6th Grade Pilot Lesson

Unit Title:Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses: Haley's Comet has a Cough

Please note that these plans are a work in progress. They will be revised, assessed, and re-piloted over the next two years. The second version of the Spring 2012 plan is below.

Here is the 2011 version 1 of this plan

Here is the 2010 version of this plan.

Grade Level: 6th Grade
Subject/Topic Areas: Science and Health
Key Words: Asthma, Respiratory System, Veterinarian
Teachers: Christine Strattman
Time Frame: 6 week unit to be piloted Spring 2012
School District: Indianapolis Public Schools
Schools: Rousseau McClellan Montessori School #91

Grade 6 Class 


Brief Summary of Unit:


Students will work in cooperative groups to complete an online WebQuest. Using links in the WebQuest and numerous resource books, and models, they will explore similarities and differences between human and horse anatomies and examine human and equine respiratory systems and other body systems, organs, tissues and cell structures. They will discover connections between asthma and heaves, a condition in horses similar to asthma. They will compare and contrast the veterinary and medical sciences and learn that there are numerous career opportunities in veterinary science. Students will learn how animals help people; sometimes when veterinarians find successful treatments for sick animals, doctors may use that knowledge to design similar treatments and medicines for people. Students learn how the clinical trials process is similar to the scientific method that students use to carry out their own investigations in school. Near the end of the unit, students use their knowledge to diagnose the conditions of three animals presented in the book, Be the Vet, Solve the Case! For their final task in the WebQuest, students choose an area of interest within the unit to explore in greater depth and present in a brochure they create on the computer.


Academic Standards

Key Vocabulary - Student created word bank


Science Notebooks

Spring 2012 Pilot

Advance Preparation:
Teacher will need to arrange ahead of time for the following guests and field trips and end of unit brochure.

  • Day 5: Field trip to a horse stable –Take photos or notes on the horse environment, bedding, food, pasture…
  • Day 8: Guest presenter: Asthma specialist, pediatrician, or school nurse
  • Day 18: Guest presenter:

Create a poster in the classroom where students can brainstorm and record topics for further inquiry and the end of the unit. They will use that inquiry to create and present a brochure on a topic of interest. Students will present their brochures to throughout the unit, students should add to a list of topics as they build on their learning.


Task I - Days  1 and 2: It's in the Bag

Task II - Days 3 - 5: Introducing Breeze and Comanche

Task III  - Day 6: How Do We Breathe?

Task IV - Days 7 and 8: When Our Lungs Don't Don't Work Well

Task V - Days 9 and 10: When a Horse's Lungs Don't Work Well

Task VI - Days 11 - 13: Travel the "Organ" Trail

Task VII - Day 14 - 16: Comparing Human and Animal Systems, Organs and Cells

Task VIII - Days 17 and 18: How Animals Help People

Task IX - Days 19 and 20: Be the Vet, Solve the Case!

Task X - Days 21 - 22: It's Your Turn



In this webquest, your mission will be to discover:

  • How doctors and veterinarians are similar
  • Veterinary medicine and research careers
  • How animals can help people
  • How research using clinical trials is pretty much like the scientific method that you use in science investigations.

Giddy Up!

Fat Dogs & Coughing Horses

Task I - Days 1 and 2: It's in the Bag

Obj. Students compare and contrast the tools used by a veterinarian with those of medical doctor.

Teacher brings a “Doctor’s bag” filled with a thermometer, stethoscope, forceps, otoscope…etc., leads discussion about the tools inside and asks students if they have seen any tools like these tools before. (Probably at the doctor’s office) Surprise! These are the tools of a veterinarian!

Obj. Students compare and contrast careers in the fields of veterinary and medical science.

