Lesson Ideas

Infectious Diseases, Epidemics and Vaccines: a Distance Learning Lesson

A lot of students around the world are at home due to school shutdowns. Naturally, they have lots of questions about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a self-paced activity with 5 assignments for students in grades 4 to 12. Assignments 2 through 4 can be completed in any order.

Also available as an editable file:

Mission 1: Background

Vaccines are people’s ‘secret weapon’ against many diseases. Let’s see how vaccines are made and how they protect us. Go to YouTube and check out some/all of these videos:

Briefly answer the following questions: 

  • What is an infectious disease? Name at least 10 examples. 
  • Give three examples of non-infectious diseases.
  • What causes infectious diseases?
  • What is the immune system’s job? 
  • What is ‘natural (aka innate) immunity’? What is ‘acquired immunity’? (Hint: How do we get the first and how do we get the second?)
  • What is ‘herd immunity’? (Hint: Vaccines do not only protect those who get vaccinated but others as well. How?)
  • Did you see another video on the topic you liked? Share the link with your teacher!

Mission 2: Research

Go to https://www.historyofvaccines.org/activities and do some research. 

There are 9 different activities. Pick at least one of them and complete it. 

What if your grandparents or a neighbor asked you what you learned from this activity? Write a short (200-300 words) summary for them!

Alternative: If you don’t like any of the activities, pick one of these articles (https://www.historyofvaccines.org/articles) and do the same!

Mission 3: Profile

What’s your ‘favorite’ infectious disease? Can you gather some information about a disease we need to protect ourselves from? Pick one infectious disease and write a short report about it. Your profile should include: 

  • What causes it? 
  • What are its symptoms? (Maybe include a photograph of a person with the disease.)
  • How dangerous is it? Who is most at risk
  • How is it treated?
  • How can you protect yourself from it?
  • Is there a vaccine against it? When/how many times does it need to be given? 

Make sure you use reputable sources of information in your research! Wikipedia’s page for the disease is generally a good start. But you can also use: 

Mission 4: The Flu Vaccine

Have you heard that the flu shot (available every year in September-October) is not very effective? It’s true! On average, it protects ‘only’ about half of the people who get vaccinated. 

Wait, then why should we get vaccinated? Or should we?

Read the article ‘Why get vaccinated when the flu vaccine doesn’t work well?’ from Science Journal for Kids

Answer the 5 questions on the last page. 

Mission 5: What about the coronavirus COVID-19?

How far are we from developing a vaccine against it? What are some of the problems with that approach? Check the news to find out and write a short (100 words) report about it. 

Other Resources

Our site offers hundreds of scientific articles about infectious diseases, outbreaks, disease control and health and medical topics. Everything is free to download! Just the filter to find the ones you need.

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