Included in "Breaking the Mold" are three mini-documentary
segments that explore the science concepts and health issues surrounding
the mystery. The information included in these mini-documentaries
provides excellent opportunities for classroom discussions and
IDEAS FOR USING MINI-DOCUMENTARY #1 IN YOUR CLASS
What Causes Asthma?
See 'What Causes Asthma' Documentary
1 1/2 minutes long
(time code: 12:15-13:45)
This mini-documentary is all about what happens during
an asthma attack and the kinds of things that can trigger
asthma. The important points outlined include:
- When we breathe, our body takes in oxygen. Air travels
through our mouths, down our lungs through a series of
- Asthma is an inflammatory condition in the lungs.
- Asthma is one of the most common lung diseases. One
out of 10 people in the U.S. has asthma.
- Asthma can be treated and minimized, but left unchecked,
it can be very dangerous and can even cause death.
- An asthma attack occurs when the passages in your lungs
swell up and tighten, making it hard to breathe.
- Asthma can be caused by sensitivities to microscopic
particles in the air, such as allergens, pollution, or
chemicals. Colds, flu, exercise, and even stress can also
Review the Asthma Survey lesson plan
and reproduce the "Asthma Facts" handout to distribute to your class
after viewing the documentary.
What Does Asthma Feel Like?
Video Pause Point 12:15
Pause the video right after the asthma documentary
and have each student breathe through a straw. Then ask them to cover their
straws with masking tape, punch a few toothpick holes in the tape and breathe
through the straw again. How does it feel? Do they think that's what Kee felt
like during her asthma attack? What happens if they do a few jumping jacks
and then try to breathe through the straw? Invite students who have or know
someone with asthma to talk about what an asthma attack is like. Replay the
mini documentary for emphasis and then introduce the Asthma
Survey lesson plan.
Note: Any student who is uncomfortable performing the above
experiment may choose to just observe.
This mini-documentary touches on how our lungs work, but
you can extend the learning by providing students with more
details about lung structures.
Lungs are two sponge-like, cone-shaped structures
that fill most of the chest cavity and are protected by
the flexible rib cage. Together, the two lungs form one
of the largest organs in the body. Their essential function
is to provide oxygen from inhaled air to the capillaries
and to exhale the carbon dioxide delivered from them. The
Web site Looking
at Your Lungs from KidsHealth.org offers kids a clear
tour of the lungs, definitions
of the following terms, and an explanation of how the various
structures of the lungs work together to help us breathe:
- Bronchial Tree
Refer to pages 134-149 of the book The Human Body: An
Illustrated Guide to its Structure, Function, and Disorders
by Charles Clayman MD (editor); Dorling Kindersley Limited;
ISBN: 1-56458-992-7; (1995) for additional detail and pictures
of the lungs.
IDEAS FOR USING MINI-DOCUMENTARY #2 IN YOUR CLASS
See 'Air Pollution' Documentary
1 minute 17 seconds long
(time code: 22:53-24:10)
This mini-documentary focuses on the sources of indoor
air pollution. Important points outlined include:
- Cars, trucks, factories, pumping gas, and even dry cleaning
our clothes causes air pollution that can make you sick.
- Air pollution also occurs both indoors and out.
- New carpeting and upholstery, household cleaners, glues,
and pesticides can release chemical pollutants into the
air we breathe.
- Natural things like cockroaches, dust mites, and molds
can also make us sick.
- Dust mites live in moist places like our beds and eat
our dead skin cells.
- Mold lives in moist places too.
- Removing these pollutants from your indoor environment
can help minimize symptoms. Leaving a polluted building
can also make your symptoms go away.
Seeing is Believing
It's easy to understand that smog-filled air can be bad for your health. Discuss
with your students the idea that many harmful pollutants are difficult to
detect because they are invisible. Microscopic particles suspended in the
air can be inhaled deep in the lungs. In fact, the smaller the particles,
the more harmful they can be. Try the Indoor
Air: What's the Matter lesson plan with your students to help reveal some
of the particulate matter in the air we breathe.
Sniff for Clues
Students can learn about the ways particles move through
the air (diffusion vs. convection) with this simple exercise:
Open a container of strong-smelling solvent (vanilla extract,
nail polish remover, etc.) at one end of the classroom.
Have students positioned in different locations around the
room announce when the smell reaches them while a separate
group of students plot the migration results on a graph
paper grid representing their classroom. The test can be
repeated with different variables (turn a fan on at the
front or back of the classroom, have a student walk up and
down the classroom aisles, open a window, seal the room,
etc.). This activity helps show how observable airborne
particles travel and helps students understand how harmful
yet odorless substances might do the same. Emphasize to
your students the fact that many harmful pollutants are
invisible and odorless (radon, for example), while others
are more obviously detected.
IDEAS FOR USING MINI-DOCUMENTARY #3 IN YOUR CLASS
What Can You Do?
See 'What Can You Do?' Documentary
55 seconds long
(time code: 27:55-28:50)
This mini-documentary stresses the actions you can take
to improve your indoor air quality and keep from getting
- Be aware of your environment and figure out what around
you makes you sick.
- Fix water leaks.
- Wash bed sheets regularly in hot water (130+ degrees)
to get rid of dust mites.
- Don't go to bed with wet hair. The moisture can make
your pillow moldy, which could cause allergies.
- Vacuum carpets regularly to cut down on dust and other
allergens in your indoor environment.
- Try to keep the humidity low in your house.
- Mold can be cleaned up with bleach, but a professional
should handle a lot of mold.
The documentary suggests that a professional should handle
a home with a lot of mold. But what kind of professional
treats mold problems? Discuss with your students the types
of scientists and health professionals that might be employed
by a company that specializes in mold control. Talk about
products for sale that can help identify a mold problem.
Refer to the following Web sites for information and discussion
- The American Lung Association will send a trained Master
Home Environmentalists to your home to do a free evaluation.
- The Institute of Inspection,
Cleaning, and Restoration Certification provides referrals
for water-damage restoration, carpet cleaning, and upholstery
- A microbiologist, professional engineer, building scientist,
allergist/immunologist, industrial hygienist, environmental
chemist, public health specialist, chemical engineer,
medical technologist and building Indoor Air Quality technicians
are among the professionals on staff at companies like
- There are even Toxic
Mold Lawyers who assist homeowners with mold and water-damage claims.
Students can role-play a career as an Air Quality Control Specialist in the Dust Busters to the Rescue Lesson Plan.
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