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Analysis of Local Ultraviolet Radiation Web Quest

Need an activity that will benefit your students for the rest of their lives?

The dangers of ultraviolet radiation are well known.  The effects of ultraviolet radiation on living organisms should be ingrained in each and every science student passing through our classes. UV radiation is just a small portion of the energy from our sun that bombards the Earth.  Thankfully, the Earth is wrapped in a protective blanket, the ozone layer, that prevents much of the ultraviolet radiation from reaching Earth's surface.

Many of my students arrive in my biology class at the beginning of the school year confused about the differences between ozone destruction and the greenhouse effect.  They know that both involve our atmosphere in some way, and that both are bad for the Earth, but the distinctions between the two concepts are often blurred.

Ozone is a molecule composed of three atoms of oxygen.  The ozone layer is found in the upper atmosphere and protects the Earth by absorbing UV radiation from the sun.  Without this protective layer around the Earth, live on Earth would perish. Unfortunately, human activities are reducing the amount of ozone found in the atmosphere.

What effect will this have on the living organisms of Earth?

  • An increase in the number of malignant skin cancers.
  • An increase in cataracts.
  • Changes in plant physiological and developmental processes.  
  • Reduced survival rates of phytoplankton in the oceans.
As we send our students off for the summer, let's make sure that they understand the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun.  At the end of each school year, I do an activity called, "Ouch That Burns!  Analysis of Local Ultraviolet Radiation."  In short, this is a web quest that allows the student to track the UV Index in their area over a period of time.

The EPA maintains a web site in which an individual can look up the ultraviolet radiation index each day for his/her area.  I have prepared several pages of worksheets that students will complete while they are visiting the EPA website.

In this activity students will:
  • Determine the UV Index for their local area.
  • Record data for the UV index over a period of time.
  • Determine the areas of our country that suffer from the highest UV indexes.
  • Gather data for UV indexes in their area over a period of one year.
  • Plot the data on a graph to show how the UV index changes throughout the year.
  • Determine the most dangerous time of year in their local area.
  • Determine how the UV Index has changed from years past.
  • Compile a list of health hazards to the living organisms on Earth.
  • Answer final analysis questions.

The three-page student handout has complete directions, questions, data tables, and graphing grid.  There is an accompanying 2-page teacher answer key.

This is a fun and informative activity that will greatly supplement your lessons on ecology, ozone depletion, and human influences on our delicate biosphere.  And, hopefully, we will teach our students to not only protect the earth, but to protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

I am very passionate in my teaching of ecology and the environment.  All of my ecology-related products can be viewed here.

Have fun teaching!


  1. I often finish my 7th Grade Life Science class focusing on sun/skin safety. I'll definitely need to check out your lesson and see how I can adapt it for the middle school level. It looks intriguing!

  2. I think this would be perfect for a middle school life science class! Thanks for visiting Science Stuff!