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October 15, 2021

Daily News Lesson: How fires, dry conditions are drastically increasing air pollution across California

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Summary: Smoke and dust are blanketing central California. Air pollution is a chronic problem in the San Joaquin Valley but it is now reaching levels unlike any previously seen. With no measurable rainfall in weeks, and little chance of rain in the forecast, there is no end in sight. 

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is being impacted by wildfires in California?
  • What are some ways wildfires are impacting the environment beyond destroying forests? 
  • Where in California is air pollution becoming a dangerous problem?
  • Why have record levels of air pollution settled on the San Joaquin Valley?
  • How have conditions changed in recent years in ways that have led to more smoke in the air?

Focus question:

  1. Who do you think is in the best position to help address the damage caused by wildfires in California? If the increasing scope and size of fires are not addressed, what do you think will be some consequences even for people outside of California?

Media literacy: The reporter interviewed for this piece is based in Fresno, which is impacted by the extreme dust and smoke pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. What do you think are some of the advantages of having reporters who live in communities impacted by events like the California wildfires? 

Additional resources:

  • For more reporting from Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado on the particulate pollution in California, see this piece.
  • Check out this series of lesson plans for ways students can help address problems like pollution and climate change in their own communities.

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