Thinkport. Think education. Think Maryland.
Home |  Log In |   |  Register
  Content  Relatives  More Info  PrintClose

Lesson Plan   

    Lesson Information
    Day Plans
    Enrichment Options
    Teacher Reflection

Stage 1
Identify Desired Results

Catchy Title: Lead Poisoning and Environmental Health
Theme/Topic of Lesson: lead poisoning, health, government, environmental health
Time Commitment: 4-5 class periods (45-60 minutes each)
Subject Area(s):
    Health - Environmental health
    Health - Body systems and senses
    Science - Environmental
    Social Studies - United States government
Grade Level(s): 11,12
Standards Alignment:
Class Challenge Question: What are the toxic effects of lead on both the human body and the environment?

Childhood lead poisoning is the number one preventable environmental health problem in Maryland and nationwide.  Every year thousands of children and adults are accidentally poisoned by lead, and the tragedy is that nearly all lead poisoning is preventable.

In this  lesson, students will first be provided with a general overview of the issues around lead poisoning in order to become more aware of the dangers and effects it has on the human body.  They will learn why lead was banned from use in gasoline and paint.   They will then investigate how and why various government agencies and laws were established to prevent and protect the general public from lead poisoning, as well as raise awareness about lead poisoning issues.  Further, they will learn about both the national EPA Elimination Plan, as well as Maryland's response with it's own State Elimination Plan.  In learning about these laws and issues, students will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the importance of lead poisoning prevention.

Students will develop a final product designed to raise awareness about lead poisoning.   The class will organize a Lead Awareness Campaign which will culminate on the last day of National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention week.

This lesson was designed to be completed during National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week to raise awareness about lead poisoning, but can be done at anytime throughout the school year.

In 2006, National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 22-28.

Stage 2
Determine Acceptable Evidence

Learning Objectives:

The Students will:
  • Students will develop a deep understanding of the issues surrounding lead poisoining.  Specifically they will learn:
    • the health effects of lead poisoning
    • why lead has been banned from use in paint and gasoline
    • primary sources of lead and how it enters the body
    • roles federal and state agencies play in establishing laws and lead poisoning prevention program


    Students will be assessed on the completion of the following:

    • "L" in a K-W-L chart (role-govern-lead-KWL.doc)
    • in-class worksheet students will fill in throughout the lesson (lead-environment-studentworksheet.doc); two parts (one for each day)
    • short essay assessment at end of lesson (lead-environment-assessment.doc)
    • final project; refer to rubric for grading criteria (lead-environment-rubric.doc)

Stage 3
Plan Learning Experiences


Other TechnologyTeacher Materials and Resources A variety of recommended free materials such as brochures and posters are available from a number of local and national organizations and agencies.  A comprehensive list is provided in the lead-enviornment-teacherresources.doc

This document also contains background reading and information that will help teachers prepare to conduct the lesson.
Internet SitesEPA Lead Awareness Program EPA's Lead Awareness Program
Center for Disease Control CDC's Lead Poisoning Prevention program
Maryland Department of the Environment MDE's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Housing and Urban Develompent HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control
Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning Great background information for teachers.
EPA Elimination Plan
Maryland Elimination Plan
Secret History of Lead Nation Magazine, 2000 special report on the use and ban of leaded gasoline
ATSDR Tox Guide ATSDR Tox Guide; scroll down and click on lead for a 2-page brochure.
ADHD Linked To Lead Exposure article showing link between lead exposure and ADHD; download full article in PDF format.
Lead Contamination and Our Environment A series of classroom activities; good background information for teachers to help guide discussions.

Per class
  • computer connected to Internet and LCD projector
  • EPA-eliminationplan2000 - PDF file
    • clear container that holds approx. 2 1/2 gallons (10 liters) of water
    • clear container that holds approx. one quart
    • red food coloring

  • lead-environment-standards  (View)
  • lead-environment-teacher-resources.doc

    A list of organizations where you can get free classroom resources.
  • lead-environment-assess-teacheranswerkey.doc

    AnswerKey for student essay questions.
  • 2-day PowerPoint presentation used to guide lecture and class discussion;

    load onto student computers for Days 3-4 as a research resource
      (View)Per student team/group of 4
    • flip chart paper, markers
    Per Student
    • lead-environment-studentworksheet.doc
      Student Worksheet to be used on Days 1 and 2
    • lead-environment-KWL.doc

    • lead-environment-rubric.doc
      Rubric for assessing the final project.
    • lead-environment-studentgroups-handout.doc

      For Day 2 student brainstorming activity.
    • lead-environment-assessment.doc
      Short answer essay questions to be distributed at end of Day 2.
    • lead-environment-studentproject.doc

      Final Project description and guidelines.

