Lesson Plan


Background, Activities and Critical Analysis
By Lisa Prososki
Secondary Science, Biology/Physiology, Health and Current Events
Estimated Time
Two 90 Minute class periods
Grade Level
Grades 9-12

Students will:
1.  Learn key vocabulary terms associated with the immune system and the development of vaccines.
2.  Brainstorm about and discuss various topics related to disease prevention and the use of vaccines.
3.  Conduct research to learn about the specific processes used for creating vaccines
4.  Share their research findings through class discussion and the development of projects that illustrate the vaccine development process

With H1N1 flu, sometimes called "swine flu", poised to make a comeback this year governments are racing to produce and supply adequate amounts of vaccine.

The World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl says the vaccine production is "substantially less" than the goal of 94 million doses a week, because some manufacturers are still working on vaccines for seasonal flu.

Despite concerns that multiple doses would be necessary for each person, recent research has shown one dose of the vaccine should provide adequate protection, studies show, alleviating some of the supply demands. This lesson addresses just how vaccines are made.

1.  Introduce students to some of the key vocabulary they will need to understand by splitting them into pairs or groups and distributing the Vaccine Vocabulary activity.  Review the directions and provide students with 5-10 minutes to complete the activity using their prior knowledge. 

2.  Discuss the correct answers to the Vaccine Vocabulary activity (see teacher key) to be sure that students understand what each word means.

3.  Facilitate a short full class discussion using questions such as:

  • What role do you think vaccines play in preventing the spread of disease?
  • If we did not have vaccines to help prevent diseases, what are the possible effects that could have on how schools, businesses and society might operate during outbreaks of transmittable illnesses?
  • What do you know about how vaccines are produced?  Brainstorm with students and make a list of ideas on the board or overhead.

4.  Split the class into partners/groups and have students work together to learn about how vaccines are made by using content available on the Online NewsHour Global Health Watch and other related resources.  Distribute the Project Guidelines and review the requirements for Part 1 together.

5.  Allow students with ample class time to complete the research for Part 1 of the project. As a class, outline the specific steps found by students by creating a list on the board/overhead and discussing the specifics of each step.   

6.  Direct students back to the Project Guidelines and review the requirements for Part 2.  Provide students with class time to prepare their work and presentation for the class.

7.  When projects are completed, provide time for each group to share what they have created with their classmates.  Post the projects around the classroom.  After the presentations, close with a final discussion using questions such as:

  • Based on what you learned about how vaccines are made and what they are used for, what are some common misconceptions or myths that you hear people discussing when talking about vaccines?
  • What are some of the most common diseases that are prevented using vaccines?
  • What questions do you still have about vaccines and the way they are used to prevent diseases?

Extension Activities
1.  Create a public awareness campaign about the importance of vaccinations in disease control.  Students could focus on a specific vaccine or make a more general appeal in their service announcements.

2.  Interview a health care provider about a specific disease that can now be prevented or has been virtually eradicated as a result of vaccinations.  Write a news article based on the interview.

3.  Study some of the controversial vaccines of our day as well as those that were unsuccessful in the past.  Learn about what caused the controversy related to the vaccine and/or why it was not a success in treating the disease it was designed to prevent.

Last Updated: December 2009

About the Author

Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant and instructional design specialist who taught middle school and high school 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 ten years.  In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings has authored one book.

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The Online NewsHour
NewsHour: Global Health
NewsHour: Anatomy of a Pandemic

The Materials You Need

Additional Resources for Teachers

NewsHour: Global Health

NewsHour: Rx For Reform

NewsHour: Anatomy of a Pandemic

NOVA Science

National Standards

McRel Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:

Life Sciences
Standard 5:  Understands the structure and function of cells and organisms

Standard 8:  Knows essential concepts about the prevention and control of disease

Language Arts
Standard 1:  Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 4:  Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Standard 5:  Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 7:  Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of
                    informational texts

Listening and Speaking
Standard 8:  Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Working with Others
Standard 1:  Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4:  Displays effective interpersonal communication skills