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.

Grade Level: 6th Grade
Subject/Topic Areas: Science and Health
Key Words: Asthma, Respiratory System, Veterinarian
Teachers: Christine Strattman and Christine Snow
Time Frame: 6 week unit to be piloted Fall 2010
School District: Indianapolis Public Schools
Schools: Rousseau McClellan Montessori School #91 and Center for Inquiry at School #2

Grade 6 Class Grade 6 Class



Brief Summary of Unit:

Students will work in cooperative groups to explore similarities and differences between human and horse anatomies. They will complete a WebQuest that prompts them to examine human and equine respiratory systems and other body systems, cell structure, asthma, and heaves, a condition in horses similar to asthma in humans. As their final task in the WebQuest, students will create an original public service announcement. They will work in cooperative groups to research and propose a solution aimed towards solving a problem relating to heaves in horses or asthma in humans. Students will present their problem and solution in a 30-second public service that they write, film, and edit using Flip video cameras and iMovie software or comparable.  


Academic Standards

Key Vocabulary - Student created word bank


Science Notebooks

2010 Pilot

Well in advance to beginning this unit, the teacher will need to plan a field trip to a stable for Day 5 and plan to have a visit from a large animal veterinarian or a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about heaves on Day 18.

Optional pre-test may be given before Day 1.

During research times students should be able to share and discuss their findings with a partner or small group. By Day 17 of the WebQuest students will work in cooperative groups of 4 or 5 students per group that should be establish in advance.

Day 1: Engage-The Mystery Cough- Task I

Days 2-4: Explore-Haley's Comet had Heaves-Task II

Day 5: Explore and Explain-Field Trip to Stable

Days 6-10: Engage, Explore, Explain- Asthma Inquiry and the Respiratory System- Task III

Days 11-12: Explore- Slides, Cells, and Organelles- Task IV

Days 13-15: Explore and Explain- The ORGAN Trail- Task V

Day 16: Explore- How do horses help people?- Task VI

Days 17-22: Explore, Explain, Elaborate- How to Help Haley's Comet and Night Mare? Task VII


WebQuest: Haley's Comet has a Cough


Day 1: Engage-The Mystery Cough- Task I


Teacher will introduce “Haley’s Comet has a Cough” WebQuest. Students will read the first two scenarios in Step I about Haley’s Comet and his mother, Night Mare, who both suffer from the same respiratory condition (heaves), brought on by two different sources.

Allow students to use the books about horses for this part of their research, but do not allow access to any books specifically about asthma, heaves, or the respiratory system at this time to so that students may make these discoveries on their own. They will then use the links in Step I of the WebQuest, the horse books, the Internet, and other resources to try to learn more about horses and diagnose the horses’ conditions.

Notebook – Teachers will guide students in setting up their notebook for the unit.
Begin with Title Page, then Table of Contents, followed by pages 1 - 4 for Word Bank, pages 5 and 6 (side by side) should be titled Concept Map, and pages 7 and 8 should be I Wonders.

Optional extension: Begin reading one of the following three books that have been chosen to correlate with 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)

student working on computer Students working on computer

Days 2-4: Explore-Haley's Comet had Heaves-Task II


As students investigate the causes of the horses’ coughs, some students may discover that the condition is known as heaves. If not, the teacher should guide them towards it without giving it away. It may take a couple of days, but they WILL find it!

After the class has determined that the correct diagnosis is heaves, they may continue with Step II of the WebQuest. Provide students ample time to explore the websites to learn more about heaves and gain a greater appreciation of horses.

While students are doing their research the teacher should place three charts on the wall. One labeled “Word Bank”, one labeled “Concept Map” and one labeled “I Wonder.”

The teacher will ask students to contribute words to the word bank. The teacher will write them on the word bank chart in red while students copy them into page 1 of their notebooks.

Teacher will also begin the concept map with the class, the big concept being 
“Horses.” The teacher will add the students’ suggestions from the word bank and students add from word bank or other concepts about what they learned in red. Students will copy this into page 5 of their notebooks.

Teacher should ask students if they have any questions about what they’ve learned and write them on the “I Wonder” chart in red. Students will copy them into page 7 of their notebooks.

For the remainder of the unit, the teacher should continue recording students' contributions of words/concepts/questions on the three charts, but use a different color each day while the students continue copying them into their notebooks. Encourage students to add their words or ideas to the classroom charts/lists or to their own notebooks for further class sharing and discussion. Reflections and Quick Writes can be added to the notebooks as needed.

Extension: For the remainder of the unit, students may continue reading the correlating literature book.

