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Respiratory System Lesson

Updated on February 5, 2015

This is part 6 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create a lung model, measure lung capacity, dissect a lung, play a respiratory relay race, and more! These lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. They were created by another creative mom for our weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 33 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after school program, camp, or co-op!

Inspecting our noses
Inspecting our noses

Devotional, Review, & Nose Hairs

1. Pray. Read & discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14.

2. Review the systems of the body.

3. Have the children count how many breaths they take in a minute. Lead them in figuring out how many times they breathe each day. (Multiply the number by 1,440.) Discuss how breathing is both voluntary and involuntary.

4. Discuss what is in the air they are breathing (78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and many other gases and items such as dust, pollen, bacteria and viruses, chemicals, etc.). Have children use mirrors to look up their noses and describe what they see. God designed us with filters to keep many of the unwanted items from reaching our lungs: our nose hair.

YOU WILL NEED: mirrors (such as a compact mirror)

Would you like to know how to explain everything?

Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)

In this lesson plan I have not included some of what I said because much of what I said came from this book. The author does a wonderful job of explaining our complex bodies in a manner that children can easily understand. We used this book throughout our unit on the human body. If you are only able to get one book for this unit, I would recommend this one.

 
Using a vacuum cleaner and moist paper towel with glue to demonstrate how mucus helps our respiratory system
Using a vacuum cleaner and moist paper towel with glue to demonstrate how mucus helps our respiratory system

Nose Mucus

5. Mention how mucus also traps some of the particles we do not want entering our lungs. Demonstrate how this works but using a vacuum cleaner to suck up small items (sand, pepper flakes, etc.) from a plate. Pour more items on the plate again. Then cover the nozzle with a damp paper towel that has a small amount of Elmer's glue spread across it. This represents the mucus in our noses. Try to vacuum up the small items again. Most of the items will get stuck on the glue-covered paper towel. In the same way, the mucus in our noses traps items (dust, pollen, etc.) so they do not enter our lungs.

YOU WILL NEED: a vacuum cleaner (a small handheld one will work), a small plate, tiny items (such as pepper and sand), Elmer’s glue, and a paper towel

Our conchae were named after the conch shell.
Our conchae were named after the conch shell.

Nose Cilia, Conchae, and Sinus Cavities

6. [Show a picture of cilia.] The mucus might be able to trap tiny invaders, but they would be stuck in your body if it wasn't for the cilia, which are tiny carpet-like hairs that are constantly waving around in order to push the mucus and other unwanted items toward your throat so that it can pass through your stomach where your stomach acids will kill most of the germs and then eventually rid your body of them.
-There is also a series of twists and turns in your nasal cavity that bump the air around to knock out some of the unwanted particles. Because it has twists and turns like the inside of a conch shell, it is called the conchae. [Show a conch shell if you have it and also a pictture of the conchae in a nose.] In addition to knocking out some of the unwanted air particles, this swirling of air also helps to warm the air so that it is more comftable to breathe.
-[Show a picture of sinus cavities.] You head also has sinus cavities, which are holes, that also help with the moisturizing, warming, and filtering of the air.

YOU WILL NEED: conch shell and a picture of cilia, conchae, and nasal cavities from a book or the Internet

Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries: The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body (DK Visual Dictionaries)
Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries: The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body (DK Visual Dictionaries)

This has nice models of each of the systems of the body including the respiratory system.

 
Using rubber bands to demonstrate how vocal cords work
Using rubber bands to demonstrate how vocal cords work

Pharynx, Larynx, and Vocal Cords

7. After you inhaled air exits your nose, it enters your pharynx, which is divided into 3 parts. The first part is the nasopharynx. Have the children use a mirror to examine their uvula, which is part of their nasopharynx. The other two parts are the oropharynx and laryngopharynx (or larynx for short). Have children feel their larynx, which is the "adam's apple" bump on their throats.

YOU WILL NEED: mirrors (such as a compact mirror)

8. Explain how vocal cords work to produce sound. Have children place 2 rubber bands of the same length (one wide and one thin) over a container and then pluck them to hear the difference in pitch. If desired, you can add more rubber bands of different lengths and widths.

YOU WILL NEED: rubber bands of different widths and small containers (such as plastic storage containers)

Watch vocal cords in action

Paste the trachea to the paper bag lungs.  Be sure to paste them LOWER than is shown on this picture so that they can match up with the bronchial tubes!
Paste the trachea to the paper bag lungs. Be sure to paste them LOWER than is shown on this picture so that they can match up with the bronchial tubes!

