Polluting the Earth

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SWBAT identify ways that humans pollute the soil, air, and water on Earth and create a new sign that could be used to stop pollution.

Big Idea

After identifying ways that humans pollute the air, soil, and water on Earth, students work in groups to create a new sign to stop pollution.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This 

Unit 7 covers standard 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  In this unit students research how science is related to various professions.  They also research ways to conserve energy and ways that communities work together to keep their environment clean.    

Each lesson in this unit is directly linked to the standard.  This lesson focuses on things that humans do to pollute the Earth which has a huge impact on the Earth.  At the end of the lesson, signs that are used to encourage others to stop polluting are shown and groups have the opportunity to create signs of their own.  This connects the lesson to the real world and ways they can help in the community. 

Lesson Goal:

The goal of today's lesson is for students to be able to identify several ways that humans pollute the soil, air, and water.  By knowing ways we pollute, they will then understand ways to stop pollution. 

Success Criteria: 

Students will demonstrate success on this lesson goal by creating a list of ways humans pollute the air, soil, and water, and sharing their list with the class. 

Preparing For The Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • examples of the exit ticket used in the previous lesson that list pollution as a negative affect of things that have changed the Earth. 

Guided Practice:

  • computer to share a website that lists 5 ways humans pollute the Earth


Wrap Up:  

  • A copy of the pollution sign examples to share with the class 
  • Chart paper and markers for groups to use to create their posters 

Warm Up

10 minutes

Changes Made By Humans Are Causing Pollution 

To begin today's lesson I read some of the responses I got on the exit tickets from yesterday's lesson on the development of the land.  I share several examples of answers that were given by students that are related to pollution having a negative effect on land over time.  The majority of the answers related to pollution were written for cars and factories.  Below are two of these examples.   


After sharing about 6 responses, I ask students what they heard that was the same in every response.  Students tell me pollution was answered as the negative effect.   I restate this by saying, so many students believe that the changes humans have made over time to improve life are also causing pollution.  Would you agree with that statement?  Students do agree and begin wanting to add information and share stories.  

Why Begin The Lesson In This Way 

By sharing answers from the exit tickets used in the previous lesson, I am making the connection and progression into today's lesson/content clear.  I also want to use it as a way to recognize that many students began making the connection between human development and pollution on their own.  It is my job as the educator to take this connection and deepen their understanding which I will do through today's lesson.  

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Soil, Water, and Air Pollution 

I have the definition of "pollution" written on the front board and share it with students.  The definition I used is:  Contamination of air, water or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms.  

I share a website with students called 5 Common Ways People Pollute.  This webpage discusses 5 common things that humans do that add to the pollution of soil, water, and air and ways we can reduce this pollution.  I like this site because some of the examples given are common like driving cars, and using plastic bags.  However, other examples given are things that I would not have even thought of as adding pollution to Earth, such as leaving a phone charger plugged in and washing your car near grass.  

As I share each one I ask students to expand on the example given. This helps the ESE and ELL students who may not understand what is written on the webpage. Hearing about it more in depth, in common language by their peers, may help.   

  1. Washing your car near grass - students tell me that the soap used gets into the grass and that the water used mixes with fertilizers and pesticides that are sprayed on the lawn. 
  2. Using paper or plastic bags - students tell me that factories have to make the bags and trucks have to deliver the bags both cause air pollution, and once used the bags are thrown away which causes soil pollution. 
  3. Driving a short distance - driving cars cause air pollution and if the car is leaking oil or other chemicals it causes soil pollution 
  4. Leaving chargers plugged in - students tell me that factories have to burn fuel to make electricity which causes air pollution
  5. Eating meat - students tell me that animals are fed hormones that make them grow bigger, then they use the restroom and the manure causes soil pollution   


20 minutes

Examples of Ways We Pollute

After sharing these five examples with the class, I provide each group (my class is already divided into table groups of four with 2 high students and 2 struggling students in each group) with a copy of the What Causes Pollution Research Page.  I explain that I want students to spend the first 5 minutes writing examples of ways humans pollute the soil, water, and air.  Then, after 5 minutes, I will provide each group with a laptop to research some additional ways that they may not have thought of or known.  

It is important to give groups that time to jot down some ways they already know before allowing them to research because it guarantees that they will have several examples down.  If I just allow them to begin researching from the beginning they may spend a lot of time researching and not get many examples copied, or copy a lot of information straight from the internet and not have time to get many examples.  By allowing them time to record all of the examples they already know, it also allows them to spend more time researching some examples that they may not already know. 


                 pollution research page 1                                               pollution research page 2

Sharing Examples 

After researching for about 15 minutes, groups share what they had for each section.  As they share, I ask them what they learned that they did not already know.  I jot down these facts on a chart in front of the class.  One group found that rockets add pollution to the air when they take off, and that adding hot water to normal water act as pollution because it harms the animals.   Another group did not know that adding pesticides to crops not only pollutes the soil, but also causes pollution to water from runoff.  Another group said they discovered that radioactive waste pollutes the air and water and can take thousands of years to decay so it is building up.  Another one that a group found that was interesting was that mercury pollution affects all areas, soil, water, and air.  Mercury is commonly found in fish which is eaten a lot here in Florida but I was not aware that it can also be found in the air and soil.  The group said that sources of mercury are waste disposal, mining, cement production, and steel and iron production. By sharing things they learned, they are helping teach their peers about these sources of pollution.   

I was not sure what the group meant by "adding hot water to normal water harms animals" so I looked it up to elaborate for the class,and to educate myself.  On Encyclopedia.com, I found that " Power plants use water to cool their reactors and turbines, and discharge it into lakes and tributaries after it has become heated. Higher water temperatures accelerate biological and chemical processes in rivers and streams, reducing the water's ability to retain dissolved oxygen. This can hasten the growth of algae and disrupt the reproduction of fish." Taking 30 seconds to do this in class models for students how they should conduct further research if they do not know/understand something.  It also shows students that I do not know everything and learn from them sometimes as well. 

Wrap Up

20 minutes

Create A Sign To Stop Pollution 

I share some pollution sign examples with the class.  The first picture promotes carpooling, the second is a sign for no smoking, the third states there will be a fine for littering and shows a man throwing something out his window, and the last picture is a sign depicting a person throwing something away.  I chose two signs that show what you should do (car pool and throw garbage away) and two that show what you should not do (smoke and litter).  By providing examples of both, I am giving students two different trains of thought to approach this assignment with.  

In groups, students work on creating a poster of their own to promote not polluting.  This connects the lesson to the real world.  Their posters will be hung up in the hall to encourage their school community to stop pollution.