(As a result of the horse investigation and research, students will make the connection between horses with heaves and humans that have asthma. As soon as they become aware of this, the teacher should prompt the class to elaborate briefly on that idea. So that the whole class understands the connection between heaves and asthma. The “I Wonders” about asthma will then drive the student inquiries in days 6 – 10.)

student studying student journal

asthma & heaves comparison chart

Day 5Explore and Explain-Field Trip to Stable


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. They should also take pictures/videos.

After the field trip, students should write a reflection in their science notebook which may include new words/ideas to add to charts. 

Field Trip Horse stable field trip

Horse stable field trip

Days 6-10: Engage, Explore, Explain- Asthma Inquiry and the Respiratory System- Task III


Students will breathe in and out through a straw several times. (This shouldn’t be difficult). Discuss the results. Next students will repeat with a coffee stirrer. (This will be very difficult). Discuss and compare the results.

Teacher should lead a discussion about how this relates to asthma and air restriction.

Students use the WebQuest to learn more about asthma. Have books available as well on the subjects of asthma and the respiratory system.

Students should use the WebQuest, and additional books, websites, etc. to define asthma, find causes, triggers, treatments, etc., and find answer to their “I Wonder” questions they generated when they were learning about heaves and horses. Consider building in times for them to share with each other what they have discovered as they move along the various tasks throughout the unit. This will also give the teacher an opportunity to make some formative assessments of understanding and give students who lean toward learning through peer tutoring an opportunity to have their needs met.

Ask volunteers who have asthma to come and talk to the class or maybe some students would be willing to do this.

Invite a doctor or the school nurse to come to the class to talk about asthma. Students should prepare questions in advance and take notes during the visit. Consider building in a time for a discussion of how to come up with appropriate questions for the field trip and guest speakers. This is often a skill that is overlooked.

Students should add a Venn Diagram comparing heaves and asthma to their notebooks.

Students learn about and then create a working model of the lungs to share with the class. This can be a homework assignment or the teacher can have materials available in the room for them to create a model. These materials can be common things that would be around the house or classroom. Classroom should decide on some guidelines/rubric for expectations about what students should include in their models.

 lung model lung model

lung model lung model

Days 11-12: Explore- Slides, Cells, and Organelles- Task IV


Students investigate the major parts and functions of a cell by creating and examining a slide with a cheek cell and one with an onion cell. They will use links on the WebQuest to identify organelles and their function. (Use provided kit and teacher guide.)

Animal cell comparisons – Use provided kit with prepared microscope slides (lesson plan included in teacher’s guide) to examine and compare cells from different organs in the human body. Students continue using links from the WebQuest as well. In their notebook, students will draw and label the parts of a plant cell and an animal cell.They will give a short explanation of the function of each part.

(Extension: Students create additional slides of other parts of the body.)

microscope slides microscope slides

Microscope slides microscope slides

microscope slides Microscope slides

microscope slides Microscope slides

Days 13-15: Explore and Explain- The ORGAN Trail- Task V

In the next task, students will learn that tissues are composed of cells, and organs are composed of tissues. They will learn about different organs and how they are organized into different body systems. They will follow the directions to complete and present a WANTED poster about their chosen organ.

Wanted poster Wanted poster

working on poster

Day 16: Explore- How do horses help people?- Task VI

Through the WebQuest and a visit from a veterinarian, students learn how animals with similar anatomies can help each other. They learn that medicines that have helped animals may in turn be used to help people who suffer from similar ailments and vice versa. Arrange for a visit from a large animal veterinarian to talk about heaves in horses, comparisons of animals and humans, and how animals can help humans, OR visit the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Students also use links on the WebQuest to learn more about the veterinary profession and how animals help people through clinical trials.

Horse running on treadmill Students watching horse run on treadmill

Students watching horse run on treadmill 2 students talking with veterinarian after presentation

Days 17-22: Explore, Explain, Elaborate- How to Help Haley's Comet and Night Mare? Task VII

Working in their established cooperative groups, students use information gained from the unit to design a focus question. Their question should be one that leads to an open inquiry investigation on one of the respiratory issues studied in the unit, such as heaves in horses or asthma in humans. From their research, students propose a solution or strategy that people can use to help solve or reduce the effects of the problem on animals or people. Students work together to write, film, and edit a 30-second public service announcement used to create awareness of the problem and solution in a general TV audience. View a variety of short public service announcements with the class to help them understand the task. As a class, design and agree upon a rubric or scoring guide for use in evaluating the projects. The teacher may want to help the students research their problems by helping them find experts in their field to answer questions or even visit them in the classroom. Student groups present their PSA’s to the class, and ideally, others beyond the classroom. The teacher may wish to invite back any guest presenters or other interested parties to see their public service announcements.

Work groups Work groupsWork groups Work groupsWork groups Work groupsWork groups Work groups

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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