In this and in most other lessons in the unit, students will receive the greatest benefit by working together in small groups. Introduce them to the arrangement of the WebQuest. They will use it to complete a new task every few days. Today, they will use information found in books and on the WebQuest to identify and describe careers in the medical field (human medicine) and record those careers on the “Word Bank” chart. They do the same with careers in the veterinary sciences field, noticing similarities and differences as they compare and contrast the two fields in a Venn diagram in their notebooks. (Class maintains a poster with this information while individual students record this information in their composition notebooks.)


Task II - Days 3-5: Introducing... Breeze and Comanche

Obj. Students investigate the proper care and maintenance of a horse and its environment for future analysis.

In the WebQuest, students meet to two racehorses that suffer from different respiratory ailments, Spring’s Breeze and Comanche’s Reign Storm. Later in the unit, students try to diagnose their conditions based on their symptoms and other clues.

Students use the WebQuest to learn about raising and caring for horses as preparation to field trip to horse stable.

Students work together in small groups. They use their learning to prepare interview questions for a field trip to a horse stable on Day 5.

Teacher should plan a field trip to a horse stable and have someone talk to the students about health care and maintenance of horses. Students should have questions ready before they go and take notes while they are there. Guide students to develop higher-level questions to ask at the stable.

If possible, students may wish to take photos and video of the horses and their environment like the stall, bedding, food, pasture, etc., for future reference in learning about heaves and other respiratory diseases.

Students bring notebooks, pencils, cameras, and bags for sample collections to the stable.

After the field trip, students should write a reflection in their science notebook which may include new words and ideas to add to charts, and don’t let them forget to write thank-you letters to the stable.


Task III - Day 6How Do We Breathe?

Obj. Students discover how the human respiratory system works using books and the WebQuest as preliminary research to help diagnose the two horses, Breeze and Comanche, at the end of the unit.

Explore, Elaborate, Explain and Evaluate
As a homework assignment students create a working model of the respiratory system to share with the class. They should be encouraged to be creative and use common materials that they have at home, NOT a store-bought model of the respiratory system. The classroom can decide on some guidelines and/or a rubric for expectations about what students should include in their model and presentation. Models can be presented in a number of ways. Some ideas are a gallery walk, a few presentations per day, build in an extra day for all presentations, or students present within small groups.


Task IV - Days 7 and 8: When Our Lungs Don't Work Well

Obj. Students discover causes, triggers, treatments, etc., for asthma using books and the WebQuest.


Engage and Explore
Straw Activity: The teacher directs the students to breathe in and out through a common sized drinking straw several times. (This shouldn’t be difficult). Discuss the results. Next, students repeat the procedure with a coffee stirrer. (This will be very difficult). Discuss and compare the results. The teacher should lead the class in a brief discussion about how this relates to asthma and air restriction.

Explore, Explain and Elaborate
Students use books and the WebQuest to develop questions for a visitor who will be invited to speak about asthma and how it’s treated. The visitor could be a respiratory specialist, pediatrician, school nurse, etc.

Visit from health professional should be on Day 8. Ask the specialist to talk about why asthma patients use inhalers and how patients need to be educated on the proper use of their inhalers. Students take notes and photographs and/or video of the presenter. (They will need this information when they design an animal inhaler in the next task.)

Teacher should remind students to reflect in their notebooks and on the charts in the classroom and to write a thank you note to the guest presenter.



Task V - Days 9 and 10: When a Horse's Lungs Don't Work Well

Obj. Students analyze asthma treatments for humans in order to design a tool or method for delivering medicine to an animal's lungs.

Engage, Explore, Elaborate, Explain and Evaluate
Students use the WebQuest and books to investigate horses and their respiratory problems, such as heaves and Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD), and other equine respiratory diseases and their causes, triggers and treatments.

Students are asked to consider the methods that veterinarians might use treat heaves in horses? Discuss that previously the health professional talked about the proper use of an inhaler, but a veterinarian can’t educate a horse on how to use an inhaler. Students work in small groups to discuss, design and create a device that could be used on horses for heaves treatments. Create and use a rubric to evaluate the group effort, process, model and presentation as desired and allow opportunity for groups to present their models.


