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UK kids top asthma league

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Group discussion
Topic: Immune system

A recent international survey found that British kids are three times more likely to get asthma than French, German or Italian kids. The percentage of British kids with asthma is greater than in any other country. In this activity students study scientists' ideas about possible causes of asthma. Students relate the scientists' ideas to their own lives before deciding which are worthy of further research.

This activity was written by 'UPD8 live' participants Paul Martin, Richard Waller and Fiona Sydney working with the UPD8 team.

Published: 23rd January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 8

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Learning objectives

Students will discuss scientists' ideas about possible causes of asthma

Try the activity

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11 - 14 (KS3)
ideas and evidence Sc1.1c - how scientists work
fit and healthy QCA 9b - describe some effects of diet, smoking and air pollution on some organ systems; use secondary sources of information about health
environmental chemistry QCA 9g - describe some consequences of air pollution
investigating scientific questions QCA 9m - examine scientific evidence

Running the activity

Running time: 15-20 minutes

Starter - Ask the class who has asthma. Calculate the proportion of students in the class who have asthma. Tell students that in France, Germany or Italy the number of students in a class who have asthma is likely to be much smaller.

Page 1 is an information page from a teenage magazine. It states that more UK kids suffer from asthma than kids from anywhere else in the world and explains what asthma is. This page than be projected or printed onto transparency.

Page 2 gives instructions for the task. It also includes evidence cards, which need to be cut up. Each student or pair of students will need their own set of cards. Students first arrange the cards in order of importance for them - what may have started their own asthma? For those who do not have asthma, what risks that are associated with the onset of asthma have they been exposed to?

Of course you will need to emphasise that exposure to a particular risk does not mean a student will necessarily develop asthma! Secondly, students decide which two possible asthma causes should be funded for further research. There are no right answers here - the purpose is to get students to think about the sorts of factors funding agencies might consider (number of people likely to have been exposed to the risk; how easy is it to do the research; can action be taken should a possible cause be proven to be linked to asthma)

Plenary - students say which possible causes they have decided to fund, and why. Class could vote on this.

News links

BBC Health News
A summary of the main findings of the Global Initiative for Asthma report, including a link to a map of global asthma rates
New Scientist
for a list of articles that describe studies on asthma causes, put asthma into search news

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Dec 11th, 2008

5 Star

Excellent preparation for C21 Case Study. Important that students take time to consider which downside qualifies for the longest snake etc.
Year 10 students respond well to being told their game will be used for a year 7 lesson activity.
Photocopying the snakes and ladders onto an OHP transparency and keeping the cut outs saves the fiddle of cutting new ones every time.

Reviewer: s evans


Jan 27th, 2008

4 Star

I used the causes of asthma numbering activity as a part of a circus of activity. I just had the sheet laminated so the pupils could do the discussion work in pairs and number the different causes using board pens and then reuse the sheets for the next group. ( year 9 Fit & Healthy)

Reviewer: kantha choudhury

Year 10 science

Oct 12th, 2007

4 Star

Used this as part of a circus of activites to show that not all diseases are 'caught' from someone else. The group that used this activity were of average ability and enjoyed finding aout baout dust mites. Their presentation had a Ugh factor and soon had everyone itching. Good material

Reviewer: Susan Swan

uk kids top asthma league

Jul 1st, 2007

2 Star

I used this activity with a middle set year 8 class as part of the Fit and Healthy topic. On paper it looked like a great activity to use with this set, but on the day it didn't go well. They didn't seem to understand the activity, it took quite a lot of explanation, When they did finally understand, they didn't spend a lot of time making their choices, I couldn't get any good discussions going in the groups. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe I just didn't explain it very well - it just didn't work out as a good lesson.

Reviewer: Theresa Dougall

UK kids top asthma league review

Mar 1st, 2007

5 Star

I used this activity as an end-of-topic extra with both my mixed ability S1 classes (equivalent to Y8 south of the border). The pupils included several with asthma, and all were very aware of the condition, so the activity was an excellent real-life reinforcer to the material we had just completed on Cells, Organs and Systems of the Body. Both classes took part enthusiastically and enjoyed sorting putative causes and setting research priorities. Perhaps the most engaged of all was one of the least academically able pupils - himself an asthma sufferer - for whom the science really seemed to come alive.

Reviewer: Calum MacLeod


Dec 1st, 2006

5 Star

tried this myself on an inset. works well and going to do it as a quick activity with my year 10 c1 group

Reviewer: Tracy Page

UK kids top Asthma league

Oct 24th, 2005

5 Star

This activity worked really well with my mixed ability year 9 group and it ran very smoothly!

The introductory pages were easily followed and the lesson encouraged the pupils to share their experiences with Asthma.

I visited the BBC website beforehand and used their statistics to produce a graph. This graph was intepreted by some of the SEN pupils and they could see visually how the UK kids top the league.

The feedback was also promising as pupils put forward their proposals on which projects to fund. This project put the context of lung structure and function into real life.

A very rewarding lesson at Edmonton Co. School!

Reviewer: ash acharya

UK Kids top asthma league

Jun 19th, 2005

5 Star

I thought the UPD8 Live CPD course that was run at the Bristol South-West Science Learning Centre was outstanding! The brief we were given involved writing an UPD8 activity for the news story covering this story about Asthma. It is really satisfying to see this activity now published on the UPD8 website

Thanks UPD8!

I have used this activity with my Y8s as an introduction to asthma as a disesae. Many of the pupils in the class either have asthma, have had asthma, have a member of their family who has the disease or have a friend who has it. Some pupils described to the class how frightening it is when they had an asthma attack.

The card sort activity gets pupils to consider a number of possible causes of Asthma and then decide how to spend the governments money on researching the chosen causes. It provoked alot of discussion and debate in the classroom and each pair of pupils came up with different suggestions. This is a good activity for pupils to think about Ideas and Evidence and consider how scientists consider the evidence from different sources.

Richard Waller, Comberton Village College, Cambridge

Reviewer: Richard Waller