Today: Our Communities, Our Health

Author: Sara Chavarria
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 2 class periods
Make copies of Handout 1.

Handout 1
Maps of local city (see resources below)
Blank overhead sheets.

This Apply lesson challenges students to question what pollution looks like today in the United States. Historically, we can now see how visual it was. After all, how many of us have to walk through heaps of trash, refuse, and animal and human waste in front of our homes just to get to the street. Today, pollution can be very subtle. Today, water and air pollution is still a problem, but it is revealing itself in very different ways – at the doctor’s office and through our medication bills.

Students will be able to:
  • Generate a list of city names they feel are polluted after reading, discussing, and recording data from an NIH article.
  • In groups of three, create a city proposal to address pollution in their city after generating a list of local pollution problems.
  • Write a reflective piece on the dilemma of city planning costs verse future health benefits using their city proposal.
National Council for History in the Schools
Historical Thinking Standards
  • Standard 5B: Marshall evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.
  • Standard 5E: Formulate a position or course of action on an issue.
  • Standard 5F: Evaluate the implementation of a decision.

United States History Standards

  •  Era 10  Standard 2E: Economic, Social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States.  The student understands how a democratic polity debates social issues and mediates between individual or group rights and the common good.

Teacher Background
The moment you step out of the house and are on the road you can actually see the air getting polluted; a cloud of smoke from the exhaust of a bus, car, or a scooter; smoke billowing from a factory chimney, fly ash generated by thermal power plants, and speeding cars causing dust to rise from the roads. Natural phenomena such as the eruption of a volcano and even someone smoking a cigarette can also cause air pollution. Explore the resources below to learn more.

Resource Websites
Air Pollution
Air pollution on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution
MediicineNet.com on Air Pollution Stunting Kids Lungs
NIH MedlinePlus on Air Pollution http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/airpollution.html
AirNow.Gov http://airnow.gov/
Air Pollution Site for Kids http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/air/air.htm
NRDC Clean Air & Energy http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/default.asp

Online Map Resources
Google Maps http://maps.google.com/
National Geographic MapMachine http://plasma.nationalgeographic.com/mapmachine/
Maps in the Yahoo Directory http://dir.yahoo.com/Science/Geography/Cartography/Maps/
Colorado University Map Collections http://www.colorado.edu/geography/virtdept/resources/map_libs/map_libs.htm
World Atlas: Maps and Geography of the World http://geography.about.com/library/maps/blindex.htm



Days 1 and 2

  1. As students walk in, hand them a copy of Handout 1 to read.
  2. When done, discuss the article. Use an overhead to record student feedback so they may record their notes. Make sure the issue of lung health and how it is compromised is understood. Students will understand one of our greatest sources of pollution is not the factory, but our vehicles.
  3. Have students generate a list of cities with these problems. When done, pose the following questions:
    1. Are all the cities large industrial cities?
    2. Are there any small towns? What would make a small town unhealthy?
    3. Is anyone safe that lives in any sort of city? Who?
    4. What are the diseases that can result from a compromised lung function?
    5. –Other questions generated by teacher or students --
  4. After discussion ask students to answer the following question on a separate sheet of paper to turn in.
    1. What are the pollution issues in our community?
      1. Air pollution
      2. Water pollution
      3. Noise pollution
      4. Garbage pollution
      5. Other
    1. As a class, generate a list of pollution issues and add health issues to it.
  1. In teams of three, design a 2-4 page proposal for your city (or city closest to you) with details how to better improve air and water quality.
    1. Part 1: Introduction
      1. Introduce your city
      2. Give brief history.
      3. Identify where it is located in the USA.
    1. Part 2: Health Issues
      1. Identify communities at higher geographic risk for different types of pollution. (You might want to create a table of communities and the types of pollution that affects them.)
      2. Address a means to minimize:
        • Car exhaust fumes
        • Factory fumes
        • Waste disposal
        • Soil contamination
        • Noise pollution
        • Any other ideas
      3. Address a means to make water quality more secure if necessary.
    1. Part 3: Proposed changes
      • Include a map of your city and overlays using overhead sheets showing those changes.

6. Turn the assignment in

End of Day 2:
Pose the following questions to students:

  • You were not asked to think about cost. Does it appear that the cost of these changes is too expensive to effectively initiate change? Yes or No. Discuss.
  • What is more important - Your health and the health of your future children or the expense of fixing a pollution problem now, because it is too expensive for the city to initiate?

Students should defend their answer in a short reflective piece.

If students need more time on their proposal they can finish it at home.

Embedded Assessment
Group proposals, reflective piece and participation in class discussion can be assessed.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 7, 2007
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