Now that your girls have researched some of the problems caused by air pollution, it time to get them focused on a solution. One of the easiest places to start is their own homes. First, have each girl test the air quality in their home by using poster board squares smeared with petroleum jelly placed in several places in the home. Let them sit for a week, and then use a magnifying glass to count the particles that have accumulated on the square to get a good idea of the level of particulate matter.
Have the girls brainstorm ways to improve their own indoor air quality and create a checklist that they can use to implement the changes. Some ideas are: keep floors clean; vacuum often and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter; mop after vacuuming to keep down dust and leave shoes at the front door; keep humidity at 30-50% to keep down mold and dust allergens; and make the home a no-smoking zone. The girls can use these ideas, or ones they have come up with.
Do a re-test of the home in two weeks. Set out the poster board squares with petroleum jelly and let sit for a week then recount the particulate matter. Have the girls record and discuss their observations.
Another great way to teach the girls about air quality is to do an experiment which provides them a very visual snapshot of the air they breathe. You will need white poster board, scissors, petroleum jelly, string, hole punch, magnifying glass, permanent marker and a journal.
Have the girls decide on five areas where they would like to test the air. This can be inside a home, in a yard, or at another location outside (with permission from the property owner). Then cut the poster board into five squares and draw a slightly smaller square inside with permanent marker. Number each square. Punch holes in the poster board, thread the string through and hang up the squares in the testing areas, making sure to record which number corresponds to which area. Lastly, smear the inside of the smaller square with petroleum jelly.
In a week, collect the squares and using a magnifying glass, count the number of particles that you find in each of the petroleum jelly covered areas. Record your observations.
Have the girls discuss their reactions to the number of particles in the air they breathe and determine what problems breathing in these particles might result in. After they discuss their results, they are ready to move on to the next step in the journey: finding a solution.
In the Cadette journey series, the Cadettes focus on the importance of clean, breathable air and learn the science behind air quality and the impact of air pollution on all aspects of our environment. A great experiment to teach the girls about the hazards and effects of acid rain, a byproduct of a polluted atmosphere, is to produce your own acid rain on a small scale.
Acid rain refers to a mixture of wet or dry deposited materials from the atmosphere that contain higher than normal amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion. Most acid rain in the U.S. results from electric power generation. When mixed with rain in the atmosphere, these chemicals form a dilute solution of sulfuric and nitric acid that falls to earth.
To see how acid rain affects local plant life, have the girls purchase five pairs of fast growing plants that are indigenous to your local community. Sprinkle one of each pair with plain water each day and the other with vinegar or lemon juice (which represents acid rain). Observe the pairs of plants every day and record observations in a journal, then draw conclusions on the effects of acid rain based on the results.
Some pertinent questions the girls can ask are : What effect does acid rain have on the environment? What does it do to plants and ecosystems? How does acid rain affect us? And finally, the girls can begin working on the most important question: What can we do to limit or even stop it?