Lesson Series
Tough Choices

Tough Choices

Unit Overview

Through readings, activities and discussions, students learn about air pollution and its main causes and effects on people. After Coco had her first asthma attack at a school’s 100-meter relay event, she investigates the sources of air pollution in the area, determined to improve the air quality. Students also role play different community members in a town meeting to voice their opinions and vote on the future of on a local coal-fired power plant.


  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5

Lesson Type

In-class or online lesson

Environmental Topics

Environmental Justice, Green Guardianship, Health, Pollution, Sustainable Human Development 

Environmental Literacy Core Principles

For a summary of the environmental literacy principles and concepts embedded in this lesson series, please visit Green Guardians Environmental Literacy Core Principles.


ELA: RL.3.1 RL.3.3 RL.3.4 RL.3.7 W.3.1 W.3.3 W.3.4 W.3.5 W.3.7 W.3.8 SL.3.1 SL.3.2 SL.3.3 SL.3.4 SL.3.6 RL.4.1 RL.4.3 RL.4.4 RL.4.7 W.4.1 W.4.3 W.4.4 W.4.5 W.4.7  W.4.8 W.4.9 SL.4.1 SL.4.2 SL.4.3 SL.4.4 SL.4.6 RL.5.1 RL.5.4 RL.5.7 W.5.1 W.5.3 W.5.4 W.5.5 W.5.7 W.5.8 W.5.9 SL.5.1 SL.5.2 SL.5.3 SL.5.4 SL.5.6
History Social-Science: HSS-3.4 HSS-4.5 HSS-5.7
Science: 3-LS3-2 4-ESS3-1


Teacher Guide

This project may easily be extended into optional family discussions and activities around pollution and the effects of pollution on health. To facilitate this engagement, a family guide (in English and Spanish) has been created which teachers may choose to forward to interested parents and guardians.

Family Guide (English)


Three lessons of 40 minutes each.

Lesson 1: Asthma Attack

Through a story and related activities, students join Coco and her friends at their school’s annual 100-meter relay race. While running, Coco has trouble breathing and then collapses on the track. It turns out that she just had her first asthma attack. At the hospital, Coco learns about the condition and its relationship to air quality. This discovery sends Coco and her friends on a mission to investigate the sources of air pollution in their area.

Lesson 2: Preparing for a Meeting

Students are invited to role play members in Coco’s community and attend a special town meeting that may decide the future of a local coal-fired power plant. Students are given individual role cards from four groups—health experts, community members, environmental activists, and power plant representatives. In these groups, students conduct research and prepare for their speeches at the meeting.

Lesson Materials

Lesson 3: A Special Meeting  

In the third lesson, students use their research to role play a special town meeting. Representatives from each group state their concerns, make recommendations, and answer questions from other groups. At the conclusion of the presentations, students vote in character for or against the continuation of the coal-fired power plant. Then they vote again from their own points of view.

Lesson Materials

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