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Breaking the Mold
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Asthma Survey

Lesson Goals:

Students will better understand the prevalence of asthma in the community (class, school, home, neighborhood, etc.) as they learn how to collect, summarize, and display survey data in meaningful ways.

Curriculum Connections:

Language Arts

  • Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (e.g., time lines, outlines, questionnaires, graphic representations)
  • Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses)
  • Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes


  • Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health


  • Understands the nature of scientific inquiry
  • Uses appropriate tools (including computer hardware and software) and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret scientific data


  • Organizes and displays data using tables, graphs, etc.
  • Understands that the same set of data can be represented using a variety of tables, graphs, and symbols and that different modes of representation often convey different messages (e.g., variation in scale can alter a visual message)
  • Understands basic concepts about how samples are chosen (e.g., random samples, bias in sampling procedures, limited samples, sampling error)

Video Tie-In:

What Causes Asthma? documentary video clip

Glossary Terms:

allergy, asthma, asthma triggers, dust mites, environmental tobacco smoke, mold, pollen, respiration

Time Required:

Two 40-minute class periods, plus time in the field to conduct survey

Activity Overview:

According to the American Lung Association, an estimated 26 million Americans have asthma, 8.6 million of whom are under the age of 18. Students will design and conduct a survey of classmates, family, neighbors, and others to find out how common asthma is in their community. The survey can track how many people have the illness, how many people know someone with asthma, how many people know what it is, etc. Students will compile and present their survey results using appropriate graphs and charts to illustrate their findings.

Activity Directions:

  1. Ask students if they have or know of anyone who has asthma. Invite students to talk about their experiences with asthma. Do they think asthma is a common ailment?

  2. Reproduce, distribute, and then review the Asthma Fact Sheet with your students. Tell students that together you are going to create and conduct a survey about asthma in your community.

  3. Spend some time reviewing survey formats (questionnaires, phone interviews, face-to-face interviews), how to create questions for each type of survey, and data collection techniques with your class. Refer to the following sites for tips to share with your students:
  4. Discuss what you hope to learn from your asthma survey. Some focus questions include: Do you want to know how many people in the community suffer from asthma? How many people know what asthma is? What triggers asthma attacks in different people? With your class, construct the set of questions to include in your survey that will help them answer their focus questions. Students can use the space on their handout to draft and submit sample questions for the final survey.

  5. As a group, decide what population to survey (school, family, neighbors, community members, etc.) and how large your survey sample should be. Discuss concepts such as random samples, bias in sampling procedures, limited samples, and sampling errors with students. Refer to the following site for information about surveys and sampling.

  6. Once students have collected their survey data, they should compile and present their findings using appropriate graphs and charts.


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