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Breaking the Mold
Using the Video in Your Classroom Using Doc #1
Using Doc #2 | Using Doc #3

Documentary Discussions

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 extended learning.


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 air passages.

  • 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 affect asthma.

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.

Lung Structures

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:

  • Alveoli
  • Bronchi
  • Bronchial Tree
  • Bronchioles
  • Capillaries
  • Cilia
  • Diaphragm
  • Larynx
  • Surfactant
  • Trachea

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.



Air Pollution

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.



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 sick.

  • 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.

Pollution Professionals

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 points:

  • 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 cleaning professionals.
  • 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 PureAir Control Services.
  • 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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