Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Connecting Social Issues and Human Health Inequities, Lesson 1

Understanding Asthma

Alonna Smith, Lindsey Link | Published: July 13th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Biology I, Environmental Science
  • Time Frame Time Frame 240-300 minutes
  • Duration More 4-5 periods


In this introductory lesson to the Connecting Social Issues and Human Health Inequities unit, students will explore asthma through a variety of station activities, videos, readings, and charts. In doing so, students will better understand what occurs in the respiratory system before, during, and after an asthma attack.

Essential Question(s)

How do inequitable environmental factors affect human health?


Engage, Part 1 (Unit Introduction)

While watching a video clip, students record observations and questions. Student questions are documented on a Driving Questions Board.

Engage, Part 2 (Lesson Introduction)

Students create a model describing what lungs look like before, during, and after an asthma attack. 


Students rotate through six stations with activities that include readings, videos, and short activities related to asthma and using inhalers. 


As a whole class, students debrief from the station activities using guiding questions. 


Students use a modified CUS and Discuss strategy to annotate while they read an article. 


Students revise their lung models—or make new models—that include new information they’ve learned over the course of the lesson. Students also answer reflection questions.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Homeostasis and Its Relation to Asthma (attached; one per student)

  • Station Cards (attached)

  • Station Journal (attached; one per student)

  • Rubric (attached; one per student)

  • Driving Question Board (attached; one per student)

  • Internet-connected student devices (one per student, if possible)

  • For students’ Lung Models (directions linked):

    • Empty plastic soda or water bottles (approximately 500 mL)

    • Scissors

    • Balloons (15-30 cm diameter if inflated)

    • Disposable gloves

    • Rubber bands

    • Clear Tape

    • Pushpins, thumbtacks, or safety pins

  • Asthma Demonstration (directions linked)

    • Regular drinking straws (one per student)

    • Coffee stirrer (one per student)

Engage, Part 1 (Unit Introduction)

Begin the lesson by displaying slide 2 from the attached Lesson Slides as the students are entering the classroom.

Display slide 3 and share the instructional strategy I Notice, I Wonder with students. Tell them that they are about to watch a video, and instruct them to use this strategy to record anything that they notice (their observations) or wonder (their questions). This is a good time for you to evaluate students’ prior experience related to the topic of the video.

Display slide 4 and share the segment from 2:53-6:24 of the following video: “Health Disparities, Focus on Asthma | Children's National Medical Center.”

Display slide 5 and instruct students to talk with an Elbow Partner about what they wrote. During their conversations, students should discuss what is similar and/or different about what they recorded and add any new questions or observations that come up in their discussion. 

Display slide 6. Walk students through creating a Driving Question Board together. Use the observations and questions they come up to do so.

Engage, Part 2 (Lesson Introduction)

Display slide 7 and share with students the instructions for creating an initial model of the respiratory system before, during, and after an asthma attack. Each student should create their own individual model. Pass out the attached The Respiratory System handout and the attached Rubric to students. Instruct them to refer to the rubric for guidance on what they should include in their model. It is important to express to students that their initial model will not be graded for accuracy, but it will be used to see what their current level of understanding is.

Display slide 8 and instruct students to pair up again with their Elbow Partners to compare their models. Instruct students to explain their models to their partners and use their models as a visual aid. Students are not expected to have a full understanding of an asthma attack yet. Again, it is important to express to students that it's okay if they aren’t sure—they should still attempt to create a model to the best of their ability.

Display slides 9-10 and share the lesson’s essential question and learning objectives.


Display slide 11, pass out one of the attached Station Journal handouts to each student, and briefly explain each station activity. Instruct students to include new information in their handout as they complete each station. This will help them with the Respiratory System Model at the end of the lesson.

Display slide 12, which includes a seven-minute timer. Use this timer to provide students with a minimum of seven minutes for each station. This serves to allow enough time for them to watch videos and interact with manipulatives. 


Display slide 13 and instruct students to answer the following questions with their small group. Once they have had time to answer as a small group, have students share out their group’s thoughts.

  1. What did you figure out that you didn’t know before?

  2. Which station did you get the most benefit from? Why?

  3. Which station surprised or interested you? Why?

Display slide 14 and turn students’ attention back to the Driving Question Board from earlier in the lesson. Ask students if there are there any questions that can be answered at this point.


Display slide 15. Pass out the attached article Homeostasis and Its Relation to Asthma (this article was adapted to an appropriate reading level from Verywell Health’s article of the same name). Share the following instructions, which are a modified version of the instructional strategy CUS and Discuss, with students:

  • C: Circle any words that you don’t know.

  • U: Underline any information that helps you understand the word “homeostasis.”

  • S: Star any information that helps you answer the question, “Why do humans have asthma attacks?”

Once students have all completed the reading, have a brief discussion over the term “homeostasis” and the question, “Why do humans have asthma attacks?”


Display slide 16 and instruct students to look back at 1) the initial Respiratory System model that they created at the beginning of the lesson, and 2) the rubric for their final product. Instruct students to revise or recreate their model to show what happens before, during, and after an asthma attack; to describe the new information that they added to their new model that wasn’t included in their initial model; and answer the following short response questions: 

  • In what ways did you revise or recreate your model and why? 

  • Describe what is happening in your model before, during, and after an asthma attack.

  • Why does our body respond this way?

This assessment should be completed individually as a way to see how each student is progressing. 


  • Turley, S. M. (2016). Understanding pharmacology for health professionals. Pearson Education.