Ozone Theater: Setting the Stage for Air Pollution Education￼
What We Did
We believe it’s never too early to teach children about the importance of clean air.
For almost 20 years, from the late 1990s through 2019, Air Alliance Houston (previously Mothers for Clean Air) offered free air pollution and health education lessons for elementary and middle school students.
“Ozone Theater,” developed in partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch, was an educational program that used interactive theatrical games and hands-on activities to educate students about ozone air pollution, a major problem in the Houston area.
The idea was to make children aware of the causes and health effects of ground-level ozone in a fun, lively, and interesting way.
Three age-appropriate curricula were aligned to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) objectives in science, health, language arts, and fine arts.
Ozone Theater used a drama-based educational approach, which employs theater techniques to get students moving around the classroom and actively engaging with the material that they’re learning.
This type of teaching creates equal learning opportunities for all kinds of learners regardless of age, race, language, and learning style. In addition, studies have shown that the use of drama-based education motivates students to be more excited about learning and improves information retention as proven by increased test scores.
Ozone Theater teaching artists employed pre- and post-tests to demonstrate the learning involved in the program, and teachers evaluated each workshop to ensure the persistence of quality.
In “Pesky Polluters,” Kindergarten through second grade students were introduced to the concept of air pollution, and the difference between clean air and dirty air. They acted out various sources of air pollution such as a bus, a car, a plane, a factory, or a gas station.
GOOD OZONE, BAD OZONE
In “Good Ozone, Bad Ozone,” third through fifth graders learned the difference between the ozone layer and ground-level ozone. They were introduced to the federal government’s Air Quality Index and they acted out appropriate, safe activities for times of elevated ground-level ozone.
AIR POLLUTION SOLUTIONS
In “Air Pollution Solutions,” middle school students learned the basic facts of air pollution: what it is, where it comes from, and what they can do about it. Students were led through an improvisational drama in which they acted out possible solutions to ozone exposure during sports practice and diesel emissions from idling school buses.
Ozone Theater received numerous awards, including:
- The Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- The President’s Cabinet Award from University of Texas Medical Branch.
- A Mayor’s Proud Partner Certificate of Recognition from the City of Houston.
- “After school, as we were waiting for parents to pick students up, I heard a couple of kids talk about the bus’s tail pipe and pollution. I think they got it.” – Houston ISD Elementary School Teacher
- “We had fun learning from the leader’s positive, innovative techniques. The students did gain new knowledge and the bookmarks they received from the presenter were an added treat! Thank you for arranging this wonderful program.” – Elementary Environmental Educator at Environmental Institute of Houston-Clear Lake
- “I love all the actions and movements. Great for young children! The students were very engaged. The Teaching Artist was very energetic and patient with the kids. I learned a lot too!” – Humble ISD Elementary School Teacher
- “Very informative, and the children were interested and engaged. It’s a great lead-in for our Science Fair project.” – Houston ISD Elementary School Teacher
- “My teachers were impressed, and they’re a tough group to impress.” – Pasadena ISD Science Curriculum Manager
Due to limited resources and a re-focusing of our organizational strategic objectives towards a greater emphasis on community engagement and impacting legislative change, the Ozone Theater program was discontinued in 2019.