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Lesson Ideas

Teaching Activities About Infectious Diseases

This collection highlights teaching activities, hands-on lessons, and online simulations we found on the web that can help students learn about infectious diseases. They are created by science educators and partner education organizations. Just as all our original content is free, we only recommend external resources that are free for teachers.

1. Vaccines Lessons

This collection of lessons is offered by the Vaccine Makers Project (VMP), an infectious diseases research center founded in October 2000 and associated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Lessons are organized by grade level: two elementary school lessons, four middle school lessons, and four high school units comprising 12 total lessons. Lessons cover bacteria and viruses, vaccines, vaccinations, the immune system, and case studies for all ages.

Image from VMP

2. Epidemiology Case Study

This case study is offered by BioInteractive, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The comprehensive guide includes educator materials, student readings, and student handouts; it complements a video on Nipah virus spread in Malaysian bats. In this lesson, students use real-world data to examine the spread of the Nipah Virus.

Image from BioInteractive

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: viruses, pathogens, disease, epidemiology, immunity
  • Level: high school

3. Interactive Health History Timeline

This activity is offered by VaccinesWork, a digital platform run by journalists and hosted by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (founded in 2000). This tool offers students an interactive “whistlestop tour through the story of medicine, vaccination, and humanity’s age-old battle against disease.”

Image from VaccinesWork

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: global health, history, disease, vaccines
  • Level: high school

4. Catching Infections Case Study

This activity is offered by BioEd Online, a digital collection of educational resources developed by Baylor School of Medicine’s Center for Educational Outreach. This Center has its origins in a 1972 partnership with the Houston (Texas) Independent School District that created “the nation’s first standalone health professions high school.” It has since expanded to include K-8 curriculum. In this middle-grades activity, students use handouts, a slide deck, and a video to explore how infections happen and what it actually means to catch an infection.

Image from BioEd Online

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: bacteria, virus, immune system
  • Level: middle school

5. Viral Replication Game

This activity is offered by Straight From a Scientist (SFS), a website run by real scientists with the intent of sharing the latest in research about the mind and body via games, podcasts, articles, and a networking option for scientists. This game was published in December 2020 to explore viral replication. Before game-play, the creators narrate a lesson on viral replication with great visuals, showing how COVID-19 infects cells.

Image from SFS

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: infection, RNA, DNA, viral replication
  • Level: middle school, high school

6. Ebola Epidemic Activity

This activity is offered by BioInteractive, affiliated with HHMI. Students analyze representations of Ebola virus infections and make claims about the way the virus evolved and spread. The activity includes a video and several supplemental handouts in both English and Spanish translations.

Image from BioInteractive

  • Activity: web page
  • Topic: adaptation, DNA sequence, evolution, mutation, outbreak, public health
  • Level: high school

That’s Not All!

Check out our full collections of adapted research articles on Antibiotic Resistance, Disease Control, Epidemics, Infectious Diseases, Outbreaks, Vaccines, and Vector-Borne Diseases. Or dive into collections specific to COVID-19, Ebola, HIV, and Malaria. Each article comes with tailored teaching resources, lessons, labs, and other activities for your students.

Title photo by Anna Shvets.

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