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Breathe in. You are breathing in life. Every breath you take brings oxygen into your lungs and your bloodstream feeding every cell in your body. Air is important for almost all life on Earth including plants and animals. On average people breathe in 20,000 liters of air every day!! That is almost 20,000 breaths in and out everyday!! Air is made up of molecules (tiny units) of gases. The two most common gases in air are nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (about 21%). All across the globe, plants and animals and people breathe in from the same atmosphere. The atmosphere has less air or oxygen and nitrogen as you move up. This is sometimes called ‘thin air’. The air is thinner higher in the atmosphere because the pressure is lower the higher you go up. Earth is the only planet we know that has air. Without air we would not be able to live. Plants need gasses from air to drink in carbon dioxide and to create oxygen in a process called photosynthesis. Animals need to breath air in to remove the carbon dioxide in their lungs to survive.

Catch your breath! Breathe air!

Activity 1 – How heavy is air?

Air is actually fluid in that it moves fluidly. As we live and breathe, we are actually displacing air molecules as we move through them. In a way we are ‘swimming’ in air. Watch How Heavy is Air?, the TEDed lesson to learn more about air molecules. Air molecules create high and low pressure as it pushes on us and on weather systems or moves from high altitude to low altitude. When we breathe we breathe in air molecules. We say, the air is heavy when it is full of water. We call this humidity.

Activity 2 – What Do You Hear, See, and Smell?

For one week, walk out of the door of your house to your street. Look, listen and smell. Record what your senses tell you about the environmental air quality where you live. Do you hear birds singing or traffic driving? Do you smell green earth or car exhaust? Do you see clear blue skies or stars at night or hazy dust, fog, and smoke? Be aware of the health of the environment where you live. Check your daily newspaper for the Air Quality Index. Research your zip code for annual AQI recordings and make a pie chart showing the percentage of clean air vs. degrade air quality days.

Notice what you are breathing in! It’s all about the air!

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Activity 3 – Air Quality

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Print a world map. Research the most polluted areas in the world. Make and color your map showing which areas have the poorest air quality with shades of brown. What did you find? Where are the areas where the air is the most polluted? Are they urban or rural? What causes pollution?

It’s all about the air!

Activity 4 – Smog

Write a short paper defining smog. Who first coined the word? What does it mean? Where does it accumulate? Is it seasonal? Make a cover to your paper showing pictures of smog. Include in your typed paper at least five paragraphs (introduction, definition, types of smog, location of smog, and effects of smog). Include a bibliography of resources.

Activity 5 – Protecting our air, water, and land

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Research the history of the EPA Environmental Protection Agency. When was it organized? What was its original purpose? WHat is its mission today? Write a short paper (five paragraphs) about the EPA and its initiatives.

Help clean the air!

Review

  • Earth is the only planet that we know of that has:
  • Air is a:
  • The largest contributors to world pollution are:
  • EPA stands for the:
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