Air Quality Unit - Lesson 1 : What Gets Into the Air?

1.      Challenge students to determine how many municipal incinerators are in Michigan, where they are located, and what air quality rules apply to them. Michigan environmental groups are especially concerned about the impacts of incinerators in cities such as Detroit.

2.      Have the class do a trash audit for a week in the classroom. Determine the impacts of what would happen if all the trash was burned. How could this trash be managed without burning it (i.e., composting, recycling)?

3.      Students could do research on local ordinances regulating open burning. If there is none in your community, draft an ordinance using models from other communities. See model burning ordinances at mi_model_ordinance.pdf.

4.      Students could do a survey of barbecue grill, fireplace, or burn barrel use in their community and then educate people in the correct use of these devices by creating a brochure.

5.      As an art project, ask students to develop posters on topics such as what may be in trash that is harmful to burn, indoor air pollution from combustion, and leaf burning.

6.      Read passages from the Michael Faraday series of lectures on “The Chemical History of a Candle,” at mod/1860Faraday-candle.html.

Faraday was an English chemist who gave these lectures in the 1860s.


Try to repeat some of Faraday’s demonstrations. The lectures are as follows:

·         Lecture I: A Candle: The Flame - Its Sources

- Structure Mobility – Brightness

·         Lecture II: Brightness of the Flame – Air Necessary for Combustion - Production of Water

·         Lecture III: Products: Water From the

Combustion - Nature of Water -

A Compound – Hydrogen

·         Lecture IV: Hydrogen in the Candle Burns into Water - The Other Part of Water - Oxygen

·         Lecture V: Oxygen Present in Air - Nature of the Atmosphere - Carbonic Acid

·         Lecture VI: Carbon or Charcoal - Coal Gas

- Respiration and Its Analogy to a Candle

      With students, explore fire as a forest management tool. Fire is a source of smoke, which contributes to air pollution. However, fire also plays an important role in many forest ecosystems. Get more information at


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