Monitoring the Biology

Part of the "Air Pollution Detecting Gardens" Collection


Students will use observations in their garden to monitor differences in plants.

Estimated Time

45 Minutes

Setting Required



  • S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.


  • Magnifying glasses (1 per student)
  • Journals or 8.5×11 copy paper (1 per student)
  • Coloring supplies (enough for each student)


  1. Challenge students to explore the life around their schoolyard very closely to monitor and gather any evidence of anything different. Guide students to examine particularly the leaves of the plants with their microscopes. (If milkweed is planted in the garden, it specifically can be a strong indicator of the environment). Model for students, recording scientific detailed and labeled drawings of their findings so the research can be completed upon the return to the classroom.
  2. When students return to the classroom with their detailed, labeled drawings of their findings, use resources to determine what the plants are telling us:
    “What’s Wrong with My Plant?”
    “Is it Ozone Damage?”
    “Monarch Feeding or Not”
  3. Discuss findings as a class. Questions may include:

-Does the condition of plants indicate that our air is polluted?
(answer will vary depending on location and season)

-How do we know?
(ozone data map from research and milkweed monitoring results)

-What are the first effects of ozone pollution on an ecosystem? (sensitive plants may show damage before other components of ecosystem)

-What effects cascade from the damage done to plants?
(scarcity of a plant limits the population of animals that depend on it for food and affects other organisms in the food web)

-How could animals be affected by ozone pollution?
(indirectly, as a result of damage to plants on which they depend, and directly, in terms of their own respiratory health)

-What are some ways that plants respond to pollution in an ecosystem?
(pollution-tolerant species may out-compete the pollution- sensitive species and become dominant in the area)

-What are some ways that animals may respond to pollution in an ecosystem?
(migration, change in diet, increased competition for limited resources, starvation/decline in population)