I believe you and your students will enjoy this unit that explores breathing. We want to make science relevant to students' lives, and how much more relevant can anything be than to study breathing? Students can relate directly to breathing. They do it all their lives. They also recognize that breathing is a limiting factor in their physical performance.
Throughout the unit students explore concepts, issues, and concerns they have observed and about which they have wondered. What's an Adam's apple? Why do I get out of breath in the mountains? Why do smokers cough so much? Why do people wheeze? What causes coughs, colds, and flu? How does all this stuff inside me work and stay in balance? We get them interested in relevant content and we give them the tools to be good decision makers about their own behavior, health, and lifestyles. Once students have a better understanding of the breathing machine they explore factors that affect them in both good and bad ways. They explore pollution of all kinds including direct and indirect pollution from smoking. They investigate diseases such as TB, bronchitis, pneumonia, mononucleosis, the flu, and common colds. They investigate what affects their own breathing machine and what they can do about it. They explore links between nature and their own breathing system to ask questions, answer questions, solve problems, and make good decisions.
You will notice as you review this unit and actually begin to teach it that hands-on learning experiences are used to introduce, enhance, and wrap up the students' explorations of relevant concepts. One of the main goals of HumBio is to use hands-on and activity-based experiences because students learn more by doing and thinking than by only reading and listening. The activities are simple to set up, observe, and monitor and require only common household items. Look over the very first activity as an example. In Activity 1-1 the students build their own model that demonstrates how lungs are ventilated. Not only do students produce a working model, but also the activity offers you the opportunity to introduce barometric pressures and the impact of positive and negative pressures.
We are confident that your students will enjoy this unit and their enjoyment will lead them to learn more about respiration. We also believe that the links we make to other curricular disciplines such as health, social studies, math, language arts, performing arts, and make what they are learning even more relevant in their everyday lives. Most importantly we believe that what students learn and the tools they will practice using in this unit will have a positive influence on their behavior, their health, and their decision making.
H. Craig Heller
Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University