    • lead-based paint - paint or other surface coatings that contain more than 0.50% (1/2 percent) lead by weight or more than 0.7 milligram per square centimeter as measured by the x-ray flourescence method
    • person at risk - child under the age of six years or a pregnant woman; both are particularly vulnerable to lead-based paint hazards.
    • lead hazard reduction - reduction or elimination of lead-based paint hazards
    • blood lead level - a measure of lead in the blood; > 10 mcg/dl is considered a level of concern by the CDC

    The first two days of the lesson provide students with a comprehensive overview of lead poisoning and the varioius  government programs and laws designed to prevent it.  Following the lecture and student discussions, students will work collaboratively in heterogenous groups to conduct research and develop a final project for the Lead Poisoning and Prevention Awareness campaign. 

    On Day 1, students will learn about the toxic effects of lead, why it has been banned in some products, and how lead poisoning occurs in the body.  Teachers will begin with a basic K-W-L chart to establish prior knowledge, interest and inquiry.  Using a PowerPoint presentation as a guide, teachers will facilitate an interactive discussion with students, as they complete a worksheet to reinforce understanding. 

    On Day 2 students will look at a historical timeline of lead poisoning and see that the US government was slow to respond to its dangers.  They will then work in groups to brainstorm ideas for what they would do if they worked for a government agency responsible for eliminating lead poisoning.   Through lecture and discussion, students will learn how both federal and Maryland state governments responded to the lead poisoning problem, by establishing programs, plans and laws to protect the public.  They will explore Maryland's laws, as well as the state's 2010 Elimination Plan.

    On Day 3 and 4 of the lesson, students will work in groups to develop a final project of their choice.

    Teachers should familiarize themselves with the topics covered prior to conducting the lesson.  A comprehensive list of resources and readings can be found in lead-environment-teacherresource.doc

    If possible, arrange with school administration, space for the Lead Awareness campaign, such as a school lobby or auditorium.  Put flyers in each teacher's mailbox with details about the campaign, inviting all students in the school to check out materials and projects.

    Day 1: Lead Poisoning: An Overview
    Daily Challenge Question: What are the enviornmental health issues associated with lead?
    45-60 minute class period
    Set-up Directions:

    You will need the following materials:

    • Computer connected to an LCD projector and Internet access
    • Lead Prevention presentation (lead-enviornment.ppt) loaded onto the computer; use Slides 1-22 for Day 1.
    • Any posters or brochures you have ordered set up around the room (see list of recommended resources in lead-environment-teacherresources.doc)
    • Clear container that can hold up to 2 1/2 gallons (10 liters) of water; one clear container that can hold up to a quart; red food coloring
    • Optional - a variety of consumer productions, some of which contain lead:  cosmetics, can of paint, candy, an old pipe, jewelry, hair dye, child's toy, etc.

    Make enough copies of the the following:

    • KWL chart (role-government-lead-KWL.doc)
    • Student Worksheet (lead-environment-studentworksheet.doc)

    Distribute KWL Chart and Student worksheet to students at the beginning of the lesson.

    Draw a large KWL chart on the board, or have a blank electronic copy projected on the screen.

    Teacher Presentation & Motivation:
    Begin by having a class discussion about what students know in general about lead, lead poisoning, health effects, and government responsibilities. Students can fill in the Know section of the KWL chart as you guide the discussion and have them fill in the appropriate category. Show some of the products you've brought in (if you've done so) and ask students which ones they think might contain lead.  If they're not sure, direct them to fill in the W-What I Want to Know portion of their chart.  Note, they shouldn't just fill in what they want to know about lead sources, but everything they want to know about lead poisoning.

    Continue to move through the various categories, guiding students to talk about what they know and want to know. 

    Tell students that lead poisoning is very dangerous and unfortunately common in certain groups of people.  Tell students that for the next two days they will explore issues around lead poisoning, and the various roles government agencies play in lead poisoning prevention.   They will then have an opportunity to do further research on lead poisoning and prevention in order to develop a final project.  

    Activity 1 - History of Lead
    (1) Bring up the following site:
    This is the visual elements periodic table. As students if they know which visual element is the symbol for lead.

    (2) Click on the lead symbol -- this will bring up the following page:

    • When was lead discovered (mention that it was discovered as early as 3000 BC)
    • Historical uses
    Highlight: All these uses have now either been banned, replaced or discouraged as lead is known to be detrimental to health, particularly that of children

    Segue into Presentation (Activity #2).

    Activity 2 - Lead Poisoning Overview
    Using the notes provided directly in the PowerPoint presentation (lead-environment.ppt) guide students through Day 1 of the presentation (slides 1-22) and faciltiate a conversation.  Make the lesson as interactive as possible, discussing with students the topics and issues to ensure understanding.  Ask probing questions throughout the presentation, and direct students to complete the worksheet as the class collectively discusses the answers.

    When showing slide #6 (how lead affects children and adults differently), and to illustrate what >10mcg/dl means, do the following with the clear containers:

    1. Explain that the large clear container represents approximately the amount of blood in an adult who weighs 160 pounds.  Measure 10 mg of red food coloring and drop it into the water  (this is 10 mcg/dl).  Note that the water turns pink
    2.  Next drop the same amount of food coloring into the smaller container and explain that the quart represents the approximate amount of blood in a small child (around age 2).  Note that the water is darker, illustrating how the same amount of lead is more harmful to a young child because they have less blood; the concentration of lead is greater.

    Another way to illustrate the idea of how much 10 mcg/dl is:
    • tell students to imagine pouring 5000 2-liter soda bottles of water into a small square swimming pool measuring 3.16 meters on each side, and 1 meter deep (approx. 10.5 ft x 3 ft deep), filling it to the brim.  
    • Dissolve ten 100-milligram aspirin tablets into the water.  The water in the pool now contains 10 mcg/dl of aspirin.  The water represents the blood in the body and the aspirin represents the lead.


    • A bathtub that is mostly full is about 1000 liters. One 100 milligram aspirin tablet in that amount of water is 10mcg/dl.

    Wrap Up:

    Wrap up the lesson by asking students why they think lead poisoning should be of concern to them.  Where might they go for help or to learn more?  Since it's a preventable disease, ask students who should take responsibility for lead poisoning prevention?

    Tell students that tomorrow they will investigate the roles that some agencies play in helping to prevent lead poisoning.

    Day 2: Lead Poisoning Prevention: The Role of the Government
    Daily Challenge Question: What are the various government agencies and their roles in preventing lead poisoning?
    45-60 minutes
    Set-up Directions:
    You will need the following materials:
    • Flip chart paper and markers (enough for each student group)
    • Computer connected to LCD projector and Internet access
    • Lead Poisoning Presentation, slides 23-43 (role-government-lead-health-law.ppt)
    Make enough copies of the following:
    • Executive Summary of the Maryland Elimination Plan (page 3); one per student
    • List of government agencies for Student Groups (role-government-lead-studentgroups.doc)
    • Slides 24, 25, 26, 32, 33 for students (charts to help with Final Assessment).
    Make sure students have Part 2 of their Student Worksheet.

    Optionally, pre-assign student groups for brainstorming activity. There will be five groups.  Depending upon class size, each group might have 4-7 students.

    Begin with Day 2 slide (#23).

    Teacher Presentation & Motivation:
    Review with students what they learned on Day 1 about the dangers of lead poisoning.  Ask again who might have responsibility for lead poisoning prevention.
    Segue into Day 2 (slide #23) of the presentation.  Tell students they will need to continue to fill in their worksheet during the discussion.

    Activity 1 - History of Lead Poisoning
    Show slides 24, 25, 26.  See teacher notes directly in presentation. Topics:
    • Lead poisoning history
    • US was slow to respond to dangers
    • Changing definition of lead poisoning (1970-91) went from >60 mcg/DL to >10 mcg/DL
    • Correlation between ban of lead based paint and gasoline to significant reduction in blood lead levels
    Slide 24: emphasize leaded gasoline; tell students that there is a lot of controversy around the continued use of lead in gasoline for over 60 years. Big business (car manufacturers and oil companies), and scientists were well aware of the dangers of lead in gasoline, but they continued to use it for decades. 

    Lead was used in gasoline as early as 1920 as an ?anti-knocking? agent, to improve fuel performance and to reduce wear on vehicle engines. Knocking is a physical phenomenon that results when low-octane gasoline is burned in an internal combustion engine

    Tell students that they may choose to focus on this controversy in their research.

    Activity 2 - Student Groups: Brainstorming
    Slides 27-28

    Emphasize that government regulations have made tremendous strides in reducing the number of children who have lead poisoning.  But, approximately 1/2 million children per year still have lead poisoning.

