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This air quality activity will have the students conduct an
experiment to sample and measure the particulate matter in the air at various
locations and/or elevations in the schoolyard. This is an activity that can
easily be scaled up or down depending upon the grade level. Make
index card windows and place clear packing tape over them. Place the
cards at various locations in the schoolyard, leaving them for a minimum of a
24-hour period. At the end of this time, they will collect the cards and
calculate the particulate matter stuck to the tape.

Grade Levels: 4 - 8

Approximate Time Involved:

One 30 minute classroom planning session, one 30
minute setup session, two 45 minute data collection sessions to examine results,
state conclusions, draw inferences and make recommendations. NOTE: Cards need to
be left outside for a 24-hour period.

To make this experiment more challenging , you might want to
develop your own system for measuring and identifying the
particulates collected. You might also ask such questions as: What location in
the schoolyard will have the poorest air quality? Will the air quality be poorer
at higher levels than lower levels? Does the weather make a difference in air
quality? How do the television air quality reports compare with the number of
particulates collected? Design and conduct an experiment to measure the
particulate air quality of different locations in your schoolyard.

Needed Materials:

Index cards (7.5 X 12.5 cm.) or empty photo slides or tag
board (enough for each group to have at least 3 collection cards), magnifying
glass, clear packing tape, rulers, 5 mm. grid paper, calculators, masking tape,
string, or clothespins, scissors, microscope (optional).

Safety Rule:

Do not climb trees or other structures to place your cards.


Student Information: The following information will provide you with the steps
for setting up your air quality test. It is important to hold all of the
variables constant except for those that are being manipulated. Constant (or
controlled variables) would be such things as: the size of the collection space,
the amount of time the experiment is conducted, the stickiness of the packing
tape, etc. Manipulated (or independent) variables would be those things that we
change to see if the response will be different, such as: location of the card,
height of the card, weather on day of collection, etc. The responding (or
dependent) variable for this experiment will be the number and variety of
particulates you gather on your cardboard. NOTE: Temperature and wind are
variables that will be difficult to control or intentionally manipulate in this
experiment. However, from your experiments, you may be able to infer as to
whether temperature or wind has any impact on the number and variety of
particulates collected. The reporting form for this experiment is set up so that
you can determine how many collecting boards you want to put out, where you want
to place them, and what elevations you want to use. NOTE: Be sure to leave your
collection boards out for a minimum of a twenty-four hour period.


1. Click on the “View Data” link at the Air Quality Investigation web page.
Click on “View” in the blank sample listed on the chart.  What comes up is
the data collection sheet that will be used in this investigation. Print it
and place it on your clipboard.

2. Begin by cutting a 3 cm. X 5 cm. rectangle out of the center of your index
cards or tag board. Decide how you will measure the particulates collected on
your collection cards. NOTE: If you have empty photo slides the hole is
already made.

3. Place clear packing tape on one side of the card or slide so the sticky
part is exposed through the hole.

4. Choose a location for your collection cards or slides that will not get a
lot of human interference for a minimum of a twenty-four hour period.

5. Write your group's name and the location you where will be placing the
card or slide, on the back of either the card or the slide.

6. Once you have chosen the location you will be placing the card or slide,
decide how you will attach your card or slide to this location (tape, string
or clothespins).

7. Attach the cards or slides to the three locations you have chosen in the

8. After a minimum of 24 hours return to your cards and take them down.

9. Place your 5 mm. grid paper on the non-sticky side of the card or slide so
that it shows through the packing tape. Using a microscope or magnifying glass,
count and calculate the number of particulates in each 5 mm grid for a total
area of 3cm2.  Be sure to enter all of your collected data onto your printed
data collection sheet.

10. After group and classroom discussions have occurred, login to enter your
data. online at the correct location.  NOTE: Only numbers must be inserted
into the spaces provided in order for your Excel spreadsheet to work

11. Once all classroom data is submitted you can download all submitted Air
Quality data and develop charts and graphs in Excel by following the general
directions provided at "Downloading and Analyzing Collected Data Using an
Excel Spreadsheet"