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The Air We Breathe

The Air We Breathe is a one-day workshop that will teach you to identify types of lichens, trees and pests as well as about other air quality tests! You’ll learn about urban air quality issues and investigate the impact that air quality has on human health.

Because lichens grow slowly, derive their nutrients from air, and can live to be over 1,000 years old (!), lichens, like humans, are sensitive to air quality. In general, lichen populations have been shown to be more diverse in areas with less urban development and industrial activity; in combination with chemical tests, monitoring lichen populations can reveal changes in the pollutant levels in different environments. The Air We Breathe will teach you to identify types of lichens, trees and pests as well as about chemical and physical air quality tests. You will leave this workshop ready to guide your students in assessing the air quality and monitoring the trees in and around your own schoolyard, projects you can continue for years to come!

© Jacqueline Donnelly

A typical workshop will include:

  1. Hands-on experience learning to identify and sampling southern Ontario’s 8 lichen indicator species
  2. Information about purifying your school’s air using natural indoor air filters, like aloe, spider plant, golden pathos and heart leaf philodendron
  3. The creation of a plant press, which you can use to help students learn to identify trees, teach taxonomy, engage students’ creativity and explore the biodiversity of your school grounds
  4. An overview of primary and secondary air pollutants and the impacts of poor air quality on human health
  5. Lots of take-away resources and equipment, plus up to two hours of personal, follow-up support, to help you bring what you have learned to life at your school

Curriculum Connections

The content covered in The Air We Breathe can be applied across numerous grades and subjects taught in Ontario. However, we find connections to the following courses and strands are some of the strongest:




STEM Education

The Air We Breathe helps teachers incorporate STEM education and STSE expectations into everyday lessons. Teachers who participate in this workshop will:

  • Learn to assess air quality using lichens and other bioindicators
  • Identify the presence of pollutants using a number of instruments and tests
  • Calculate carbon sequestration by trees
  • Discover air quality issues in their own community
  • Construct a plant press to preserve specimens

Upcoming dates for this workshop:

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