Clean Air – Our Health Matters

6, 7, 8

The intent of this lesson is to illustrate the relationship between air quality and its critical role in personal health concerns. Consequently, the awareness gained will serve to develop a sense of urgency in the quest for clean air.

PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • state examples of common resources in the environmental community.
  • describe the impact of air pollution upon human health.
  • identify common air pollutants, their sources and effects.
  • explain how people and corporations can promote clean air.
  • Visual diagram or chart of the respiratory system
  • Plastic coffee stir-sticks or very small drinking straws (one per learner)
  • Teacher copy of Handout 1: “Common Contaminants Consuming Clean Air”- The Answer Key
  • Learner copies of Handout 2:“Common Contaminants Consuming Clean Air”
  • Learner copies of Handout 3: Learner/Parent Homework Reflection -“Every Breath You Take”
  • Learner copies of Handout 4: Assessment of Understanding Pollutants in the Body = Powerful Health Effects
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Learner Homework: Distribute copies of the Learner/Parent Homework Reflection -“Every Breath You Take”- (Handout Three) The learners will be required to observe and record scientific data of air pollution incidents in their daily lives. When the homework page is distributed, discuss possible examples (fertilizing lawn, spraying insecticide, mowing the lawn, burning trash and yard waste, sprays from health and beauty products and cleaners, etc.) and/or share your data collected in advance as a model.



  1. Anticipatory Set: Pose the question, “What are some of the common resources in our environment that people share?” (Possible answers are air, land, trees, crops, water, soil, etc.) and list the learners’ responses on chart paper, whiteboard or overhead. Direct the learners’ attention to the common resource of air and allow a few moments to answer the question, “Why is clean air so important?” (Possible answers include: It is vital to our health and well-being, it is critical for healthy vegetation). List their responses on chart paper, whiteboard or overhead. Give each learner a coffee stir-stick/straw and ask that they draw a few breaths through the stir-stick to simulate impaired breathing. (CAUTION - Be sure that those with asthma or other serious breathing conditions do not breathe through the straw, which may trigger an adverse reaction.) Allow a few moments to share reactions. Pose the third and final question, “How does air pollution affect people?”Accept all reasonable answers and list them on chart paper, whiteboard or overhead. Encourage the learners to share their experiences and knowledge about asthma, allergies, etc.(You may wish to prearrange with learners, who have first-hand experience, to share with the class.) (Responses to the questions posed may also be recorded individually as a reflective journal entry to assist in assessment of learning objective mastery.)

  2. Day One:

    Using a textbook diagram or teaching chart (contact a local health department, department of environmental quality or the national Environmental Protection Agency to secure one at low or no cost), identify the components of the respiratory system (nose, mouth, throat, windpipe, bronchial tubes, bronchioles, muscles, air sacs, lung and diaphragm and what happens when polluted air compromises their functions (irritated lungs swell and produces more mucus to block the foreign pollutant which makes breathing increasingly difficult). If time allows, the following site has interactive opportunities for learning about respiratory health:

  3. Day Two:

  4. List the seven more common pollutants that contaminate the air on“Common Contaminants Consuming Clean Air”- The Answer Key (Handout One) as the teacher resource. Distribute to the learners the “Common Contaminants Consuming Clean Air” (Handout Two).

  5. Have the learners engage in “think aloud” as they share their critical thinking and reading strategies to determine the correct information.

  6. Introduce the importance of government, corporations and individuals working to address the health impact of these common air pollutants. Read the projected results of the 2011 Clean Air Amendments in the press release from the EPA as one such effort. This can be accessed by all learners in a computer lab at, shared by the teacher online, or printed and distributed to the students in hard copy.


Use Pollutants in the Body = Powerful Health Effects (Handout Four) for the assessment of this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Give examples of needs not met by the government, business, or family sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.7 Give examples of common resources in the community.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.11 Identify a corporation's responsibilities to its community.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.