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Public Health, Social Justice


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Justice, Health


60 minutes

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey


Google Docs, Google Slides

Air Quality, Health, and Justice

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Sep 29, 2022



This lesson introduces the connections between air quality and environmental justice. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students consider how air quality and public health are related. 

Step 2 - Investigate: Students complete a playlist of five activities, exploring air quality, public health, environmental justice, and New Jersey's efforts to create a cleaner and more just society. 

Step 3 - Inspire: Students engage in a fishbowl discussion and share ideas to support initiatives related to air quality, public health, and environmental justice.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
10 minutes
  • Students read the following statement: Human cardiorespiratory health has been directly linked to air quality, and air quality has been directly linked to environmental injustice, meaning that poorer and marginalized communities suffer more from poorer air quality.

  • Students answer the following questions:

    • Is the opportunity for good health a social and environmental issue? Why or why not?

    • What questions or wonderings do you have about the statement above?

  • Students keep their responses to reflect more deeply in the Inspire section.

  • Teacher may consolidate student responses on the whiteboard or poster paper to help facilitate class discussion.

30 minutes
20 minutes
  • Students participate in a fishbowl discussion. 

    • Teacher may use playing cards or another preferred method to randomly determine which half of the class begin in the inner circle as the discussion group and which half of the students begin in the outer circle as focused listeners.

    • Inner circle students sit in a circle, and outer circle students stand to observe and listen. 

    • Inner circle students use their notes, wonderings and ideas from the Inquire and Investigate parts of the lesson to discuss with their peers. The outer circle students take notes about points they hear that are impactful or interesting.

  • Teacher asks, “What considerations or expectations should we have for one another during a fishbowl activity?” Some examples include: 

    • This is primarily an exercise in listening.

    • When speaking, share your insights, knowledge, and questions.

    • Always maintain a respectful tone.

    • Disagreements are OK, but combativeness is not.

    • Discourse should be factual, serious, challenging, and open for respectful exchanges of opinions.

  • Students switch groups after 10 minutes.

Teaching Tips


  • This lesson utilizes student choice, active listening, and active participation.
  • Students are guided through a Fishbowl discussion which facilitates respectful listening and exchanging of opinions.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers should feel comfortable offering choice, allowing students independence and autonomy in their learning. This lesson encourages open conversation and monitoring regarding student held discussions.
  • This resource is helpful for facilitating a Fishbowl discussion.
  • Students will need access to the Teacher Slideshow in order to conduct their independent work.


  • Students are able to work at their own pace and order for the playlist activity, but teachers can scaffold certain steps for students who need additional support.
  • Teachers can create a sample guide for the independent playlist activity.
  • Teachers can embed the necessary adjustments into the playlist and check boxes for students with special needs or considerations.
  • Teachers can add a sixth check box that includes a chat with the teacher so that questions and checks for understanding can be incorporated.
Scientist Notes

This lesson illustrates how air quality is related to cardiorespiratory health and how environmental injustice exacerbates these issues in marginalized communities. A well-sourced list of resources is provided where students can learn about human respiration, environmental justice, air quality in New Jersey, and what is being done to address environmental injustice by both the state and the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. Students are tasked with reviewing these sources and then sharing what they learned in a fishbowl discussion. This lesson is recommended for teaching.

  • Comprehensive Health & Physical Education
    • Personal and Mental Health
      • 2.1.12.CHSS.6: Evaluate the validity of health information, resources, services, in school, home and in the community.
      • 2.1.12.CHSS.7: Describe how individuals and local, state, and global advocacy organizations can collaborate to address common local and global health and social issues (e.g., hunger, clean water, organ/tissue donation).
      • 2.1.12.CHSS.8: Investigate how local, state, and global agencies are addressing health issues caused by climate change and share this information in an appropriate setting.


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