The approach begins with a “pop science” article geared towards teens. The information gathered is used to generate questions for further study, increasing student voice and gearing further investigations to their interest. The instructor facilitates the process by vetting the questions and aligning curriculum expectations for future lessons or investigations. This can be used as an introduction to problem-based learning, initiating a research assignment, or as the starting point for a larger investigation for students who are more experienced with inquiry-based learning. Alternatively this resource could be used as a culminating task but before considering this, consider the 21st Century skills you are empowering students with by having them develop the questions and their own pathway through the learning.
A - Scientific Investigation skills and Career Exploration
B - Cellular Biology
C - Microbiology
E - Anatomy of Mammals
*The strands covered can vary depending on the depth of student questions and their skill with inquiry based learning.
What do we know about the effects of vaping?
How does the respiratory system work?
What is scarring?
How do bacteria / viral infections affect cells?
How do scientists study health effects over long periods of time (e.g. smoking)?
Timeline*: 2 or more class periods (150+ minutes) for initial questioning and investigation.
*The timeline for inquiry-based strategies can vary greatly depending on the interests/needs and experience of both the students and their teacher. As such, this resource should be considered as a possible starting point to a larger inquiry using the Theme of “Vaping” to study a larger array of curriculum expectations.
Big Ideas (From the Ontario Curriculum for Science Gr. 11 and 12):
Substances that are present in our everyday lives can affect cellular functions and processes in positive and negative ways.
Groups of microorganisms have common characteristics, and these characteristics enable them to interact with other organisms in the environment
Groups of organs with specific structures and functions work together as systems, which interact with other systems in the body.
Environmental factors, including natural factors and those resulting from human activity, can have a wide range of effects on human health.
Overall and Specific Expectations (From the Ontario Curriculum for Science Gr. 11 and 12):
*This represents the possible scope assuming students either research their questions in-depth, or the questions developed through this lesson are used as the basis for further study. The expectations included are based on the experience of the writer and may differ with different groups of students.
Scientific Investigation Skills and Career Exploration
A1. demonstrate scientific investigation skills (related to both inquiry and research) in the four areas of skills (initiating and planning, performing and recording, analysing and interpreting, and communicating);
A1.1 formulate relevant scientific questions about observed relationships, ideas, problems, or issues, make informed predictions, and/or formulate educated hypotheses to focus inquiries or research
A1.3 identify and locate a variety of print and electronic sources that enable them to address research topics fully and appropriately
A1.7 select, organize, and record relevant information on research topics from a variety of appropriate sources, including electronic, print, and/or human sources, using suitable formats and an accepted form of academic documentation
A1.9 analyse the information gathered from research sources for logic, accuracy, reliability, adequacy, and bias
A1.11 communicate ideas, plans, procedures, results, and conclusions orally, in writing, and/or in electronic presentations, using appropriate language and a variety of formats (e.g., data tables, laboratory reports, presentations, debates, simulations, models)
B1. evaluate the impact of environmental factors and medical technologies on certain cellular processes that occur in the human body;
B1.2 analyse the effects of environmental factors on cellular processes that occur in the human body
C2. investigate the development and physical characteristics of microorganisms, using appropriate laboratory equipment and techniques;
C2.5 investigate and analyse the conditions (e.g., optimal temperature) needed by microorganisms for growth
C3. demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of microorganisms and the relationships that exist between them.
C3.5 describe how different viruses, bacteria, and fungi can affect host organisms, and how those effects are normally treated or prevented
Anatomy of Mammals
E2. investigate, through laboratory inquiry or computer simulation, the anatomy, physiology, and response mechanisms of mammals;
E2.3 plan and conduct an inquiry to determine the effects of specific variables on the human body
E3. demonstrate an understanding of the structure, function, and interactions of the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems of mammals.
E3.2 describe the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system (including the nasal cavity, trachea, larynx, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, and oxygenated and deoxygenated blood) and the mechanisms of gas exchange and respiration.
Key Concepts: Respiratory function, bacterial infection, viral infection, questioning, researching
Prior Skill Sets:
The lesson assumes the following:
There is a sense of community within the room to ensure positive collaboration
Students are skilled at making observations and inferences
Students have developed appropriate collaborative learning skills
Students can work both independently and collaboratively to research
Students can identify valid sources of research information
Basic knowledge of the respiratory anatomy (from grade 10 science)
Students know what “vaping” (and / or smoking) is
Lab Safety procedures (if the inquiry is extended to include lab investigations)
Materials and Equipment:
For this introductory inquiry:
Availability of technology (computer lab, laptops, chromebooks, other personal devices such as phones or tablets)
Access to the internet
Large format paper (Ledger size - 11” x 17”)
Chart paper OR assigned space on a Vertical Non-permanent Surface such as a Whiteboard or Chalkboard.
(Optional) Google Classroom and G-Suite applications (replaces all paper materials).
For Enrichment / Further Study
Wet spirometer, plastic bag spirometer, or electronic spirometer (e.g. probeware)
Lab Materials for culturing bacteria from yogurt
Since the introductory approach is paper and / or computer based there are no safety concerns. Should you wish to extend the scope using the suggested extensions, lab investigations will require their own safety considerations.
