Truck with Smoke Cropped

Air pollution

in the


Combustion, Particulate Matter, and Community Health

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Module Overview

Burning fuel, the chemical process of combustion, has been a part of human civilization since we first started using fire for warmth and cooking. When the Industrial Revolution provided us electricity through widespread use of coal-burning power plants, combustion brought all new benefits, and many serious drawbacks. The advent of cars and trucks driven by internal combustion engines multiplied these effects. Combustion produces particulate matter, a form of air pollution that can have very serious repercussions for human health and the environment. In this module, students will take on the role of concerned community members who fear that their proximity to sources of particulate matter, both from combustion and other processes, is endangering their health. Acting as citizen scientists, they will learn about where particulate matter comes from, and how it affects human health. They will also measure

particulate matter in their community. The module culminates in a simulated public meeting before a state committee where students will take on different roles to argue whether or not diesel trucks should be banned from traveling through residential neighborhoods.

Anchor phenomenon: Streams of particulate matter emitted from diesel vehicles.


  • 9 activities (2 optional) + summative assessment

  • Approximately 10 class periods (plus 2 optional)




When to Teach This Module


NGSS Standards Alignment - Middle School

NGSS Standards Alignment - 5th Grade

Virginia Standards of Learning Alignment

Common Core State Standards Alignment

5E Module Flow


Module Materials


Teacher Background Information


Doing Our Part

Module 3 Air Quality Champion: Joshua Shodeinde

Module 3 Glossary

For more information about On the Air 2020, contact:

Rebecca Davis, Education Manager

For more information about Clean Air Partners, check out our website at:

© 2020 by Clean Air Partners.