InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Lead in the Environment > Module Overview
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
showLearn More
These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »
How to Use »

New to InTeGrate?

Learn how to incorporate these teaching materials into your class.

  • Find out what's included with each module
  • Learn how it can be adapted to work in your classroom
  • See how your peers at hundreds of colleges and university across the country have used these materials to engage their students

How To Use InTeGrate Materials »
show Download
The instructor material for this module are available for offline viewing below. Downloadable versions of the student materials are available from this location on the student materials pages. Learn more about using the different versions of InTeGrate materials »

Download a PDF of all web pages for the instructor's materials

Download a zip file that includes all the web pages and downloadable files from the instructor's materials

Instructor Materials: Overview of the Lead in the Environment Module

Module Goal: This module will allow advanced undergraduate students to explore the important contributions of multiple disciplines to the use of lead, the understanding of its toxicity, the assessment of risk, and the development of plans to reduce exposures and minimize health outcomes. Students will examine how lead has migrated and impacted populations at a variety of scales and via a multitude of different exposure methods, leading to an understanding of lead circulation as a system. Students will evaluate primary and secondary data sources, interpret findings, and synthesize information to make recommendations for specific populations to reduce the risk of lead exposure.
  • Learning goal 1: Describe the circulation of lead within the environment and its impacts on human health.
  • Learning goal 2: Characterize distribution of lead exposure risk as it varies temporally and spatially.
  • Learning goal 3: Predict potential sources of exposure and develop appropriate solutions for prevention and intervention.
  • Learning goal 4: Assess the role of science, regulatory, and public health frameworks in solving complex issues of environmental health and equity.


Module Summative Assessment:
Students will apply what they have learned about the sources, risks, and consequences of child lead poisoning to design solutions for a hypothetical community in which a high percentage of the children have elevated blood lead levels. During the final classroom exercise, each student will be assigned to a role as a community stakeholder (low income parent, physician, educator, landlord, etc.) or city-council member. Students will also be given data and materials showing distribution of elevated blood lead levels among children in the city. In groups, during class, the students will prepare and present a proposal to City Council. The subsequent discussion will allow the class as a whole to explore any gaps in the discussion. Students will apply what they have learned about the sources, risks, and consequences of child lead poisoning to design solutions for a hypothetical community in which a high percentage of the children have elevated blood lead levels.
The final summative assessment will be a take-home exercise requiring preparation of a policy memo in which students develop and defend their recommendations for taking action to reduce childhood lead exposure. In developing the memo, each student will be required to synthesize understanding of the science and risks of lead exposure. The memo should incorporate information about how lead distributes itself in the geosphere, ecosphere, human communities, human body AND also explains how lead moves from one part of the system to another part of the system. Each policy memo should include a conceptual figure that illustrates movement of lead throughout the parts of the system.

  • Learning goal 1: Describe how the use of lead has resulted in its current distribution throughout the environment.
  • Learning goal 2: Using quantitative and historical data, compare and contrast how the risk of lead exposure varies by (i) age, (ii) race/ethnicity, (iii) socioeconomic status, and/or (iv) geographic site within a given location.
  • Learning goal 3: For a given community scenario, develop a plan for (i) addressing existing sources of lead exposure risk and (ii) preventing new sources of lead exposure risk.
  • Learning goal 4: To support this plan, draw a conceptual figure for the lead system that illustrates the system's different parts (e.g. geosphere, ecosphere, human communities, human body) AND explains how lead moves from one part of the system to another part of the system.

Unit 1 Use of Lead in the Environment and Health Impacts on Human Populations

In Unit 1, students engage in discussion of the historical use and resulting distribution of lead throughout the human environment. Class 1 introduces the systems dynamics linking geology, human use, and human health through an introductory lesson. Class discussion is facilitated by an exercise exploring students' risks of childhood exposure to lead. In a "pre-assessment exercise" suitable for homework or in-class group activity, students hypothesize explanations for varied lead exposures among different populations over time based on their existing understanding of lead's dynamics in the environment. Class 2 analyzes the evolution of regulations and policies to reduce lead exposures and examines a current international case study that showcases the lag in regulatory guidelines for many parts of the world. In Class 3, students explore exposure routes, transport, and fate of lead in the human body.

Unit 2 The Lead Problem Still Exists: Challenges and Gaps in Understanding Exposure

In Unit 2, students examine the distribution of lead poisoning as it varies spatially and temporally. Students also have the opportunity to explore the sources of lead exposure and the implications of social determinants on human health outcomes. In Class 4, students analyze historic and geographic trends in lead poisoning at state and county scales, while evaluating factors that influence data quality and availability. In Class 5, students evaluate spatial and temporal patterns within a US city and identify the causes and patterns of disparate lead exposure within a population. In Class 6, students conduct a virtual home assessment to evaluate whether or not dust is a source of lead exposure in this case study.

Unit 3 Managing the Risks of Lead Exposure

In the past two units, students considered the strengths and limitations of scientific tools to identify exposure pathways and demographic patterns of lead poisoning. In Unit 3, students evaluate domestic regulatory approaches and apply policy solutions. In Class 7, students explore the role of scientists, regulators, and communities in the development of lead regulations. In the final two classes, students analyze various perspectives within a community and confront the challenge of reaching consensus. Students participate in a debate and engage in a two-part summative assessment where each student: (1) writes a one-page policy memo recommending a particular course of action for this community based on evidence gained throughout the module and presented in the exercise, and (2) creates a visual representation of the cyclic patterns of lead in the biophysical and human environment.

Making the Module Work

To adapt all or part of the Lead in the Environment module for your classroom, you will also want to read through

Already used some of these materials in a course?
Let us know and join the discussion »

Considering using these materials with your students?
Get pointers and learn about how it's working for your peers in their classrooms »

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »