BIRD FLU: THE NEXT PANDEMIC?
Prososki, a former middle and high school teacher
Secondary Life Science, Biology, Health, and Current Events classes
Time: Four 50-minute class periods plus additional time for extension activities.
Note: The first three parts of this lesson may be used as standalone activities.
1. Utilize prior knowledge to
answer questions about viruses and form a definition of the term virus.
Participate in a class simulation to learn about how viruses spread, often without
the knowledge of those who are infected.
3. Discuss what they know about bird
flu and check the accuracy of their facts using primary sources related to the
topics and classroom discussion activities.
4. Examine the process used for
developing disease fighting vaccines using primary sources and classroom discussion
5. Create projects that illustrate what they have learned about
viruses, bird flu, and the threat of a worldwide pandemic.
6. Share their projects
with classmates to demonstrate their learning.
Over the past
two years, 116 cases of bird flu have killed 60 people in Asian countries, and
fear is mounting that the world could be on the verge of its next killer flu pandemic.
With no cure for the flu strain known as H5-N1, and recent evidence that it may
be resistant to anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu, health officials and leaders
are closely monitoring bird flu cases worldwide and putting in place plans for
dealing with a flu pandemic. Researchers are focusing on how the virus mutates
and are working to develop effective treatment and a vaccine that will curb the
spread of the flu if the virus changes enough to become easily transmittable from
human to human.
Do You Know? handout
and key (in PDF format included
with lesson plan)
and scratch paper
Flu Project Guidelines
(in PDF format included with lesson plan)
to Internet and other primary resources
art supplies and desktop publishing and multimedia presentation software (optional)
of or access to the following articles:
To make these lesson plans better
to National Standards
1: What is a Virus and How Does it Spread? - 50 mins
To create student interest have students use their prior knowledge to answer the
questions on the What Do
You Know? handout. Encourage students to work in small groups to answer each
question. Allow approximately 5 minutes for this activity.
When groups have finished answering questions, conduct a class discussion by reviewing
the correct answer for each question and providing students with background information
and details about the answers to each question. Encourage students to take notes
as you discuss the questions as a class. A good teacher resource to aid in the
discussion is available at: http://science.howstuffworks.com/virus-human7.htm
Write the word "virus" on the board or overhead. Direct students to
write their best definition of a virus based on what was learned from the What
Do You Know? handout and class discussion.
Have students share their definition of a virus and then provide the correct definition
on the board or overhead. A correct definition could be something such as: virus:
a microorganism that can cause a variety of diseases when it grows and reproduces
in the living cells of another organism.
Pose the following question for students: "How do viruses spread?" Provide
students with several minutes to brainstorm and discuss this question. Write key
words and ideas about how viruses spread in the form of a list on the board or
To illustrate how a virus can spread, conduct the following simulation with the
all students in the class to write their names on a piece of scratch paper and
place it on your desk.
choose the name of one student in the class and place it in an envelope. Do not
allow students to see the name of the person.
a chart with 5 columns on a large piece of paper, the board, or overhead (See
a student (not the one whose name appears in the envelope) to go around the classroom
and shake hands with four classmates. Record the name of that student at the top
of column 1 and the names of the four classmates s/he shook hands with under his/her
name. Their names should also be written at the top of the four remaining columns.
these four students to go around the classroom and shake hands with four other
each person's name, record the names of the four students they shook hands with
during the exercise.
the envelope and reveal the name of the person who has the virus.
the chart and see how many students were directly exposed to the virus by shaking
this person's hand.
the chart again and see how many students were indirectly exposed to the virus
by shaking the hand of someone who had shaken the hand of the infected person.
this activity to discuss how viruses are transmitted from one person to another,
often unknowingly or before the signs of illness are present. Discuss how this
can lead to epidemics of an illness in a relatively short period of time.
PART 2: Examining the Bird Flu Virus - 50 mins
Write the term Bird Flu on the board or overhead. Conduct a class discussion about
what students already know about bird flu by using questions such as:
is bird flu?
causes bird flu?
is at risk for getting bird flu?
is bird flu transmitted?
was bird flu discovered?
are the greatest number of cases of bird flu surfacing?
is there so much concern about bird flu worldwide?
is a pandemic?
Read the article "Health Officials Prepare for Bird Flu Pandemic" available
with students and revisit the questions from step 7 above.
Using the article "Bird Flu Drug Ineffective" from Washington Week with
Gwen Ifill available at http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/voices/200510/1017world0.htm.
Discuss what can be done to prepare for a bird flu pandemic if the virus mutates
so that human to human contact becomes an easy way to transmit the disease and
current treatments are ineffective. Be sure to hit on the idea of developing a
vaccine in this discussion.
3: Developing a Bird Flu Vaccine? - 50 mins
Using resources such as "How Are Vaccines Made?" from The Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia available at http://www.chop.edu/consumer/jsp/division/generic.jsp?id=75749,
examine the processes used for making vaccines to treat viral illnesses such as
Read the article "Bird Flu" from the Online Newshour available at
and discuss what will make developing a vaccine for bird flu virus H5-N1 more
challenging than some other viruses. In this discussion, address ideas such as:
strength of the H5-N1 virus
of human exposure and antibodies for this virus
high death rate from the virus
world's inability to produce enough vaccine in time for everyone to use
changes that could occur to the virus as it mutates over time
4: Demonstrating What You Have Learned - 50 mins
Now that students have a basic understanding of viruses and how they are spread,
information about bird flu, and knowledge of how vaccines are made, they should
create a project that demonstrates what they have learned and requires them to
conduct additional research to take their learning to a higher level.
Distribute the Bird Flu Project
Guidelines and review the project options as a class. Provide students time
to choose a project and begin work on their research. The amount of class time
spent preparing projects should be based on the time constraints of the individual
teacher. Some additional class time (at least part of 1 class period) will be
needed for students to present their projects.
Invite the school nurse and/or experts from the community (county health department,
a local hospital, etc.) to come to the classroom to participate in a panel discussion
related to the risk of bird flu, flu outbreaks, and health measures people can
take to prevent themselves from getting sick from a variety of viral diseases.
Students should prepare questions in advance and ask the experts for their ideas
and opinions related to the topics above.
Using resources such as "Secrets of the Dead: Killer Flu" available
have students research previous flu pandemics, particularly the 1918 event that
killed more than 20 million people worldwide and the less deadly outbreak of Hong
Kong flu in 1968. Create graphic organizers (Venn Diagrams) that illustrate the
similarities and differences between these pandemics as well as the specific strains
of the flu and the symptoms they produced. Compare these events to what is predicted
if we experience a global bird flu pandemic in the next few years.
Correlation to National Standards:
Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
2: Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community
Standard 8: Knows essential concepts about the prevention and
control of disease
4: Understands the principle of heredity and related concepts
Standard 7: Understands
biological evolution and the diversity of life
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication
the Author: Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught
middle school and high school social studies, English, reading, and technology
courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked with PBS TeacherSource and has authored
and edited many lesson plans and materials for various PBS programs over the past
nine years. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state
and national meetings, Prososki works as an editor, creates a wide range of educational
and training materials for corporate clients, and has authored one book.
find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman