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What's Driving Our Community? Day 5:

Potential Effects (Language Arts)
What's Driving Our Community (Science)

What's Driving Our Community? (Math)
Economics Of Emission Trading (Social Studies)
Links on this page: Student Sheet | Printable version of this page

National Education Standards Met:


Science discipline

*Please note: There are many levels of depth for this lesson.  The plan outlined below is at maximum depth. To simplify, have students count the type of cars in the parking lot and on street corners by the school.  You can also have students share what types of cars their families own and do the calculations from there. The activity can take only 1 class period if you choose to simplify the procedure.

Goal: Students will determine what the people of their community are driving in order to make recommendations toward sustainability.

Objectives:  Students will:

  • Examine traffic flows to determine types of vehicles that are most predominant
  • Calculate the CO2 emission index for each site
  • Analyze data and graph their findings
  • Make recommendations to reach a higher level of sustainability

Materials (For a class of 30):

  • Stopwatch or timer
  • clipboard, paper, and pencils
  • fuel economy guide or almanac of standard vehicle types or automotive magazines
  • digital camera with at least 128 MB memory card or standard film camera (optional)
  • 2 hand counters with five key selection pads or Student Record Sheets (at least 10 per group) (optimal but not necessary)
  • city maps
  • a variety of colored dots
  • backpack to carry equipment
  • logbook
  • Copies of What's Driving Our Community?- Student Sheet


  • Street Atlas Software
  • GPS
  • Computer
  • Internet access
  • PowerPoint software
  • GIS software with data sets of city

Time: Two 45 minute periods (including � day field trip)

Standards Met: G5, S1, S2, S6, S7



  • Prepare a city map with highlighted locations of where students will be completing the car count.
  • Prepare a 20-30 slide Power Point with pictures of different cars (varying in size, ex: compact, SUV, van, truck, etc.) or show pictures of cars to define car types.
  • Complete the necessary paperwork for the field trip.
  • Secure transportation or determine public transportation routes for travel to study sites.


  • Review Physical Data Collection & explain that students will be completing physical data collection through a car count.
  • Explain to students that they will be investigating what cars people within their community are driving. They will gather data on car types and calculate emissions.
  • Divide students into groups of 4.  Coordinate with groups to have one chaperone for the field trip per group.
  • Explain that today will be a training and preparation day for the field trip.
  • If you are using a GPS unit, train students in map reading skills (use Street Atlas) and GPS skills.  If not, you can review group locations with students. Use a large map to show them where each group will be.
  • Review the procedure for completing the study. Hand out What's Driving Our Community? Student Sheet.
  • Within each group, assign each student within the group a specific job for this activity.  These assignments include:
    • 1. Photographer (digital camera)
      2. Navigator (GPS), city map, bus schedules
      3. 2 Counters (one for each direction of traffic flow)
      4. Adult Chaperone (volunteer parent or teacher)

  • Using the fuel economy guide or a vehicle almanac or magazines similar to Motor Trend, have all the groups agree on a standardized classification scheme for the different types of vehicles (five categories maximum). For example, Type A could be compact cars, Type B mini-vans, etc.
  • Show the prepared 20-30 slide PowerPoint presentation at this time and have the students take a "quiz" to see if they can rapidly, and correctly identify which type each of the vehicles would be classified as-this step is important because it standardizes your data collection process.
  • Have the students calculate the average mpg for each of their classification types from data obtained from automotive magazines or the Internet. They should record it on the Student Sheet in the table provided.


  • Using city maps, have the student teams select corners throughout their city that have a fairly steady traffic flow, but not so busy that it would be next to impossible to count and identify the traffic present.  The groups should mark on their map the location of their site by using a small colored dot. If available, students should use Street Atlas to locate their selected site and record its longitude and latitude.
  • If GPS systems are being used, the students should set a "GOTO" waypoint with the correct longitude and latitude of their site.
  • On the day of the field trip, each student group is to report to their chosen site, checking its location by using their GPS coordinates. Using the stopwatch, the groups are to record for one hour the traffic flow in each direction.  The photographer should take a typical traffic shot each minute, varying the angle and direction of the traffic.  Each group should use their cell phones to communicate with each other so that all teams start and stop their traffic count at the same time - another controlled variable.
  • When students return, they should proceed to download information and proceed to math class for data analysis.

What's Driving Our Community? - Student Sheet

Today you will go out in the community to gather data on automobiles.  You will be part of a group of 4 students and one chaperone.

Chaperone: __________________________
(The adult who will go with your group)

Photographer: _______________________
(This person is responsible for the well being of the digital camera.  You will take pictures of the various cars you see)

Navigator: __________________________
(This person is responsible for all directions to get you to your site and back to the school on time.  You will need GPS, city map, bus schedules)

Counter: ____________________________
(This person counts all cars traveling one direction - the other counter will count cars traveling the opposite direction.  You will need a counter.)

Counter: ____________________________
(This person counts all cars traveling one direction - the other counter will count cars traveling the opposite direction.  You will need a counter.)

In class, your group will determine where to go for the study.

Our Location: ____________________________

After mapping out your route, you will need to gather the following materials:

  • Clipboard
  • Digital camera
  • Maps
  • Bus fare if necessary
  • GPS unit if available
  • Pencil
  • Cell phone or pay phone money
  • Stopwatch
  • Hand counter

Be safe and happy car counting!
What's Driving Our Community? -
Student Data Table

Name:  ________________
Group # ________________
Time Count was Taken _____________

Average MPG

Vehicle Classification Type

















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