Identifying the Relationship Between Black Carbon and the Weather


Shraddha Subramaniam

CIS 303, Bronx

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2008


Subject: Earth Science

Objective:  What will your students will be able to do by the end of class?




Defining Success


SWBAT identify the relationship between black carbon and the weather.


ASSESSMENT. How will you know concretely that all of your students have mastered the objective?

KEY POINTS. What three to five main ideas or steps will you emphasize in your lesson?

The students will compare their black carbon samples with a colorscale and analyze other studentsí samples.


An athalometer is an instrument that measures black carbon emissions in the air.  Black carbon is a substance that is released by cars and trucks and have a strong link to causing asthma.  Weather can be affected by pollutants like BC, but weather can also play a role in the amount of black carbon on a particular day.



Movie clip




Weather log sheet

String and paper clips to hang tape







Lesson Cycle


ENGAGE. How will you focus, prepare and engage students for the lessonís objective?      

The students will watch an old-fashioned movie clip that shows someone getting soot on their face after sticking it near a car tailpipe.

EXPLORATION. How will the students be able to involve themselves scientifically in the objective?  How will they have an opportunity to be hands-on and inquiry-based? 

The teacher will lead a whole-class discussion about what might have turned the personís face black.  The teacher will note on the board the suggestions students gave.

The teacher will ask the students if they believe their suggestions are actually in the atmosphere.  The students will be split into groups of 3 and will be assigned a date to test this assertion.  Each group of three will be given three pieces of heavy-duty double-sided tape that they will mount onto a piece of cardboard.  For three day periods, 2 groups at a time will hang their tape outside of the classroom window.  They will all take data on the weather conditions for those days.  They will also make predictions of what will happen to their tape.

EXPLANATION. How will the teacher help the students understand the connection between  the exploration and the objective?  How will the teacher simplify the concept?


The teacher will give notes about black carbon and weather, covering the key points.

-     Black carbon is a pollutant emitted from trucks and cars.

-     It is measured with an instrument called the athalometer.  The athalometer takes in large quantities of air and blows it onto a strip of paper.  The darker the paper is after this, the more black carbon is in the air. 

-     Black carbon is a pollutant and can cause asthma.  New York City has a particularly high rate of BC and correlatively high rates of asthma.

-     Weather can affect the amount of black carbon in the air.  Higher wind speeds can decrease the amount, it can be blown around depending on wind direction, and precipitation and humidity can decrease the amount (but my research showed otherwise). 



ELABORATION. In what ways will your different learners attempt the objective on their own?  How will the students improve upon their exploration involving concepts covered in the explanation?


After all studentsí samples of BC have been taken, students will compare them to a greyscale to estimate the amount of BC they had on their day.

Students will fill in a data chart (PDF) in which they analyze othersí samples and note the weather conditions those samples faced.  Students will analyze these results and make conclusions about how different weather factors affect pollution levels.



Graphic Organizer

EVALUATION. How will the teacher gauge the studentsí mastery of the objective?


The students will answer three state test-style questions about the standard.

Exit Slipls

DIFFERENTIATION:  How will you differentiate your instruction to reach the diversity of learners in your classroom?

This lesson allows students to work in heterogeneous groups.  It is highly kinesthetic and relates the concept of environmental science to the real world.



NSTA Content Standard A (Grades 5-8)

Students should organize materials and other resources, plan their work, make good use of group collaboration where appropriate, choose suitable tools and techniques, and work with appropriate measurement methods to ensure adequate accuracy.

PS2.2r: Substances enter the atmosphere naturally and from human activity.  Some of these substances include dust from volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor.  These substances can affect weather, climate, and living things.