Take a Deep Breath on the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: How Many Ozone Molecules Do You Inhale?

Module by: Len Vacher, University of South Florida

Cover Page by: Len Vacher and Amie Fishinger, University of South Florida

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum activity introduces Geology of National Parks students to pollutants that affect air quality at two locations on the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Students will work with ratio and proportion. They will explore the concept of a mole and work with conversions between moles and molecules. The intent of the module is to have Geology of National Parks students make numerical calculations using ratio and proportion.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number NSF DUE-0836566. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Learning Goals

Slide 3 of the module.

Students will:

  • Use proportion to solve problems.
  • Convert large numbers to scientific notation.
  • Explore the concept of a mole.
  • Gain an understanding of ratio.
  • Use Boyle's Law to make volume adjustments at different pressures.
  • Be introduced to the Ideal Gas Law.
  • Calculate the number of molecules in a given volume when given concentrations.

In the process the students will:

  • Gain understanding of Boyle's Law and the Ideal Gas Law.
  • Understand how air pollution affects the National Parks.
  • Be introduced to the sources of air pollution that create ground level ozone.
  • View and interpret graphs.

Context for Use

Slide 9 of the module.
This module is designed for potential use in the Geology of National Parks service course at USF. The course is offered as an online course every semester. It includes readings from Parks and Plates, weekly quizzes based on that textbook, and weekly student activities designed to align the course with the University's general education requirements. This module is intended to be one of those activities, with the specific goal of meeting the gen-ed quantitative literacy dimension.

Description and Teaching Materials

Slide 16 of the module.

The module is a PowerPoint presentation with embedded spreadsheets. Click on the link below to download a copy of the module.

Optimal results are achieved with Microsoft Office 2007 or later; the module will function in earlier versions with slight cosmetic compromises. If the embedded spreadsheets are not visible, save the PowerPoint file to disk and open it from there.

The above PowerPoint presentation file is the student version of the module. It includes a template for students to use to complete the spreadsheet(s) and answer the end-of-module questions, and then turn in for grading.

An instructor version is available by request. The instructor version includes the completed spreadsheet. Send your request to Len Vacher (vacher@usf.edu) by filling out and submitting the Instructor Module Request Form.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The module is constructed to be a stand-alone resource. It can be used as a homework assignment, lab activity, or as the basis of an interactive classroom activity. It was used as an out-of-class activity in a senior-elective course, Environmental Geology of the National Parks (for geology majors and nonmajors), during development of the module in Spring 2010, and as an out-of-class activity in Computational Geology (a QL course for geology majors) in Fall 2010 and Fall 2011. In both courses, the module was used after the students had worked through several other modules. In general, the students considered this module to be one of the more challenging of the collection, but well within their range of expectations for level of difficulty. It has not been implemented yet in the introductory-level Geology of National Parks course.


There is a slide at the end of the presentation that contains end-of-module questions. The end-of-module questions can be used to examine student understanding and learning gains from the module. Pre/post test, pre/post test answer key, and answer key for end-of-module questions are at the end of the instructor version of the module.

References and Resources

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