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Developing Scientific Literacy-Using News

Developing Scientific Literacy-Using News

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Published by: muhammad soenarto on Feb 19, 2011
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Intended learning outcomes

This teaching sequence, originally used with 13-year-olds in Northern
Ireland, exploits a science-related article in a number of different ways.
First, the news story is used to introduce the topicof air pollution in a rele-
vant context. Second, the article provides some, but not a large amount of,
science information. Third, the story provides a backdrop against which a
number of scenarioscan be developed.
Aside from science-related learning outcomes associated with the
causes, effects and control of air pollution, the news story provides the
opportunity to develop students’ understanding of science–society issues
and to contribute to their ‘citizenship education’. Specifically, they learn
that science can illuminate the consequences of alternative courses of
action. They are reminded that they, as individuals and groups, can ‘make
a difference’. They learn that many factors, of which science is only one,
influence the lifestyle decisions we make. They explore issues associated
with the interplay of rights and responsibilities, values and viewpoints.
They ‘use their imagination to consider other people’s experiences and …
express and explain views that are not (necessarily) their own’. As an exten-
sion they may even ‘develop skills of participation and responsible action’
by ‘tak(ing) part … in school and community based activities’ (DfEE/QCA
1999a: 16).


Revising the ‘components of air’ opens the session. It is then indicated that
air also contains other gases and substances which can affect our health and
cause other problems. The article ‘Belfast gets ultimatum to come clean on
pollution’ (Figure 8.2) is read with or to the students and they are invited
to answer some key questions.

What can you say about air quality in Belfast?
Two substances which cause air pollution are mentioned in this article,
what are they?
Where do these substances come from?
Why are they a problem?



BL2430-09-Chap 8:BL2430 Chap 8 12/3/07 18:32 Page 127

It is then stessed that a newspaper will only ever give us limited infor-
mation about a topic and to find out more about the causes and effects of
air pollution we will have to consult other sources.

Figure 8.2 News story on pollution from the Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph19 January 1998

Belfast gets ultimatum to come clean on pollution

Seven years to clear the air

Belfast City Council has been given seven years to improve the quality of its air,
currently worse than any other region in the UK.

The rigorous clean-up operation to improve air quality is part of new legislation for
all councils across Britain. Belfast is at the bottom of the UK air quality league
table because of its high levels of sulphur dioxide and PM 10 particles, from coal
and fuel emissions.

Other factors include the city’s location in the Lagan basin, poor weather
conditions and lack of cleaner fuel options.

Details of a survey into Belfast’s air quality problems will be made public for the
first time at an energy conference at the Balmoral Conference Centre on Thursday,
January 29. The presentation will be given by Heather Armstrong, a senior
environmental health officer at Belfast City Council.

According to Heather, a number of health problems can arise from bad air.
‘Sulphur dioxide and PM 10 can cause eye irritation, aggravate asthma and other
respiratory problems.’

‘Air pollution is worse on cold, calm winter days, because the pollution gets
trapped under a lid of cold air.’

‘People should make sure that they burn only authorised fuels and walk instead of
using the car all the time.’

‘We can all help reduce the current high levels of air pollution by avoiding making
unnecessary short car journeys wherever possible. By walking or making use of
public transport instead, we can all do our bit to improve air quality.’

To help promote cleaner air, Belfast City Council has launched a smoke hot line.

‘People should ring the number if they want to report a smoky chimney or car
exhaust. They should note the car registration number and the address of the

‘We will educate and advise people, but if they are persistent offenders, fines may
be imposed,’ said Heather.



BL2430-09-Chap 8:BL2430 Chap 8 12/3/07 18:32 Page 128

Activity 1

Students complete a table (Figure 8.3) using reference books, information
leaflets, the internet etc.

Figure 8.3 Air pollution table to be completed using other information sources to
supplement the news article

Activity 2

Students are encouraged to reread the newspaper article and to identify the
two main ways to reduce air pollution mentioned in the story.
Working in small groups, they role play or write a short script for the
family discussion associated with a relevant ‘scenario’ such as the following:

Shopping your neighbour

The family next door is burning ordinary coal in a smokeless zone.
Everyone in the street is complaining about it. Then one night mum
reads this article in the Belfast Telegraph. ‘I feel like reporting the
O’Connors’, she announces. ‘I think I will phone this number and tell
them what’s happening.’

The debriefing is very important. As a class, students discuss their deci-
sion-making process. What influenced their decision? Was it what they
knew about air pollution from science? What other factors did they con-
sider? What factor did they consider most important? In our experience,
very few student groups choose to ‘shop’ their neighbour, believing that
this would make life difficult. This highlights the fact that science consid-
erations are not always the most prominent in decision making. The inter-
play of rights and responsibilities, values and viewpoints can be explored.

Air pollutant

(Where does it
come from?)

(Why are we
worried about this
substance in the

Control and
(What can we do
to reduce this

Sulphur dioxide

Particulate matter

Nitrogen oxides



BL2430-09-Chap 8:BL2430 Chap 8 12/3/07 18:33 Page 129

The complexity of decision making processes in relation to socio-scientific
issues is acknowledged.

Activity 3

The final activity focuses on how we can find out the present level of air
pollution locally. Students are informed that scientists monitor air quality
daily and that the results are made available to the public through the
media. They are alerted to the relevant information in newspapers, on
weather broadcasts and on websites and are asked to note the air quality
over the next (say) six science days and chart the results.
Finally, the series of lessons is concluded by reinforcing the contribu-
tion young people can make to the reduction of air pollution and, perhaps,
involving them in a relevant school- or community-based activity.

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