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.
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.
Students may benefit from knowing what arsenic and chromium are and their potential health impacts.
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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.
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.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
ESS2: Earth's Systems
MS-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.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
Dimension 2: Civics
D2.Civ.12.9-12 Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.
Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
D4.6.6-8 Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to 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.