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Environmental Monitoring


Grade Range
Group Size
3-4 students
Active Time
6-8 hours
Total Time
6-8 hours
Area of Science
Environmental Science
Electricity & Electronics
Key Concepts
Human impact on the environment, electrical circuits, engineering
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Leads of a multimeter attach to two aluminum foil props placed in the soil


Does human activity impact the environment? If so, how can we measure our impact on the environment? How can we use these measurements to change our behavior? In this project, your students will explore these questions by designing and building an electronic circuit that can measure environmental parameters like water quality or light pollution.

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Apply scientific principles to design an object, tool, process, or system.

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information. Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems. Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth's environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.
Crosscutting Concepts
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World. All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.


Each group of students will need:

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Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

Human activity can impact the environment in a variety of ways, ranging from air or water pollution to the destruction of animal habitats. This lesson plan will allow your students to explore how some of these impacts can be measured electronically using the parts in the Electronic Sensors Kit. You can decide whether you would like your students to choose from the following suggested topics, think of their own topic, or focus on a single activity for the entire class. Links to related Science Buddies project ideas provide more background information about each topic.

This is a very open-ended lesson. While there are specific instructions for building each circuit, how they use the circuit will be up to the students. Depending on your students' prior knowledge, you will need to decide what material you cover in class and/or what you assign as background reading material.

Note: Depending on the project(s) you select, you and your students will need to be comfortable using a multimeter and/or a breadboard. You will also need a beginner-level understanding of electrical terms like voltage, current, and resistance, as well as their respective units (volts, amperes, and ohms) and metric prefixes (m for milli, k for kilo, etc.).

Prep Work (1 hour)

Engage (30 minutes)

Explore (4-6 hours)

Reflect (1 hour)


Make Career Connections

Lesson Plan Variations

Free science fair projects.