Trachea and Heimlech Maneuver

9. Next, the air moves into your trachea. Have the children feel the cartilage rings of the trachea on their necks. Give each child a straw and have them cover the bottom and inhale deeply in order to try to collapse the straw. The cartilage rings keep the trachea from collapsing when you breath in. Have children color the trachea from https://docs.google.com/ and then cut it out and paste it to two paper lunch sack bags.

YOU WILL NEED: straws, paper lunch bags (2 per child), scissors, glue sticks, red markers or crayons, and these sheets: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwivNcO0Yu1ROUxZLTc5b2tNUUU/edit?pli=1

10. Discuss the Heimlech Maneuver. If you are comfortable with your students trying it, allow for them to gently practice it on a partner. Children can hurt each other if it is done improperly, so make sure they know what to do and know to do it gently. There have been instances when children have used the Heimlech Maneuver to save their younger siblings or friends who were chocking.

Adding alveoli to lung craft.  Using a pinky finger will allow for the alveoli to be smaller.
Adding alveoli to lung craft. Using a pinky finger will allow for the alveoli to be smaller.

Bronchi, Bronchioles, and Alveoli

11. Mention the functions of the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. Have children cut out the lungs from the above worksheets. Paste them to the paper bags. Have them glue the labels next to their parts. Use a sponge and watered down red tempera/poster board/finger paint to "paint" the lungs red. The sponge texture will remind them that the lung has a spongy interior because of all the pockets of air. They should then use their pinky finger to place a small dot of blue paint at the end of each of the bronchioles. These will represent the alveoli. (This idea came from http://deceptivelyeducational.blogspot.com/ .)

YOU WILL NEED: watered down red tempera/poster board/finger paint, disposable plates, blue tempera/poster board/finger paint, baby wipes, scissors, glue sticks, cover up t-shirts (optional), and worksheets from above link

Grapes are our edible lung models.
Grapes are our edible lung models.

Review of the Inside of Lungs

12. [Hold up two clusters of grapes.] Ask, “What do you think these represent?” (Allow for answers.) These represent what is inside your lungs. The main stems would be what? (bronchi or bronchial tubes) The bigger stems branch out into smaller stems, which represent what? (bronchioles) At the end of the little stems are the tiny sacks that get the oxygen you need out of the air and into your bloodstream and they get the waste (carbon dioxide) out of the bloodstream. What do these grapes represent? (alveoli) Pass out a small handful of grapes to each child as today’s snack.

YOU WILL NEED: 2 large clusters of grapes and paper towels or napkins

Materials for each team
Materials for each team
Purpose of Respiratory System Game
Purpose of Respiratory System Game

Purpose of Respiratory System Games

13. Each single alveolus is covered with tiny blood vessels whose walls are only a single cell thick. As blood passes through these tiny vessels, oxygen seeps from the alveolus through the wall of the blood vessel and into a blood cell. Blood cells that are carrying carbon dioxide (remember that’s waster they picked up from the tissues) give up that carbon dioxide, and it travels through the wall of the vessel and into the alveolus so it can be exhaled. In the alveolus, the blood “trades” carbon dioxide for oxygen. The blood that comes to your lungs is low in oxygen, having given up its oxygen to the tissues that needed it. It comes back to your lungs for more oxygen, exchanging it for the waste it picked up along the way. Have the children repeat, “Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out.”
-The main function of the respiratory system is to supply red blood cells with oxygen so they can deliver the oxygen to the rest of the body. Red blood cells are kind of like delivery trucks that transport the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and bring back the carbon dioxide from the body to the lungs where it can be breathed out.
-Play the Transportation of Oxygen Game, making sure that each child understands what they are doing and why before you begin:
i. Divide everyone into groups of 3.
ii. One person in each group is an organ of the body. Give that child 10 blue circles with CO2 (2 is small – for carbon dioxide) written on them. Have the “body organ” child from each team line up in one line and sit down because they cannot move. If desired, pass out a picture of the body organ and tape it to the person’s shirt. We used pictures of the brain, kidneys, and heart because they consume the most oxygen. (The brain consumes 25% of the body’s oxygen, kidney’s consume 15 % of it, and the heart consumes 7% of it.)
iii. A second person from each team will be the team’s lung. Give that persona picture of the lungs to tape to their shirt and then 10 red or pink circles with O2 (two is small – for oxygen) written on them. All the “lung” children will line up on another line facing their “body organ” team member and will sit down because they cannot move. Place trash cans next to the “lung” children.
iv. The third person on the team is the red blood cell. Give those people red shirts to put on over their shirts. That person will be the only one who gets to move. S/he will run between his/her teammates (the body organ & the lung). The “red blood cell” teammate will grab 1 “oxygen molecule” from his “lung,” run it over to the “body organ” teammate, pick up 1 “carbon dioxide molecule” from the “body organ” teammate, and deliver the carbon dioxide molecule to the “lung” teammate. (If you don't have enough red shirts, you can instead make red blood cell headbands, each with a drawing of a delivery truck on it.)
v. The “lung” teammate will hand the “red blood cell” another oxygen molecule to deliver to the “body organ” team mate. Meanwhile, the “lung” teammate will blow on the carbon dioxide molecule (to exhale it) and will toss it into the trash can.
vi. The first team to deliver all 10 oxygen molecules to the body organ and rid themselves of all 10 carbon dioxide molecules wins. (This activity idea came from peer.tamu.edu)

