Surveillance System Growing on Your Street

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Synopsis
  • This video details how scientists can use moss growing in neighborhoods to analyze how much and what types of pollutants are in the air.
  • The innovative idea came from a United States Forest Service research ecologist named Sarah Jovan, who completed an air quality study in Portland that identified many industrial pollutants in a number of communities.
  • Students will learn why mosses and lichens are cheap and reliable air pollution-monitoring organisms, how they can help identify sources of pollution, and how young people can get involved in making a change in their communities.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This video is an excellent example of scientists and community members taking creative action to solve an environmental issue in their communities.
  • A range of stakeholders are included in the video and students will see teens getting involved.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students may benefit from knowing what arsenic and chromium are and their potential health impacts.
  • There may be an ad before the video.

Differentiation

  • For a cross-curricular connection, civics classes could discuss the impact of community action and new regulations on public health and polluting businesses. 
  • This resource could be used as a hook for discussions about creative solutions to problems. Guiding questions could include:
    • What problem(s) did scientists in Portland face when trying to monitor air quality before this study? What was their solution? Was their solution scalable? 
    • What other problems might be solved with more natural solutions? 
  • As an extension, students could research where mosses and lichens grow to determine other locations to do this research, or other types of plants that could be used in other climates, to expand this solution to other locations.
  • Other related resources include this lesson on pollution and environmental justice in Chicago, this interactive tool for analyzing pollution, and this article about pollution in Michigan.
Scientist Notes
The video gives an explanation of the discovery of using mosses to identify hotspots of air pollution in cities. This is commendable and would be beneficial to the students.
Standards
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 7.ESS2.1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS.ESS3.4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS.ETS1.2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Social Sciences
    • Social Science Analysis (K-12)
      • 8.34 Analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time, identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.
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