Does Pollen in the Atmosphere
Affect How We Feel?
Students will describe the relationships between daily pollen levels, weather, and their own (or classmates) allergy or asthma symptoms.
Students will record their own symptoms of allergies or asthma every day for two to four weeks. They will also keep a record of daily weather measurements and look-up daily pollen counts in the local paper. At they end of the unit, students will graph the results of their data collection.
Approximately 25% of the population suffer from allergies including hay fever and asthma. Pollen and spores are important triggers of these allergies. Pollen is part of the reproductive cycle in flowering plants. Pollen is dispersed by wind or carried by insects. Insect-pollinated flowers usually have large, showy, and brightly-colored petals, which attract insects. In wind-pollinated plants, the flowers are very small and inconspicuous. They produced enormous quantities of lightweight pollen that is readily dispersed by the atmosphere. It is these wind-pollinated plants that are the cause of suffering for millions of people.
Springtime is one of the worst pollen seasons in the Tulsa area for allergy sufferers. Most of the native trees as well as many of the ornamental trees are wind-pollinated and many of the pollen types are allergenic. For many trees the small inconspicuous flowers are produced just before the leaves develop from the buds and go unnoticed by most people. Weather has significant effects on pollen release. The most pollen will be released on warm, dry, sunny, and windy days. Cold temperature and high humidity delay pollen release, and rainfall washes the pollen out of the air. Allergy symptoms may improve on these days.
I suggest that you plan this exercise for the period after spring break. Tree pollen levels typically peak from late March through most of April. The data collection should continue for a minimum of two weeks (data collected during ten school days). If time permits and student interest level is high, you can continue for four weeks (20 days of data). This would include a fair amount of the tree pollen season.
Another good time for this exercise is soon after school begins. In September ragweed pollen levels begin to increase early in the month and usually peak around September 10. The levels drop slowly and are often still high in early October.
The major purpose of this activity is for students to increase their awareness of several topics: (1) pollen is part of the reproductive cycle of flowering plant; (2) pollen (along with fungal spores) is present in the air and can affect our health; (3) the weather has an influence on the pollen level in the atmosphere.