YOU WILL NEED PER 3 CHILDREN: 10 blue circles with CO2 (2 is small – for carbon dioxide) written on them, 10 white circles with O2 (two is small – for oxygen) written on them, a red shirt, a picture of a body organ (optional), a picture of lungs (optional), and tape (optional)

Measuring lung capacity
Measuring lung capacity | Source

Lung Capacity

14. Measure lung capacity. Discuss lung capacity and what might increase or decrease it. Ask if anyone has ideas on how we can measure it. Have children each fill a container such as a pitcher or 2L bottle with water. Have them set their container of water in a large mixing bowl. Use a pitcher of water to top off each container so that it is filled to the brim. Have each child place a straw in the water, take a deep breath, and then blow one strong breath until they can breath out any more. Emphasize that they are not to take repeated breaths. Water will pour out of the container of water and into the mixing bowls. Have the children pour the water in the mixing bowl into a liquid measuring cup. That is their approximate lung capacity. Is there a difference between children who are active in sports and those who aren't? Is there a noticeable difference between younger and older children?

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: a 2L bottle (or pitcher) full of water, liquid measuring cup, very large mixing bowl, a straw, and towels (optional)

Diaphragm

15. Explain how the lungs are like balloons that hold and release air. Blow up a balloon and then release the air to help children to visualize this. There is more involved in breathing. Briefly explain how a diaphragm is the muscle that allows your lungs to inhale and exhale. Make a working model of a lung and diaphragm. Cut the neck off a balloon & stretch it over the bottom of the bottle (the part that was cut off). Place a second balloon in the open top of the bottle and fold the open part of the balloon over the top of the bottle. If desired, add a straw to the balloon to act as a trachea. By pushing and pulling the bottom balloon (the diaphragm), the balloon inside the bottle (the lung) will fill with air and lose air. The plastic water bottle can be compared to the protective rib cage. (A more in depth explanation can be found at sciencesquad.questacon.edu.au).

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 2 balloons, scissors, a straw, and a disposable plastic water or sports drink bottle with bottom cut off (must be made of sturdy plastic as the flimsy plastic kinds will not work)

Dissecting a lung
Dissecting a lung

Dissect a Lung & Review

16. Dissect lungs and trachea. If desired, allow the children inflate the lung by inserting a straw inside the lung and blowing into it. They must make sure to NOT inhale if they do this, though! You can also cut off a part, put it in a cup of water, and squeeze it to show air bubbles coming out of it.

What to do: We covered the table and placed the lungs & part of the trachea on a hard plastic, disposable plate. I used a paring knife from the Dollar Tree as a scalpel. I watched YouTube videos to help me prepare what to say.

How to get one: We got deer lungs & trachea from a hunter. We got it frozen and it thawed out nicely. You can also purchase one from a sheep from www.hometrainingtools.com for about $14. (It is called a pluck and even includes the heart.) I have purchased items from hometrainingtools.com before and have always been very pleased with their fast shipping and quality of their specimens (which do not smell).

YOU WILL NEED: lungs (& trachea), something to cover the table (newspapers or plastic tablecloth), hard plastic disposable plate, sharp cutting tool (like a paring knife), disposable gloves, straws (optional), and clear cup of water (optional)

17. Review what we learned today.

Sense of Smell

If you'd like to expand this lesson to include your sense of smell, you can check out my sense of smell lesson: http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/touch-smell-and-taste-lesson-plan-in-five-senses-unit- .

