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Population Education


3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th


Science, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Experiments
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Catching Pollution

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Population Connection

  • In this experiment and activity, students place pollution collection cards in and around the classroom or school to see how much air pollution exists in different locations and then visualize the weight of carbon pollution using objects.
  • Students will collect and analyze data, think critically about where pollution comes from, and discover ways to reduce it. 
Teaching Tips


  • This is an easy and fun way to measure air pollution at your school and see just how much carbon dioxide we emit from different activities.
  • Other members of your school community will probably show interest in the experiment. It will hopefully lead to good conversations about health, air pollution, and transportation.
  • This experiment and activity helps students visualize air pollution and carbon pollution.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The experiment takes time. Students will have to wait and see what happens to their cards over several days.
  • You will need to gather all of the materials required for the experiment and activity ahead of time, but consider using substitute objects instead of charcoal for the second part, as charcoal can be messy and unhealthy to handle. Any object of similar size and weight will do.


  • The experiment and activity can be done individually or in groups.
  • Have more advanced students write a formal hypothesis and methods description for the experiment.
  • Students can share their experimental findings with the rest of the class upon completion in a presentation or poster.
  • Math classes can compare the results of all pollution collection sheets and graph the results on a scatter plot or calculate the average and standard deviation.
  • Students can continue to explore air pollution across the United States by exploring this interactive map of real-time air quality or measure their own carbon footprint with this Footprint Calculator.
Scientist Notes

Students can practice how to reduce pollution, as this resource gives detailed illustrations on pollution sources and ways to reduce it. This is valid and recommended for teaching.

  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • National Health Education Standards
    • Standard 1: Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
      • 1.5.3 Describe ways in which safe and healthy school and community environments can promote personal health.
      • 1.8.3 Analyze how the environment affects personal health.
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