Task VI - Days 11-13: Travel the "ORGAN" Trail

Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate
Obj. Students will investigate different organs and how they are organized into body systems. They will follow the directions on the WebQuest to complete and present a WANTED poster about their chosen organ.


Task VII - Days 14 - 16: Comparing Human and Animal Systems, Organs and Cells


Obj. Students compare and contrast human and animal anatomies.


Explore - Students will use models, prepared slides and books, as well as the WebQuest links and videos to observe and compare humans to animals. Use models of dogs, cats, horses and humans to compare skeletal, muscular and respiratory systems and different organs.  The teacher should make sure students are recording their learning in their notebooks.

Use Bingo Body Parts Game with accompanying PowerPoint to find additional similarities between human and animal anatomy if time permits.


Task VII - Days 17 - 18: How Animals Help People

Obj. Students build connections between their new learning about clinical trials and the scientific method. They use these connections to understand how animals help doctors to better care for humans.

Engage, Explore, Elaborate
Before students begin the WebQuest today, the teacher should lead them to brainstorm ways that animals might help people. They will probably be able to add to the list after they learn how actual animals at Purdue University have helped people. Students view an online activity in the WebQuest to learn how animals at Purdue’s Veterinary Hospital help people. Play the interactive game, “Tucker’s Trials” to learn about the process of clinical trials. The game is a cartoon based on the real dog, Tucker, a golden retriever with bladder cancer. Doctors used the knowledge gained in treating Tucker to study treatments for people with a similar condition.

After students learn about the process for clinical trials, they can make connections between that and a process they are very familiar with, the scientific method, which they use regularly in their own investigations.

After playing the game, students should develop interview questions to prepare for a visit from a veterinarian.  www.vet.purdue.edu/engagement/p12/virtual-vet-visits

Background Information for the teacher:

Clinical Trials include four phases:
Phase I
Uses 20 – 80 volunteers to test a new medicine’s safety, dosage and side effects.
Phase II
Uses 100 – 300 volunteers to further evaluate the medicine’s safety and effectiveness within a larger group.
Phase III
Uses 1,000 – 3,000 volunteers to compare the new medicine with current medicine’s side effects and effectiveness in an even larger group.
Phase IV
The medicine has received FDA approval, but needs to be monitored to determine its long-term safety, side effects and effectiveness.

Participation in clinical trials is always voluntary throughout the entire process.



Task IX - Days 19 and 20: Be the Vet, Solve the Case!


Obj. Students analyze the signs and symptoms of two animals to determine why they are sick and how they can be treated.


Explore, Evaluate
Students will read the book, Be the Vet, Solve the Case! and complete the activities included in the book. They will learn about the signs and symptoms that brought Spring’s Breeze and Comanche’s Reign Storm to the vet. Students will use this information to help the Purdue Veterinarians diagnose nutrition and respiratory conditions in these two animals.



Task X - Days 21 and 22: It's Your Turn


Obj. Students design a brochure on a topic that they have learned about in the unit but wish to explore in greater depth and detail.


Explore, Elaborate, Explain, Evaluate
Using the computer, students will research, create and present a brochure exploring one of the topics from the classroom chart that they would like to understand in greater depth.


Optional extension: The following books have been chosen to integrate the 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies Standards:

Horse Tales by June Crebbin, a collection of stories about horses including excerpts from novels, mythology and folklore from around the world. (Reading level Grades 4-8)
Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant. Historical fiction about the Crusades, a young man’s coming of age, loyalty, honor and a beloved red horse. (Reading level Grades 5-9)
All my Patients have Tales: Favorite Stories from a Vets Practice, by D.V.M Jeff Wells. Thirty-six heart-felt and laugh out-loud stories written by a vet who treated everything from circus animals to miniature pigs. Includes many dog, cat and horse anecdotes. (Reading level Grades 6-12)


The project described is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH . . . Turning Discovery Into Health

Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of ORIP or NIH.

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