Favorite Books on the Respiratory System

Breathe In, Breathe Out: Learning About Your Lungs (The Amazing Body)
Breathe In, Breathe Out: Learning About Your Lungs (The Amazing Body)

This was my favorite picture book on the respiratory system. The illustrations are nice enough that even my 2 year old could sit through the entire book. The book still provides plenty of educational information.

 
The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body
The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body

This has a nice section on how the respiratory system works.

 

Material List for the Lesson

ITEMS FOR FAMILIES TO BRING PER CHILD:
-mirror (such as a compact mirror)
-a plastic container (such as an empty sour cream container or a Tupperware container) that is small enough so that rubber bands can fit across it
-this sheet: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwivNcO0Yu1ROUxZLTc5b2tNUUU/edit?pli=1
-scissors
-glue stick
-red marker or crayon
-half a sponge (will be used for painting)
-cover up t-shirt to protect clothing while using paint (optional)
-A 2L bottle (or other large container that has a lid) filled with water (You can fill it up with water during class.)
-A large mixing bowl or other container that can hold the water that will be removed from the 2L bottle (preferably with a pouring spout)
-a liquid measuring cup (1 per family)
-kitchen towel (1 per family)
-a disposable plastic Gatorade bottle or water bottle (not flimsy plastic) with the bottom cut off

ITEMS TO BE SHARED WITH CLASS:
-a vacuum cleaner (a small handheld one will work), a small plate, tiny items (such as pepper and sand), Elmer’s glue, and a paper towel
-conch shell and a picture of cilia, conchae, and nasal cavities from a book or the Internet
-rubber bands of different widths (at least 2 per child)
-straws, paper lunch bags (2 per child),watered down red tempera/poster board/finger paint, disposable plates, blue tempera/poster board/finger paint, & baby wipes
-2 large clusters of grapes and paper towels or napkins
-PER 3 CHILDREN: 10 blue circles with CO2 (2 is small – for carbon dioxide) written on them, 10 white circles with O2 (two is small – for oxygen) written on them, a red shirt, a picture of a body organ (optional), a picture of lungs (optional), and tape (optional)
-PER CHILD: 2 balloons and a straw
-lungs (& trachea), something to cover the table (newspapers or plastic tablecloth), hard plastic disposable plate, sharp cutting tool (like a paring knife), disposable gloves, straws (optional), and clear cup of water (optional)

Good Overview of the Respiratory System: Bill Nye

Ready for the next lesson?

Create edible DNA models, made models of the insides of bones, dissect deer organs, create a working model of the respiratory system, play immune system freeze tag, and more in this fun 7-8 lesson unit on human anatomy! (An optional lesson on genetics and DNA is included.)

  • Cells and DNA Lesson - This is part 1 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create edible models of human cells and DNA, look at cheek cells under a microscope, and more!
  • Genetics Lesson – This is an optional but very worthwhile lesson for the Human Anatomy Unit Study. Use M&M's to determine genetic traits, extract DNA from a strawberry using normal household materials, create edible DNA strands using marshmallows and licorice, design dog breeds as you select alleles, and more in this fun lesson on Genetics!
  • Skeletal and Muscular Systems Lesson - This is part 2 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create models of bone parts, use stickers to label the bones on your body, dissect soup bones, measure the range of motion of your joints, and more!
  • Nervous System Lesson - This is part 3 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create a clay model of the brain, twist together a pipe cleaner neuron, train your reflexes, dissect a deer brain and a cow eyeball (optional), and more!
  • Digestive System Lesson - This is part 4 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Demonstrate how each part of the digestive system works using crackers, pantyhose, create teeth molds, prepare and eat a salad while discussing healthy eating habits, and more!
  • Circulatory System Lesson - This is part 5 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Walk through your circulatory system, create a blood model and fake movie blood, measure your heart rate, dissect a heart, and more!
  • Respiratory System Lesson - This is part 6 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Create a lung model, measure lung capacity, dissect a lung, play a respiratory relay race, and more!
  • Immune System Lesson - This is part 7 of a 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Play immune system freeze tag, watch how germs spread, observe bacteria under a microscope, and more!
  • Human Body Unit Study Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating activity for the 7 part hands-on unit study on anatomy of the human body. Children presented game show themed games related to the human body or other creative presentations, and we had a systems-of-the-human-body-themed meal. Recipes are included! Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.

Konos Volume III
Konos Volume III

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2012 iijuan12

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