Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > Human Body
Body Systems: Surviving Extremes image
Body Systems: Surviving Extremes
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Human Body Duration: One or two class periods

lesson plan support

Buy this video
View discussion

Students will
  • examine the potential health dangers of mountain climbing in high altitudes and deep-sea diving; and
  • write a health and safety column for a fictional magazine about extreme outdoor sports that explains the risks involved in these activities.
  • Paper
  • Pens, pencils
  • Computer with Internet access
  1. Begin the lesson by talking about some of the activities featured in the video, such as high-altitude climbing and deep-sea diving. What are some of the dangers of these activities? You may want to review specific risks, such as nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness, and high-altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE. Discuss with students the reasons they believe people participate in these activities, despite the dangers.
  2. Next, tell students to imagine they write a "health and safety" column for a magazine about extreme outdoor sports. (Your class may want to name this fictional magazine.) Students can choose to focus on deep-sea diving or high-altitude climbing. Encourage them to think about their role as a health and safety writer for the magazine. They do not want to discourage readers from taking part in extreme adventures, but they have a responsibility to explain the risks involved.
  3. Tell students that a teenage reader has written to the magazine, very excited about participating in an extreme adventure, but concerned about the physical risks. Each student should write a column in response to the reader's letter, focusing on either deep-sea diving or high-altitude climbing. The column should include the following information:
    • reasons this would be an exciting adventure
    • environmental conditions that may pose health risks
    • potential health risks with a brief description of causes and physical symptoms for each
    • suggestions for handling any of these symptoms
    • suggestions for preventing injury before, during, or after the adventure
    • warnings about people who should NOT take part in this adventure

    Encourage students to use the Web sites below in their research.

    Deep-Sea Diving

    Scuba Diving: Training & Safety

    Discovery Health: Decompression Sickness

    Diving to Great Depths

    High-Altitude Climbing

    The Physiology of High-Altitude Climbing

    Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses

    Mountaineering Training

    Going to Extremes: High Anxiety

  4. Have students who wrote about high-altitude climbing share their columns with students who wrote about deep-sea diving. Then hold a class discussion comparing risks and safety suggestions for the two activities. What are the similarities among the activities? What lessons did the students learn about the human body?

Back to Top

Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students were highly engaged in class discussions; they wrote persuasive columns, using many facts from the video and their research.
  • Two points:Students participated in class discussions; they wrote somewhat persuasive columns with some facts from the video and their research.
  • One point:Students participated minimally in class discussions; they wrote simplistic columns with few or no facts from the video and their research.

Back to Top

decompression sickness
Definition:A condition that occurs when sudden pressure changes in the environment cause gases dissolved in the blood and tissues to form bubbles that block the flow of blood and produce pain and other symptoms; also called the "bends"
Context:Scuba divers may suffer from decompression sickness if they rise to the surface too quickly after diving in deep water.

high-altitude climbing
Definition:Scaling heights of 8,000 feet or higher
Context:In high-altitude climbing, some people are highly susceptible to altitude sickness.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
Definition:A severe form of altitude sickness resulting from fluid buildup in the lungs, which prevents effective oxygen exchange; can lead to impaired cerebral function and death
Context:HAPE usually occurs when people go too high too quickly, or when people stay at high altitudes for extended periods of time.

nitrogen narcosis
Definition:A dangerous condition of deep-sea diving in which a diver breathes nitrogen under pressure; symptoms usually occur at depths greater than a hundred feet.
Context:Symptoms of nitrogen narcosis may include feeling light-headed, difficulty concentrating, poor judgment, decreased coordination, hallucinations, and coma.

Back to Top

This lesson plan addresses the followingNational Science Education Standards: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and community health; Natural and human-induced hazards

Back to Top

Joy Brewster, freelance education writer, editor, and consultant

Back to Top