Enviromysteries: Inside Stories

In This Section


Standards Chart

Lesson Plans

Teacher Tips


Thomas’ Story

Environmental Health Question: Exercise-induced asthma

Related Standards

Lesson Plans

Story Synopsis

Story Pause Points

Story Glossary

Reference Materials from Story


Thomas’ Story

Thomas is pretty excited about his new job at Reps, helping kids from the neighborhood learn discipline and confidence from kung fu.  There seemed to be just one problem:  Phillip, a kid in his class, keeps acting up.  Thomas finally has to tell him that he can’t attend anymore, precipitating an angry visit from Phillip’s mother.

At the same time, Reps has been asked to participate in the Fourth Annual “Breathe Easy” Asthma Walk, helping to raise research dollars for this chronic disease. 

And Thomas also explores the issue of asthma with the man who introduced him to the Chinese martial art that had inspired him for so long.

These three situations collide when Thomas (suspecting that Phillip may have been trying to hide the fact that he has asthma), Phillip and his mother, and the press all show up at the walkathon.  Thomas knows he made a mistake, but what can he do now to make sure what could be a very ugly story doesn’t get in the news and make Maggie’s problems at Reps even worse?

The students offer their opinions on what Thomas should do.

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Story Pause Points

We strongly suggest that you allow students to complete the entire story the first time they engage in this interactive. However, we have divided the story into several sections so you or your students can revisit parts of the story to reinforce or clarify story content and to facilitate class discussions. You can reach each of these "pause points" by using special URL links.

Use the following links to move between these sections of the story:

Section 1

Thomas explains how his interest in king fu started and grew.  It has taken him to many places, including Reps, where his friend Frankie works.  Thomas loves the atmosphere at Reps and the people who take his class there – with one exception: Phillip.  Phillip spends most of his time in class goofing around and disrupting the other students.  Thomas is finally forced to speak to Phillip outside of class, telling him that his behavior has to change.  Although Phillip seems to agree, Thomas isn’t sure about his commitment.  When Thomas returns to Reps one day, he finds a flyer Maggie has left him about a walk-a-thon to raise money for asthma research.

  • The walkathon flyer is available for users to read.


Section 2 Thomas has reached a tipping point with Phillip.  When Phillip acts out in class again, Thomas tells him he can’t come back to class. Thomas explains what he did to a sympathetic Maggie, who asks him to be the team leader for Reps participation in the walk-a-thon.  Thomas agrees and returns home, exhausted and upset from the problems with Phillip.  He finds that his king fu master has replied to an email Thomas had sent him.
  • Master Chen’s email is available for users to read.
Section 3 Thomas is upset by Master Chen’s email and starts to question whether he treated Phillip fairly.  Perhaps Phillip had a health problem that Thomas hadn’t even considered. A reporter contacts Thomas about his role in the walk-a-thon.  The two talk the next day, and Thomas realizes how much asthma is beginning to dominate his life, much to his dismay. That afternoon, Phillip’s mother storms into Reps, demanding to know why Thomas has put him out of class.  Not satisfied with Thomas’s answers, Phillip’s mother storms out of Reps, telling Thomas that this is not the end of it.  Later, at home, Thomas looks at Master Chen’s web site and finds out more about asthma.
  • Master Chen’s website is available for users to read.
Section 4

Thomas realizes that Phillip may be a good candidate for exercise-induced asthma, particularly because of the aerobic workouts that are part of his kung fu classes.  He is coming to understand that Phillip might not want to look weak in front of other kids, so he tried to distract them with his antics.  Thomas is disappointed with himself for failing to see what could have been the real cause of Phillip’s behavior.  A few days later Thomas receives a poster from the walk-a-thon.  It has quite a bit of information in it about exercise-induced asthma.

  • A walk-a-thon poster is available for users to read.


Section 5

Thomas starts to think through the events of the past few weeks.  He realizes that even if Phillip does have exercise-induced asthma, perhaps kung fu –and medication—would be good for him.  He tells Frankie he wants to talk to Phillip’s mother about it, but he just can’t face her wrath.  Thomas and Frankie both realize that this is a bad time to be making waves. Maggie wanted to expand Reps, and while some people in the neighborhood supported this, some didn’t.  News of the Phillip problem might convince even more people to oppose the expansion.

