Air Pollution and Asthma (11th Grade)

9, 10, 11, 12

Students gain awareness of the negative effects of air pollution, especially asthma. Students identify some of the sources of air pollution in the school and community and possible ways to improve air quality in these areas.

PrintOne 50 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • describe what asthma feels like and identify air quality issues that trigger asthma attacks.
  • identify negative effects of poor air quality.
  • identify potential sources of air pollution in the school and outdoors.
  • identify ways to act as environmental stewards in relation to air quality.
  • explain how working to improve air quality is an act of philanthropy for the common good.
Home Connection 

Have students survey their family members about air pollution. Work together to compile a few questions that all students ask at home. The information gathered could be used to assess the most critical issues, get ideas for projects, and determine family interest in getting involved.


Draw a favorite outdoor scene and write a poem about it, communicating the importance of keeping it natural and clean.



  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the students to raise their hands if they have ever seen or felt evidence of air pollution. Let students share their observations. Tell the students that the government reports air quality statistics on a daily basis. Display the Air Quality Index on a projected computer screen (or print out today's map on a color printer). This map shows the air quality around the country. Under the map are links to the national forecast, the ozone statistics, the particles statistics, and more. Select the national forecast page and zoom in to your area to obtain more specific information. Ask the students why they think this information is important and who and what might be affected by poor air quality (plant and animal life, fish, water, ground soil, trees, people with asthma, etc.).

  2. Tell the students that air pollution affects us all, but people with asthma are particularly sensitive to air pollution, which can trigger an asthma attack. Have the students read the following article: "Asthma and Air Pollution"

  3. If possible, invite a guest to your classroom to tell the students what asthma is and what factors can trigger it. This can be a doctor or a person who has asthma.

  4. To review the new information, ask the class to name potential sources of air pollution (cars, factories, power plants) and some major pollutants (ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide).

  5. Challenge the learners to come up with ideas to reduce the amount of air pollution created by transportation, factories, and power plants. List their ideas on the display board.

  6. Ask the learners how they think working to improve the quality of air at school, at home, and in the community promotes the common good. Common good involves "promoting the welfare of the community for the greater benefit of all."

  7. Have the students read through the EPA's website on: "Indoor Air Quality in Schools." Challenge them to come up with ideas to reduce the amount of air pollution within the school environment. List their ideas on the display board.

  8. Write the word philanthropy on the display board. Have the learners share their prior knowledge of this word. Define philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good." Look again at the list of ideas on the display board for reducing air pollution (inside and outside). Have them label each of the ideas with the words time, talent, or treasure to show what they would be giving if they carried out these actions. Encourage the students to add to or amend the list to focus on ideas that are specifically about what they can do (with their time, talent, and treasure) rather than what can be done in general.

  9. Have the students work in groups of three or four to come up with specific plans for reducing pollution. Give each group a copy of Handout One: Environmental Stewardship: What Can Be Done? Give them about ten minutes to complete the statements.

  10. As a whole class, discuss the ideas generated by the small groups. Help the students come to consensus about which projects they will carry out for an environmental service project.


The assessment of this lesson will be based upon the learner's participation in the classroom discussions as well as their understanding and empathy for improving air quality for the common good. The depth of understanding and seriousness displayed in group work responses and journal writing can also be used to assess this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

Students raise awareness of factors that increase air pollution. When people are informed, they can take action and vote for change.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.13 Give examples of how philanthropy has reallocated limited resources through giving and citizen action.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
      3. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.