Lungs and Respiratory System Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about the lungs and respiratory system.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Lungs. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

The lungs are spongy organs inside the chest and they are part of the body’s respiratory system. Remind your children than an organ is a body part with a special job. The heart, brain, and lungs are just some of the important organs in the human body. The lungs take in air and supply oxygen to to blood for the entire body. The body needs oxygen to function and break down food for energy.

Air enters in through the nose and mouth and goes down the throat and into the trachea, or windpipe. Review with children that when they inhale, air enters the lungs and they expand, or get bigger. Remind your children that air is a mixture of different gases, including oxygen. Lungs take oxygen out of the air and blood cells transport the oxygen to the entire body. When the body uses oxygen to break down nutrients for energy, one waste product a gas called carbon dioxide, which is breathed out. During exhalation, the lungs contract, or get smaller. Thus, oxygen goes into the body, and carbon dioxide is breathed out. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle underneath the lungs that helps the chest expand and contract during respiration. During inhalation, the diaphragm moves down and the ribcage expands which allows the lungs more room to expand.

The lungs do more than supply the body with oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide. Air from the lungs gets pushed up the trachea and through the vocal chords to produce sound. Lungs help people talk, sing, laugh, cry, scream, growl, and more. Lungs help people communicate. People sneeze or cough in order to clear out things that bother the airways, such as dust or pollen. Children may notice that they cough more when they are around air pollution such as car exhaust. The lungs help clear out pollutants in the air along with tiny hairs that line the airways called cilia.

Remind your children that they must care for their lungs. Exercise is the best and most important way to care for lungs. During exercise, the lungs get filled with more air, allowing them to do their job better. Regular exercise promotes healthy lungs. Avoiding cigarette smoke and other drugs also keeps lungs healthy. Asthma is a condition in which the airways get irritated and swell, making breathing more difficult. Asthma affects many children around the world, and your children most likely know someone with asthma. People with asthma can lead healthy and active lives if they learn how to manage their condition and follow their doctors’ orders.

Your children should understand that the lungs are an important part of the body and they should treat their lungs with care and respect. If they take care of their lungs, their lungs will take care of them.