Epidemic! The Natural History of Disease.  At the San Diego Natural History Museum

Taking it Further

For Middle and High School Students

Imagine that your car is packed for a long-anticipated vacation with your family. A strange car pulls into the driveway. It's the local health commissioner, who insists that you delay your trip while your son is examined. She suspects he might have been exposed to a bacterial infection. What do you do? Use the Epidemic! A Fred Friendly Seminar website to discuss and debate these and other current dilemmas in public health.

Give your students a primer on epidemiology, the scientific method of problem solving used by "disease detectives" to get to the root of health problems in a community. Have students go on a mission to hunt for microbes or to solve a real mystery as disease detectives. Whether the problem is a measles outbreak on a small college campus or a global influenza pandemic, disease detectives begin by looking for clues like investigators at the scene of a crime. They systematically gather information about what happened: Who is sick? What are their symptoms? When did they get sick? Where could they have been exposed to the illness? Using statistical analysis, investigators study the answers to these questions to find out how a particular health problem was introduced into a community. Go to CDC's EXCITE website for a full menu of background and resource information, teaching aids, and case scenarios for your students to tackle!

Using the history of epidemics in the immigrant ghettoes of turn-of-the-century New York--and the public health measures they led to--this activity asks students to research recent episodes when diseases like colds or flu spread through their school. It also asks them to think of public health measures that might stop a disease from spreading again. Go to PBS Learning Adventures Lesson Plans on Epidemic!

[next page] Go to Experiments
Soapy Solutions or Fun with Fomites

Banner microbe: Adenovirus (virus causing common cold)
from the American Museum of Natural History Epidemic! exhibition

Teacher's Guide | Epidemic! | Exhibits