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Amy Hrdina, Jesse Kroll


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences, Health

Resource Types

  • Videos, 5 minutes, 22 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media
  • Articles and Websites
  • Assessments

Regional Focus


What's in the Air You Breathe?

Ask a Question

  • This video describes molecules and compounds found in the air, both naturally occurring and toxic manufactured pollutants. 
  • Students will learn about the difference between primary and secondary pollutants, where they come from, and how they are formed. 
  • The resource also includes comprehension questions and links to additional resources. 
Teaching Tips


  • This animated video explains somewhat complex concepts with easy-to-understand visuals, making the resource appropriate for a wide range of audiences. 
  • The interactive quiz helps students check their understanding and receive immediate feedback.
  • The Dig Deeper section includes additional resources and links, including a map showing real-time air quality in locations around the world and a link to another TED-Ed lesson about the science of smog.

Additional Prerequisites

  • For students to participate in the quiz in the Think section, they must enter their names (their responses are shared with TED-Ed). This is only allowed for students who are 13 years of age or older. 


  • Chemistry classes could take this lesson further by learning more about the specific chemical reactions that take place in the atmosphere to produce secondary pollutants, including sulfur oxides that react to become sulfates and eventually, sulfurous smog. 
  • The Discuss section offers a guided discussion question that could be used for a small group or whole-class discussion.
  • Additional resources on this topic include this video about reducing air pollutants, this experiment on the level of ozone in the air, and this lesson about air pollution in California. 
Scientist Notes
This video resource breaks down what exactly is in the air that we breathe. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • MS-PS1-2 Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
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