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Open Airways for Schools (OAS)

A program of the American Lung Association, implemented in Office of School Health, Department of Health Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Program Components

Upon validation of OAS by Dr. Evans and his team of researchers, the national office of the ALA acquired the distribution rights for the program. The ALA worked closely with Dr. Evans to develop an easily reproducible package of materials that could be made available at low or no cost to educators who were interested in implementing the program in their school or school district. The ALA owns the copyright and controls the distribution of the adapted program. This package is referred to as the ALA Open Airways for Schools Kit and it contains:

Educational lessons emphasize the child’s responsibility for recognizing asthma symptoms and initiating the appropriate management steps. The six lesson topics covered are as follows:

Lesson 1: Basic Information/Feelings About Asthma
Children discuss basic facts about asthma, talk openly about their experiences with asthma, and explore ways to manage their feelings. Children learn to practice a relaxation exercise to help them stay calm during an asthma episode.

Lesson 2: Recognizing and Managing Asthma Symptoms
Children identify warning signs for an asthma episode, and develop and practice a plan for managing an episode.

Lesson 3: Solving Problems with Medicines/Deciding How Bad Symptoms Are
Children learn to use medication properly, identify and practice ways to decide how bad symptoms are, and practice making decisions about when medical help is needed to manage an episode.

Lesson 4: Finding Triggers and Controlling Asthma
Children identify environmental and other types of triggers of asthma symptoms and discuss ways to avoid them or reduce their impact.

Lesson 5: Keeping Your Battery Charged-How to Get Enough Exercise
Children identify and practice six ways to stay physically active. Children also learn how to manage potential conflicts about physical activity with family, teachers, coaches, and friends.

Lesson 6: Doing Well At School
Children learn to recognize the different levels of severity of their asthma symptoms and to distinguish when it is appropriate for them to go to school from when they should inform their parents that they need to stay home or go to the doctor. In the event they cannot go to school, children discuss ways to make up missed schoolwork.

Each lesson is taught by using at least one of three specific types of interaction: real, active, and participatory. A real interaction uses the child’s experiences as the basis of learning. For instance, in Lesson 2, children are asked what they do to manage an asthma episode. Children brainstorm as a group and come up with a list of steps to manage asthma based on their personal experiences. An active interaction utilizes a variety of hands-on activities to give the children opportunities to practice the exercises and techniques discussed in the curriculum. Some of these activities include musical chairs, the straw breathing game, bingo, belly breathing, and red light/green light. A participatory interaction gives children the chance to make decisions and mutually support one another in the decision making process. In Lesson 6, for example, children read a story about a child who is having asthma symptoms and doesn’t know whether he should or should not attend school that day. Each child is asked what experiences she or he has had with this situation. The children work together as a group to identify criteria for deciding whether it’s all right to go to school or whether it would be better to remain at home.

The kit also contains take-home assignments for the children to work on, preferably with their parents. The content of the assignments varies depending on the topic of the session; however, the assignments tend to focus on what happens during an asthma attack, asthma triggers, feelings during an attack, and what to do when an attack occurs. Materials for these sessions include a poster flip chart, markers and paper, handouts, letters to parents, progress reports, with gold star stickers, samples of peak flow meters, the ALA brochure-Facts About Peak Flow Meters*, a cassette player, and tapes of lively music.

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