Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Lesson Plans

Research shows coronavirus spreads primarily through the air

September 23, 2020

Full Lesson



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. For a transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: A growing body of evidence indicates that airborne transmission is the main way people are becoming infected with the novel coronavirus. Given that understanding, how should we change our behavior to reduce our risk of infection? 

  • Though scientists have long understood that coronavirus can be transmitted person to person through the air, research has helped scientists refine understanding of how this transmission occurs and under what conditions.
  • Scientists are now more certain that coronavirus is transmitted both through droplets (liquid visible to the naked eye that doesn’t linger in the air) and aerosols (water droplets from speaking or breathing too small to be visible but which can linger in the air like cigarette smoke).
  • Knowledge of coronavirus transmission is important for setting effective public health policies.

Discussion: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is the expert in this interview and what is her background?
  • What is the importance of understanding the difference between droplets and aerosols?
  • When and where have scientists been learning about the spread of coronavirus?
  • Why is it important to understand aerosol transmission?
  • How might individuals change their behaviors with better understanding of the way coronavirus spreads?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. How does understanding the exact means of transmission for coronavirus help make individual and collective decisions about safety?
  2. What are some ways you might change your own habits and behavior based on an understanding of how aerosols spread coronavirus?

Media literacy: 

  1. One challenge for public health officials is conveying new scientific information clearly in a way that the public can understand. Do you think Dr. Linsey Marr’s analogy to spread of coronavirus aerosols being like cigarette smoke is effective at communicating the risk of spread? Why or why not?
  2. What other information would you like to have from scientists to better understand the potential risk of aerosol transmission of coronavirus?

Dig Deeper: Watch this interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci about what can be done to balance opening up and public health. Based on this interview, what do you think should change in your own school and community?

For a full lesson based on this interview, click here.

Follow us:





PBS NewsHour education stories newsletter

Updates for EXTRA’s Super Civics 2020 election teaching resources doc

Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.