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Can Buildings Make You Sick?

Classroom Activity

To collect and observe airborne particles in and out of the classroom.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Air Sampling" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  • a glass jar with a wide opening (such as a mayonnaise or jelly jar)
  • petroleum jelly
  • cotton swabs
  • masking tape
  • permanent markers
  • map of the school grounds (can be drawn by a student)
  • hand-held lenses or microscopes
  • transparent tape
  • camera (optional)
  1. What kinds of particles are in the air in your classroom and around your school? To give students an opportunity to collect and observe airborne particles in and out of the classroom, conduct this activity.

  2. Collect the materials listed, then copy and distribute the "Air Sampling" student handout. Divide the class into pairs and give each pair of students a set of materials.

  3. Have the students follow the instructions to prepare their collecting jars and select test sites. Using a large map of the school and grounds, have each group label the locations of the jars. Make sure they label the jars clearly, possibly including a note to explain the purpose of the activity so that no one disturbs the jars.

  4. After a week, have the students gather and analyze their samples. Ask students to compare the samples and explain their results.

Activity Answer

Students should see a distinct difference in the samples from indoors and outdoors. If a sample was collected outside, rain may have washed debris in or out of it; wind may have deposited pollen, flowers, or leaves from nearby foliage; or rain or snow may have filled the sample container. If a sample was collected indoors in a high-traffic area, it will contain more material than a sample collected in a low-traffic area because of the dust and dirt that people create. Students should also identify factors in the immediate environment of their test site that affected their samples, such as dirt from exhaust in a sample collected in a parking lot or dust in a sample collected near an air vent.

Teacher's Guide
Can Buildings Make You Sick?

Video is not required for this activity