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Chesapeake Bay


Activity 12 (Elaborate): Doing Our Part

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Activity Overview

Activity Summary

Now that students have learned about sources of nitrogen pollution the Chesapeake Bay, and where it comes from, now is there chance to do something about it! In this multi-day activity, students plan and implement an action project to reduce pollution to the Bay. They will have to make choices about what project to do, and how to do it in order to be successful in doing their part to improve the health of the Bay.

A Note About Student Input and Planning: Like other components of the MWEE, significant student input should be involved in planning their action project. Because project options are so diverse, the activity guide below can be somewhat vague at times. As always, consider what is best for you and your students, and be creative.

Activity Objectives & Materials

Approximate Time: variable depending on action project​


  • Students will plan and implement an action project to decrease pollution inputs into the Chesapeake Bay



  • Vary depending upon project chosen



  • None

Standards Connection

DCI: ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

CCC:  Cause & Effect



What kinds of activities do you participate in that result in air pollution going into the Chesapeake Bay airshed? It may be helpful to put up the “sources of nitrogen pollution” graphic to help students complete the warmup.

  • Possible answers: using electricity (playing video games, watching tv, surfing the internet, etc.), riding in a car


Gather students’ answers, either by having them write their answers on post-its/slips of paper than can be posted, or by writing it on chart paper or a whiteboard so that they can be referenced later.


1. Frame the Activity

Tell students that now that they understand how much of a problem air pollution can be to the health of the Bay, it’s time for them to think about they we can do to help solve the problem. Today they’ll start working on an action project to support clean air in the airshed and clean water in the watershed. They will brainstorm different actions we can take, and then we’ll decide on a project to do together as a class.

Step 1

2. Addressing Sources of Air Pollution

Go back to the warmup list and have students discuss the ways that they (and the school community) contribute to air pollution. Is there anything missing from the list? Which ones are important to students to address? Which ones are easier for them to address?

3. Brainstorm Ways to Address These Sources

In groups, have students who are interested in a addressing a particular source work together to brainstorm ways to address that source. If you think students will need more support with this, brainstorm together as a class. Below is a list of suggestions for activities students can take in their school community:


Transportation emissions:

  • Students create a campaign for a walk/bike to school day once a month/week

  • Students advocate/fundraise for a bike rack for the school

  • Students advocate for a no-idling zone and signs at the school

  • Students create a carpooling program at the school or make plans to carpool with other students

  • Create a transportation log that shows how many miles you ride in a car in a month. Pledge to reduce the number next month.

  • Students create a campaign to support buying locally-sourced food or supporting a local farmers’ market


Electricity usage:

  • Students fundraise to get Kill A Watt electricity use monitors for the school, then use them to monitor and lower electricity use

  • Students create signs around the school reminding teachers and students to shut off lights and electronics when they’re not being used

  • Students create pledges for themselves and families to use less electricity at home by turning off lights and electronics, opening windows instead of running the air conditioning, using energy-efficient lighting, etc.



If you live in a rural community, you can also consider options that support using less fertilizer and or preventing runoff from entering local waterways.


For additional ideas of what you can do, see EPA’s website on nutrient pollution mitigation:

Teacher Tips: You may want to jump ahead to the brainstorm activity to before deciding which sources of pollution are easier/harder to address. For example, reducing power plant emissions may seem like a difficult source to address, but in reality, it comes down to using less electricity, which may be easier to do.

Remember that it is your role as the teacher to support the student brainstorm, not to make a series of suggestions. If you think students are overlooking a possibility, try asking them some questions to support their thinking rather than just making the suggesting yourself. You want this project to be theirs, not yours.

Step 4

4. Choose a Class Project

The action project will be more successful if the class undertakes one project together. The same is true if you teach multiple classes. Have students come to a consensus about what project they feel is most important to them. You may want them to discuss/debate ideas, vote on them, etc. as way to reach a decision.

5. Plan the Project

With your help, have students divide the project up into smaller pieces that groups of students can work on. For a campaign, some students may make posters, while others write a letter for school staff, administration, or parents. The project may require additional research, so be sure to plan ahead for this. You will likely need to do some planning outside of class, but try to include students in planning as much as possible. Once you have a plan developed, make sure to share that plan with students.

6. Implement the Plan

Follow your plan, and make adjustments along the way as necessary. You may need to reach out to partners to help support your work with donations or advice. Be sure to document your students’ work along the way with pictures, videos, etc.

7. Celebrate Success

When the project is complete, take time to reflect on and celebrate what you and your students have accomplished. How many pledges have you collected to use less electricity? Have you created a no-idle zone outside the school? Write a story about it for the local newspaper or the school website. Share your success with others in the environmental conservation community.

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