Instructional Planning and Delivery:
Organize students (and desks) so that they are in groups of no more than 4 and sitting face to face.
Instruct Students to make a t-chart with the headings “I read” and “I Think”, or use the organizer provided:
Provide copies of the article (or distribute it electronically): Concerns Explode over New Health Risks of Vaping
Tip: You may wish to consider reading the article as a class first, and then having them work individually to read the article again and highlight or make their own summary notes as described in step 4.
Instruct students to read the article and paraphrase new information into the “I Read” column. Any time they recall something they already knew, or think of something new because of the article (e.g. a question, something they heard, thoughts they have synthesized from different ideas) they place it in the “I think” column. Tip: suggest that each student should have at least 5 ideas in each column if work completion is a concern.
Using chart paper or a document projected on a screen, collect first only information in the “I Read” column from students. Try to get one idea from each student to encourage accountability. Repeat the process for the “I Think Column”. Tip: This step is vitally important as it validates the thinking of students that are normally disengaged, thus encouraging their participation!
Distribute 1 marker and 1 11” x 17” page to pairs of students. Have students decide who is person “A” and who is person “B”. Person “A” will get the marker and will record. If you are working electronically have person “A” open The Right Questions document.
Set the ground rules for the “Writestorm” activity that they will be participating in:
Ask as many questions as you can (out loud)
No judgement, get all questions asked down
Record every question as asked
Change statements into questions Tip: If students are having trouble have them simply start stating “thoughts” about what they have read, then change the thoughts into “I wonder…” statements. This is a good way to initiate questioning when students are apprehensive.
When students seem to be done, encourage each pair to come up with 3 more questions. Tip: do not skip this step! Once the obvious questions are dealt with, these final questions tend to be the most inquisitive and researchable questions!
Have a discussion with students about open ended and closed questions.
Initiate the discussion by asking “What is meant by the term open ended question?” Record ideas on chart paper, chalkboard/whiteboard or on a projected document.
Do the same for “Closed questions”.
Once [you and] the class is satisfied that they understand what each are, still working in pairs, they need to label their questions as being either “O” (open ended) or “C” (closed).
Instruct each pair to convert their open ended questions to closed, and their closed questions to open ended while making sure they can still read the original question. Suggest adding / changing words or rewriting the entire question above or below the original question. If they are working electronically there is is a space for this process in the document. (For more background information on the process described in steps 8-11, consider the article found here: Inquiring Minds: Using the Question Formulation Technique to Activate Student Curiosity)
Have students rank their questions from “Best” (most interesting / useful) to “worst” (least interesting / useful). Encourage students to consider both the original questions and the new questions.
Tip: after this step it can be useful to have a discussion about the quality of questions and that both open ended and closed questions can be useful and of high quality, and that we need both to properly investigate a topic!
Person “B” in each pair is now the reporter. Working on a central chart paper or projected electronic document go through the room pair by pair and collect their “best” question that has not already been asked.
Tip: knowledge of the curriculum is vital here, as this is the point where you need to steer phrasing and questioning towards curriculum expectations, but questions will likely not all relate to one strand of the course. The article considers not only respiratory effects, but also incidences of gingivitis and pneumonia as well as tissue scarring (e.g. popcorn lung).
The class now has a list of questions for further study or investigation and you have the option of how you wish to proceed based on the learners in the room, the experience they have with individual research, and the availability of materials / technology to your students. For Ideas and extensions see the next section.
Accommodations for Exceptional Learners
Students who struggle with reading at grade level should have access to text-to-speech software and headphones so that they can have the article read to them electronically. Highlighters should be provided so that students can keep track of the important points in the article if you are providing paper copies, electronically the article can be copied/pasted into an electronic document and electronic highlighting could be used. The “recorder” in the group should be a student that is confident with writing, thus allowing those who are less confident with writing to share their thoughts and questions orally.
Consider the following ideas and construct a learning cycle appropriate for your students based on their interest / needs. The ideas range from teacher guided lessons, to independent inquiry and are listed in no particular order.
Use the questions as the set of learning goals for the next few classes (depending on the depth of the questions). Lessons that follow could include:
Review of the respiratory anatomy
Measuring lung capacities of smokers, vapers, and non-smoker/vapers and analysing the data
Culturing bacteria in different conditions to mimic pneumonia / bronchitis / gingivitis.
Taxonomic identification of bacteria
Split the questions evenly between groups of 2-4 students. Have each group prepare a presentation or “gallery walk” station to teach the information they research to the rest of the class. Assess each presentation and / or individual understanding of all information on a quiz or test.
Have each group of 4 work collaboratively to research and develop their own independent “Living document” that explains everything about the effects of vaping. Students can be assessed on their final product and / or use printouts of their portfolio for an “open book” test.
Tip: Walk through the digital portfolio and remind students that in it’s distributed form is a lot of instruction and ideas to incorporate. Suggest that they use a variety of methods to show their learning / research (e.g. Canva, Linoit, concept maps, google drawings etc.)
References / Bibliography
Konkel, L. (2017). Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping. Science News for Students. Retrieved from
Minigan, A.P., Beer, J. (2017). Inquiring Minds: Using the Question Formulation Technique to Activate Student Curiosity.
New England Journal of History, 74(1).