Air Quality Health Index classroom kit, grades 5 and 6, environment: chapter 13

2. Air quality and the environment

This lesson involves tracking our actions back to the earth’s resources. It connects everyday choices to renewable and non-renewable sources of energy. Short, focused activities keep students’ attention as they learn about air quality, fossil fuels, and electricity.


  • Petroleum jelly
  • White paper/card stock OR large and small jars
  • Chart paper
  • Markers


  • One Week Ahead: Set up for visible pollution
  • Before Class: Prepare chart paper
  • Hands Up (Overhead)
  • Carousel Readings (Visit sections 2A to 2E - 1 per group)
  • Air Quality Report (1 per student)

Real World Connections

  • Understanding how personal choices can improve air quality, and how that traces back to both renewable and non-renewable energy.
  • Awareness that the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in Environment Canada’s daily forecast is a reflection of local air quality and can be used to inform choices.
  • Differentiating between technologies available to generate electricity and the root source of that energy (renewable and non-renewable resources).

Curricular Themes

  • Renewable and non-renewable sources of electrical energy.

For a list of learning outcomes, please refer to the end of this document.

At least one (1) week ahead: Set up for visible pollution:Footnote1

  1. Label two pieces of card stock with a letter (A, B). Smear the card stock on one side with petroleum jelly.
  2. Tape the sheets next to each other on the outside of a window, smear-sides out. Do this when it isn’t raining or snowing. Keep track of the location.
  3. Take one sheet in after one day and the other in after one week.

Before Class: Set up carousel:

  1. Tape 4 or 5 pieces of chart paper around the room. At the top of each paper, write a key phrase:
    • Cut down on burning fossil fuels
    • Choose renewable sources of electricity
    • Use less electricity
    • Avoid burning
    • Shop with renewable resources in mind
    • AQHI
  2. Divide the paper in half below it. On the left side, write “List”; on the right side, write “Draw”.

Setting the Stage and Elicitation (5 min)

Brown hand raised to answer a question
  1. Show students the jelly-smeared papers or jars.
  2. Show the class the template in Hands Up (Overhead). Ask them to trace their hand onto a piece of paper and label each finger as indicated.Footnote 2
  3. Think: Ask students to think silently about what they see on the jelly-smeared papers and write their ideas on the handprint.
White card stock smeared with petroleum jelly
  1. Pair: Ask students to partner to chat for one minute about their ideas.
  2. Share: Call on two or three individuals to share with the class.

Restructuring: Carousel (30 min)

Green light switch
  1. Divide students into groups of five (5) or less and provide with a marker at their home base.
  2. Read the Carousel Instructions.
  3. Direct the activity until they are back to their home groups.
  4. Pass out the appropriate Carousel Reading A, B, C, D, or E to each home group.
  5. Ask students to read the article and read over their chart, indicating which items are correct or incorrect.
  6. Ask each group to stand up and share their final ideas with the class.

Application and Conclusion (20 min)

Blue swirl of air
  1. Pass out Air Quality Report. Ask students to complete the assignment in class or finish it at home.
  2. Show students the jelly-smeared papers or jars again. Ask them to take out their original hand-tracings.
  3. In a full-class discussion, ask students for environmental actions, scientific information, and technologies that could help solve the problem(s) the jelly-smeared papers represent.


  • Smear petroleum jelly on white card stock and place inside jars.
  • Put the jars in different locations, including those where you expect visible air pollution.
  • Label the jars with the location.

Carousel Instructions

  • Today we are going to do a carousel. As you can see, there are pieces of chart paper around the room.
  • In groups, you will rotate around the classroom to each piece of chart paper.
  • Here, you will brainstorm everything you know about the topic, keyword, or phrase.
  • The trick is that you will have 30 seconds less time for each brainstorm. We will switch after 2 minutes at your home base, 1.5 min at the next chart paper, then 1 min, and only 30 seconds at the final station.


Environment Canada. Air Quality Health Index. Revised Dec. 2011.

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