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)
Health - Environmental health
Health - Body systems and senses
Science - Environmental
Social Studies - United States government
Grade Level(s): 11,12
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
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.
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)
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)
- 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)
A list of organizations where you can get free classroom resources.
AnswerKey for student essay questions. (View)
2-day PowerPoint presentation used to guide lecture and class
load onto student computers for Days 3-4 as a research
resource (View)Per student team/group of 4
- flip chart paper, markers
Student Worksheet to be used on Days 1 and 2
Rubric for assessing the final project.
For Day 2 student brainstorming activity.
Short answer essay questions to be distributed at end of Day 2. (View)
Final Project description and guidelines. (View)
- 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
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.
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
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
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
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: Day 2: Lead Poisoning Prevention: The Role of the Government
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: http://www.chemsoc.org/viselements/pages/pertable_fla.htm
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: http://www.chemsoc.org/viselements/pages/lead.html
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
- When was lead discovered (mention that it was discovered as early as 3000 BC)
- Historical uses
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:
- 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
- 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 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.
Daily Challenge Question: What are the various government agencies and their roles in preventing lead poisoning?
Set-up Directions: Days 3-4: Student Research and Final Projects
You will need the following materials:
Make enough copies of the following:
- 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 sure students have Part 2 of their Student Worksheet.
- 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).
pre-assign student groups for brainstorming activity. There will be
five groups. Depending upon class size, each group might have 4-7
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
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:
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 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
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
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).
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.
- Federal (CDC, EPA, HUD)
- State (MDE, MD Lead Commission)
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.
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.
Daily Challenge Question: How can we organize information concisely into a final project?
two class periods
Set-up Directions: Day 5: Lead Poisoning and Prevention Awareness Campaign
- Students will need copies of final project guidelines
(lead-enviornment-studentproject.doc) and the final project rubric
- Arrange for access to a computer lab so that students can conduct
research. Include on each computer a copy of the PowerPoint
- 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
Activity 1 - Student Reserach and Final Project
Students will work in groups to complete their final projects.
On Day 4, tell students that their final projects will be presented during the Lead Poisoning Awareness campaign.
Daily Challenge Question: How can we teach other students about the dangers of lead poisoning?
Throughout the school day
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.
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.
Order enough posters and/or brochures for every student in the
class so that they can take them home to discuss with their parents.
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.
Health - Visit a local hospital, health facility or community forum on lead to learn more about lead poisoning.
- 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.
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