On the day of the walk-a-thon, Thomas is dismayed to see Phillip and his mother among the crowd that has gathered for the event.  And the reporter.  If the three of them ever got together, it would be bad news for Reps. Thomas is conflicted: should he talk to Phillip’s mother or just stay quiet?


Section 6: Conclusion This is the point in the story where students offer their advice about Thomas’ problem.


Story Glossary

Alarming Upsetting; shocking
Allergens Substances that cause an allergic reaction, such as difficulties in breathing or itching
Anti-inflammatory A substance that treats inflammation in your body, such as pain, or redness, which a re clues that your body's immune system is under attack
Argument A quarrel or disagreement
Ashamed Feeling guilty or inferior
Asthma A lung disorder caused by inflamed air passages
Authority Power to control the way people act
Behavior The way people act
Bio A short form of biography, or the story of someone's life
Bronchial Tubes The passage ways through which air moves from the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs
Bronchodilators Medicines that relax the muscles that have tightened in an asthma episode
Candidate A person who is likely to be suited for something
Challenge To test or dare
Chronic Constant; not ending
Confront To meet face to face in a threatening way
Constantly Always; regularly
Conversation A chat or talk
Dander Tiny particles from hair, feathers, or skin that may cause allergic reactions
Description Explanation or report
Diagnosed Recognized a disease by its symptoms
Diagnosis Correctly identified the cause of a patient's condition
Difficulties Problems or troubles
Disrupted Interrupted or caused a breakdown in orderly progress
Disrupting Causing unwelcome interruptions
Distract Cause people's attention to go elsewhere
Dominate Control or take over
Dreading Fearing; being anxious about
Elegant Graceful; pleasing to watch
Embarrassed Ashamed; uncomfortable
Embarrassing Something that causes others to be uncomfortable or uneasy
Epic Unusual; not ordinary
Estimate A rough or approximate calculation
Exercise-Induced Asthma A chronic breathing problem that is triggered by physical activity
Exhausted Tired; worn out
Experience A string of events and emotions that a person has lived through
Fatal Causing death
Flailing Waving about
Harmless Safe; risk-free
Impact A major effect
Inspires Encourages or motivates
Intermittently From time to time
Introduced Presented someone to another
Involvement Participation in
Irritants Things that bother the nose, throat, or airways
Judgment Reasoning
Kung Fu A Chinese form of combat, involving many skillful moves
Martial Art A personal fighting system that includes practices and traditions for combat
Medication Pills or liquids that cure symptoms of a disease
Misjudged Got the wrong idea about something
Mucus Thick, slippery fluids
Organized Something that has a definite structure and rules
Percentage Part of
Pollutants Unwanted gases or particles of matter that are carried in the air
Publicity Materials that attract public attention
Range Variety; collection
Reduce Lessen; cut; make smaller
Relatively Somewhat
Respectful Considerate; paying attention to the needs of others
Respiratory Related to the system of breathing (taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide)
Risk To try something that may have a good or bad outcome; to take a chance
Sensitive Unusually responsive to something in the environment
Shallowly Not deep or strong
Similar To Like
Situation A current state or problem
Spiritual Concerned with the soul, spirit, or religion
Stared Looked at steadily, seeing nothing else
Strategy Long term plan of action
Symptoms Conditions that indicate something is wrong in your body
Thrilled Very pleased; excited
Trachea The largest breathing tube in the body, leading from the throat to the chest, where it connects to two tubes (bronchi) that lead to the lungs
Treatments Ways of taking care of an illness; remedies
Tremendous Huge
Triggers Things that cause asthma symptoms to begin or get worse
Undiagnosed Conditions that have not been identified or recognized by their symptoms
Walkathon A charitable event where people pledge to give money to others who walk a certain distance. The walkers then give the pledged money to the charity.

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Story Reference Materials

The reference materials are all in PDF format. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer to open the files. You can download the free plugin on Adobe's web site.

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Links to More Information on Asthma

This resource was organized by the Asthma and Allergy Network, Mothers of Asthmatics, to provide a whole host of easy-to-understand information about asthma, organized by “location”: home, school, pharmacy, hospital, etc.

Fact Sheet: Exercise-Induced Asthma
This printable sheet offers complete explanations about exercise-induced asthma. It was prepared by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American. Other teacher resources are also available here at this Schering-Plough sponsored site.

School Asthma Education Slide Set
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers this downloadable slide show, giving you the basics of asthma – what causes it, how it works, and how it can be prevented.

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