Grades 9-12

Unit 1, Lesson 3

Easy Breathers Video


The students will:

  • gain a greater understanding of the causes of and contributions to air pollution;
  • recognize that altering the way we use our vehicles can make a difference in automobile-related air pollution; and
  • see fellow students acting as leaders in raising awareness about the environment and, more specifically, air quality.

This video, produced by students in Wisconsin, tackles the nationwide problem of automobile-related air pollution. The video, which may arrive about a week after being ordered online (free of charge), is very well done. It features segments filmed in Houston and elsewhere around the country and contains features tied into the Easy Breathers web site. The video can stand alone or may be used in conjunction with lessons offered at the web site (see: "Auto-Mania, Average Vehicle Occupancy in Your Community, and Pounds of Pollution" recommended curricula).

The video is useful and informative on its own; however, you may wish to use the video in conjunction with other lessons presented here.



  • Environmental Systems: 4C, 4E, 5C-D, 5F, 8B
  • Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography: 9B-C

Social Studies

  • 22A-C, 23A-B


The video's total running time is 23 minutes, plus discussion time.


The video will need to be ordered (place your FREE order online: several weeks in advance of your planning to show it. You will need a television and VCR.

Lesson Overview:

Real high school students worked in front of and behind the camera to produce a video that investigates air pollution problems and teaches new teen drivers the importance of making wise, eco-friendly driving choices. A great springboard for science or environmental lessons, it leads students through the causes and impacts of air pollution and introduces some amazing technological solutions (e.g., electric cars, fuel cells, solar power).

Teacher Preparation:

Easy Breathers is a multimedia resource featuring a video and web site designed to teach high school students (ages 13 and up) about the connection between transportation choices and air pollution. Research has shown that people form mobility habits and preferences early in life, such as driving a car instead of taking the bus, even in areas where there are reliable and convenient transit systems. These lifelong choices have created congestion across the globe in many cities, and the impacts are very real. One of the most unfortunate results is that in many areas the choices made by some people mean that others have no choice. That is, people drive cars and demand decent, safe roads on which to drive them. This costs money and takes up space. It also overrides other options like transit systems, which carry a greater number of people at less cost and significantly less environmental impact. With no transit system, or a limited transit system, people who cannot afford cars or who are unable to drive find it much harder to get around than those with cars do. It's a vicious circle.


  1. Share the following statistics with students, either on the classroom board, via photocopy handout, or verbally. Ask them to guess the numbers/statistics in italics in the bullet points below.

    Summarizing the Challenge

    • Six out of every 10 Americans live in areas that violate federal air quality standards.
    • More than 20 million Americans have asthma. Five million are children.
    • Asthma rates are increasing exponentially in many U.S. cities and also in rural areas.
    • People aren't the only ones affected by air pollution. It's harmful to animals and plants, too. In fact, it's often more harmful to plants and animals than to people, since many are more sensitive to pollution.
    • There are more than 220 million registered vehicles in the United States—way more than anywhere else in the world. With a population of over 280 million people (from newborns to senior citizens), that's a ratio of about one person per vehicle. With more than 700 million vehicles globally, and a world population of about 6.2 billion, the world ratio is about nine people per vehicle.
    • Mobile sources (i.e., anything that moves and emits pollution) are responsible for a large chunk of the world's total air pollution. Compared to stationary pollution sources (like smokestacks), mobile sources of air pollution are difficult to regulate, and the regulations are expensive to monitor and enforce. Cars being built today are getting cleaner all the time, but individual choice can make a big difference in reducing automobile emissions.
  2. Ask students:

    • How many of you have a family vehicle that is a sport-utility vehicle, large truck, or van? Are any of these vehicles powered by diesel?
    • Does anyone's family have a hybrid electric or alternative fuel vehicle?
    • How many of you walk or bike to school? Do any of your parents walk or bike to work, carpool, vanpool, or telework?
  3. Show the Easy Breathers video and entertain classroom discussion. Optional: Have students write about their observations from the video, what they learned, and how they would have produced the video differently.

  4. Share the following ideas with students and ask for their inputs and suggestions on how we can come closer to solving the transportation-related air quality problems in our cities.

Sharing the Solution (or Part of It)
Encouraging students to take an active interest in the impacts of the choices that they make results in a more informed populace. Choosing to bike or walk to school or work instead of driving has health benefits as well as environmental ones. Carpooling, vanpooling, and teleworking are also good for the environment. In areas where transit, biking, and walking to school/work aren't options, people still have the power to make good choices, like keeping their car in good running condition so that it pollutes as little as possible and adopting new low-pollution or non-polluting technologies as they become available.

Manufacturers of innovative technologies like the fuel cell and the hybrid car depend on savvy consumers to get their product into the marketplace. And, of course, the students of today are the inventors of tomorrow. Being aware of these issues means that more students will become adults who take action and try to fix some of the problems.


Web Sites

    Easy Breathers
    Easy Breathers, The Classroom
    Access this link to the Teacher's Lounge, where you can network across the globe with other teachers and students. Exchange data, work on projects together, share ideas and resources—think of it as the Easy Breathers classified ads.
    Easy Breathers, Get the Easy Breathers Video

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; phone 608-267-7375;

Clean Air Tips