    Assign students to one of the five groups (either pre-assigned or random).
    • Federal (CDC, EPA, HUD)
    • State (MDE, MD Lead Commission)
    Distribute Student Group handout (lead-environment-studentgroups.doc) and review the various government agencies.  At this point, do not discuss their responsibilities for lead poisoning prevention. Provide each group with flip chart paper and markers to take notes.

    Have students brainstorm in their groups for about 10-15 minutes what they would do if they had responsibility for eliminating lead poisoning.  Have them consider:
    • What is the problem, and why does your agency have to do something about it?
    • What are the goals your agency should try to achieve?  Be specific in terms of time frame and numbers.  Also, be realistic; what can you expect people to really do?
    • What are the ways in which your goals can be achieved?

    Activity 3 - Government Agencies and Laws
    The remainder of the lesson uses slides 29-43 to cover the various government agencies and their roles in lead poisoning prevention.  Discussion topics and teacher notes are provided directly in the presentation.  As you discuss the topics, you should also visit the links provided to the various websites for more detailed information.

    Take note in particuar, on Slide #34 (Continued Role of the Government), the first link goes to the EPA's elimination plan, a separate presentation in the form of a PDF file.  Showing this presentation helps to establish context for the federal government's elimination plan and need for subsequent state plans. 

    For Slide #36 - Class Discussion on Maryland's Elimination Plan, you will need to distribute the Executive Summary (page 3 of the plan) for student review and discussion.

    Modification of slide #29
    • if you have access to a computer lab and have an extra day for student research, have students conduct research on their assigned agency and report to the class the role of the agency.

    Wrap Up:
    To wrap up the lesson, ask students if they think Maryland will achieve it's mission by 2010. Why or why not?  What factors might contribute to a successful mission?

    For homework or the next day, distribute the essay questions (lead-environment-assessment.doc) in order to assess understanding.  Following the assessment, also collect the KWL Chart and student worksheet.

    Days 3-4: Student Research and Final Projects
    Daily Challenge Question: How can we organize information concisely into a final project?
    two class periods
    Set-up Directions:
    • Students will need copies of final project guidelines (lead-enviornment-studentproject.doc) and the final project rubric (lead-environment-rubric.doc)
    • Arrange for access to a computer lab so that students can conduct research.  Include on each computer a copy of the PowerPoint presentation (lead-enviornment.ppt)
    • For students choosing to do a poseter session, if possible have poster board and markers available.

    Teacher Presentation & Motivation:
    Tell students that they will have two days to research and organize information into a final project. 

    Review the final project guidelines and grading criteria with students.  Tell students that they will need to do a significant amount of work outside of class in order to be prepared for the Lead Awareness campaign.

    Activity 1 - Student Reserach and Final Project
    Students will work in groups to complete their final projects.

    Wrap Up:
    On Day 4, tell students that their final projects will be presented during the Lead Poisoning Awareness campaign.

    Day 5: Lead Poisoning and Prevention Awareness Campaign
    Daily Challenge Question: How can we teach other students about the dangers of lead poisoning?
    Throughout the school day
    Set-up Directions:
    Setup depends upon how you have organized and/or arranged for the campaign in your school.

    Teacher Presentation & Motivation:
    Allow students to have a few minutes to get their projects organized and ready for presentations.

    Activity 1 - Presentations and Campaign
    Students present their final projects either in class, or throughout the day in the campaign.

    Wrap Up:
    Congratulate students on a job well done and emphasize that they have done a great service to the school community by informing them about the dangers of lead poisoning.

    Enrichment Options
    Community Connection
    Invite a speaker to come to the classroom to discuss lead poisoning, such as a doctor from Johns Hopkins, or a specialist from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or or MDE/ local enviornmental health officials.

    Parent-Home Connection

    Order enough posters and/or brochures for every student in the class so that they can take them home to discuss with their parents.

    Field Experiences
    Connect with a lead abatement contractor and join him on a project; have the contractor show the students areas in a pre-1950 dwelling that contain lead-based paint.

    Cross-Curricular Extensions

    Health - Visit a local hospital, health facility or community forum on lead to learn more about lead poisoning.

    Chemistry - have students learn about the history of lead, it's chemical properties and characteristics. See related chemistry lesson, The Chemistry of Lead,for details.

    ELA - Have students write a research paper on how lead poisoning is an enviornmental justice issue.

    Stage 4
    Teacher Reflection

    As a reflective practitioner, note how this lesson could be adjusted after its initial implementation. How successful were the students in demonstrating their knowledge about the subject matter? What did the assessment demonstrate about the students' learning? What skills do the students need to revisit? What instructional strategies worked and what made them successful? What will you change the next time you use this lesson? Why?

    Author: Donna Schnupp