Pollution - Why It Matters

Contributor: Roxann Penny. Lesson ID: 12762

Have your parents warned you not to play in the dirt? Would you drink dirty water, eat dirty food, or breathe dirty air? This can happen if pollution gets out of hand! Learn how you can help stop it!


Earth Science, People and Their Environment

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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You may already know that pollution is harmful to the environment, but how much do you really understand about its harmful effects?

Watch this documentary trailer, A Plastic Ocean Official Trailer, created by scientist Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter; you may be shocked at what your discover:

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  • What are your thoughts about the video trailer?
  • Were you surprised to learn about the harmful effects of plastic waste on marine life?

Share your thoughts with your teacher or parent, then continue with this lesson to learn about pollution.

What is pollution?

Pollution occurs when the environment is contaminated with harmful substances, or pollutants. There are many forms of pollution. However, in this lesson, you will learn about the three main types of pollution. The three main forms of pollution include land pollution, water pollution, and air pollution. Take a closer look at each one of these types of pollution.

Land pollution

land pollution

  • What are some ways in which land is polluted?

One of the most common ways in which land or soil is polluted is through household and industrial waste.

Household waste is the stuff that we throw away into the trash every day.
Industrial waste, as you may have guessed, is generated by industries and businesses like factories and hospitals. Industrial waste may at times be very hazardous and may require special methods of disposal to prevent it from harming the environment.

Water pollution

water pollution

Water pollution occurs when dangerous materials and toxic substances find their way into oceans, rivers, lakes, and watersheds, to name a few. This type of pollution is very problematic because it can often be very difficult to fix. Also, when water sources are contaminated, large portions of a population may be negatively impacted. That's because many communities share the same sources of drinking water. If you drink contaminated water, you can become very ill.

Air pollution

air pollution

Now, take a slow, deep breath. You just filled your lungs with a precise combination of gases including oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor. This combination is designed specifically to sustain human life.

  • What do you think happens when pollutants find their way into the mix?

One outcome is that you may find it difficult to breathe properly.

Air pollution occurs when harmful substances are released into the atmosphere. The earth's atmosphere acts like an umbrella that is made up of different gases. This "umbrella," in part, helps protect the earth from the harmful effects of the sun, but it can also act as a trap for excess pollutants.

  • Can you think of one source of air pollution?

Discuss your idea with your teacher or parent.

Now, take a look at this Learning Junction video presentation, Learn about Pollution. As you watch the video, listen carefully to learn more about the three main types of pollution.

When you are done watching the video, discuss the following questions with your parent or teacher:

  • Why is pollution a global problem?
  • Can pollution be reduced or eliminated?
  • What do you think is the best method for reducing pollution? Do you currently practice any of the 3 Rs?

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After completing your discussion, read or listen to (below) the following NPR article by Christopher Joyce, Pollution Has Worked Its Way Down To The World's Deepest Waters. It discusses the far-reaching effects of pollution in one of the most remote places on Earth: the Marina Trench. When you are done, discuss with your instructor the following questions:

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  • Were you surprised to learn about the far-reaching effects of pollution?
  • How did pollutants get into the Marina Trench?
  • What specific details in this article were most revealing to you?
  • What actions do you think are necessary to prevent this type of pollution?

As you have read, pollution is everyone's business. When Earth's air, water, and soil are polluted, the quality of all our lives is negatively impacted. Take a moment to review the three main ways, or the 3 Rs, to reduce pollution: They are:

  1. reuse
  2. reduce
  3. recycle

Listen to and watch this music video, performed by fourth grade students from New York's Searington School, about the 3 Rs. Feel free to sing along or "bust out" your best dance moves as you watch Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Music Video Class of 2011/2012:

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By now, you should be energized and ready to take action against pollution.

Continue to the Got It? section of this lesson to review what you have learned, so you can begin to get started on doing your part in eliminating pollution!

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