Microbiology: Viral Transmission

Diagnostic: Rumor Has It 
Students fill out a T/F diagnostic chart relating to common misconceptions and errors that people have about viruses and diseases. Students are asked to explain their answer in the next column (see photos). 
Sample Statements –

  1. You should ask your doctor for antibiotics if you have a cold.
  2. You should stop taking antibiotics once you are feeling better. 
  3. You can only catch a cold if you do not have any symptoms. 

Learning Activity: Viral Transmission POE

  1. Randomly distribute cups of water to students in the class. One of these cups will contain a baking soda solution. (Note: for this version, it is best to use Styrofoam cups so students cannot tell which cup is infected. It is also advised that the teacher is the one who has the infected drink, our instructor noted that one student in her class was bullied as a result of this activity).
  2. Ask students to “share drinks” with each other by pouring all the contents of one cup completely into another, and then re-distributing the liquids again. (Variation: “7 mins in heaven” or “Spin the Bottle” instead of drink sharing). 
  3. Students continue to share drinks until they are signaled to stop. (Extension: Have students track the people whom they share their drinks with, and see if they can figure out the infected individual!).

(In our class, the result was that 25/27 students became infected.)
Debrief Questions:
Why might there have been different shades of pink?
What kinds of properties do pathogens have that allow them to infect you so quickly?
What preventative measures can you take to keep pathogens at bay?

Suggested Modifications: Assign a certain proportion of students as “mosquitoes” to track the spread of malaria among humans. “Mosquitoes” use pipettes to exchange liquids with humans. 

Video: Flu Attack! How A Virus Invades Your Body 
A fun and quirky video about viral invasion. Note that no scientific terms are actually used in the video, so it is important to go back at the end of the unit and address any misconceptions that the video may perpetuate about viruses. 

Research Project: Ebola Outbreak Action Plan
Complete lesson guide available on PBS.
Students pick one aspect of the epidemiological triangle to focus on and research in order to come up with a strategic action plan to deal with the ebola outbreak. 

What I learned:
I liked that the group who presented this workshop broke down the action plan into manageable steps. They created a student handout in chart format with categories titled “the problem,” “action to implement,” “what is the expected outcome,” and “what evidence supports this.” The action plan can easily be turned into a summative assignment, and students can be given to research a disease of their choice. If students pick a disease that has already been eradicated, alternative considerations to make include the historical context which the disease occurred, the treatment, preventative measures, and current status of the disease. 

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