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7th Inquiry Activities- Health Effects of Air Pollution and Ozone

Activity 1: Asthma: What Does It Feel Like?

In communities with high levels of particle pollution, more people have asthma and respiratory problems. In this simple activity, every student gets a chance to experience what it feels like when someone is having an asthma attack.

(NOTE: 4th grade also does this activity, but it is a valuable tool to draw students into the study of the health impacts of air pollution. We decided to repeat it here.)


First, Ms. Allen asked the school nurse how many children in the school had asthma. The number was close to 25%. She told the students that statistic as she introduced the activity and said, "Any of you students who have asthma, you will not do this activity. Your job is to sit here and observe the other students doing this activity. Then, at the end, please tell them what you observed and how it is like or different from your experiences with asthma. Those of you who did the activity will tell your partners how you felt."

After the activity, Jenny, a student with asthma, said, "Yes, that is like my asthma attack. But, they got to take the straw out."

  1. Have students discuss what they know about asthma. Do a small asthma survey - ask how many students have asthma in your class (with a volunteer show of hands). Then ask how many students know someone in their family with asthma. Discuss with students that there is a very high number of young people in large cities who have asthma. Ask students to think about why they have this chronic condition.
  2. Tell students that they are going to get a chance to feel what it is like to have an asthma attack by completing a simple activity. Have students place the straw in their mouths and ask them to breathe through the straw for 30 seconds.
  3. Ask students to write down or discuss what that was like.
  4. Then ask students to do jumping jacks (or some other physical activity they can do while standing near their desks) without the straw in their mouths for 1 minute. When students are done with the physical activity, have them quickly place the straw back in their mouths and breathe through their mouths (through the straw) for 30 seconds.
  5. Again, have them discuss what it feels like and compare that to the original activity.
  6. Now have students repeat the physical activity, but this time ask them to do so with the straw in their mouths and remind them to only breathe through their mouths while completing the physical activity. When students are done with their one minute exercise, have them breathe through the straw again.
  7. Again, have students discuss (in teams first and then in whole class) what the experience was like and compare it to the original activity.
  8. Read Air Quality from Clean Air Kids Make a graphic organizer to assist the children in understanding the context of asthma.[The webpage is UK – some different spelling.]

The lesson above was copied from Lesson "Breathe Easy" retrieved December 2012 from

Activity 2: What Is Ozone and How Does It Affect Health?

After experiencing the effects of respiratory problems, the students were ready to learn more. The teachers showed them different ozone alerts using the website and the students explored local air quality as well as other areas of interest.

Then the students read short sections from the following websites covering these topics. Using "think-pair-share" they worked with partners to identify and fill in the most relevant information on their graphic organizers: the lungs template.

Students can easily access the online information by following these links:

Some teachers extended the activity and had students create presentations using computer animations such as EduCreations of Animodo to share a particular health effect with others.

Activity 3: Poverty Settings and Polluted Air -- Thinking about Environmental Justice

Students use internet data about cities with high air pollution levels to examine the relation between income, education, and health. Then they propose reasons why environmental conditions and poverty affect health. Students are arranged in teams.

  1. Students found their state and city on the American Lung Association's web site, State of the Air at
  2. Students viewed the chart of the latest Asthma Capitals of the World ( to find their city's rating.. Also see these websites: and (Asthma and Allergy Foundation)
  3. Using the Asthma Capitals of the World information, students selected 5 cities to research the asthma rates, economic background, education levels, and locations.
  4. Using the previous information, the teams created proposals for why environmental conditions and poverty affect health. They present these proposals to another class.

Activity 4: Asthma in Our School

After these experiences, the students wanted to know more about the levels of asthma in their school. The teachers and school nurse assisted the students to create questions that they could ask students in other classes to see how many people in the students' families have respiratory problems or asthma. Students brought their survey results back to class and compiled them to get a rough profile of Asthma in Our School. (The activity can be extended to the students' neighborhood, church, extended family, etc.)

7th Introduction

7th Background Information

7th Inquiry Activities