• Views 85
  • Favorites
Photo by Anton Massalov via Pexels


Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, Highland Electric Fleets


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Health

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Videos
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Articles and Websites
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New York


PDF, YouTube Video

Environmental Justice and Air Quality

Ask a Question

  • This multi-lesson unit encourages students to consider how their school's transportation system impacts student health and air quality, from an environmental-justice perspective.
  • Students will map their community, discuss examples of environmental injustice, collect and analyze data regarding the particulate matter around their school, practice using air quality monitoring tools, read about the Clean Air Act, research the sustainability of electric buses compared to diesel or gas buses, and create an action plan to improve their school's transportation system.
Teaching Tips


  • The videos and messaging about young students taking action to influence change will empower and inspire students.
  • Because this topic is directly related to student health, many will be motivated to engage with the activities.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should know the features of a map, such as the scale, key, and labels.
  • Several of the activities and extensions use a Quick Write. It may benefit students to set and model expectations for this procedure.
  • The link for the YVP Action Framework in the How to Develop Your Action Plan section is broken.
  • The "PM2.5 and your health" link goes to a general YouTube home page. The specific video is here.
  • The Key Elements section of "The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act" uses "mental retardation" as a clinical term. You may need to address this with students in contrast to its use as a pejorative term.
  • The article "Children's Exposure to Exhaust on School Buses" centers around Connecticut statistics and information.
  • The link for the video "Young Voices for the Planet: Kids vs. Global Warming" doesn't work. Teachers can find the video here.
  • The Young Voices for the Planet "ACTION Plan" no longer exists.
  • Some activities require materials such as microscopes, magnifying glasses, and air quality monitoring devices.


  • Teachers can easily differentiate for different reading levels in the jigsaw reading activity, as the sections vary in length and complexity.
  • While this lesson is intended for New York students, most of the information is general and would benefit students from anywhere in the United States.
  • The unit plan includes countless options for extensions, interdisciplinary connections, and differentiation for older students.
  • English language learners may benefit from additional visual aids when discussing unfamiliar concepts, such as particulate matter.
Scientist Notes
It can be difficult for students to understand how climate change can impact communities across the country and beyond. This activity is meant to help students see that connection. The climate science within the lesson is accurate and well cited, and more information is available if needed. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.13.6-8 Analyze the purposes, implementation, and consequences of public policies in multiple settings.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.7.6-8 Explain how changes in transportation and communication technology influence the spatial connections among human settlements and affect the diffusion of ideas and cultural practices.
      • D2.Geo.10.6-8 Analyze the ways in which cultural and environmental characteristics vary among various regions of the world.
      • D2.Geo.12.6-8 Explain how global changes in population distribution patterns affect changes in land use in particular places.
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.5.6-8 Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
    • Writing (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
  • Related Resources


    Login to leave a review