This lesson is the first in a series of three Fighting the Flu lessons that ask students to investigate the spread of illness in their school and to innovate methods of reducing this spread.
This first lesson focuses on how scientists learn about the spread of disease and requires students to explore different tools and methods for collecting and visualizing information that can be used to track illnesses.
In part one of the lesson, it is up to you as the teacher to set the context for the investigation. The examples of the Spanish Influenza epidemic as well as more generic occurrences of seasonal influenza (flu) are used throughout the lesson, but you can substitute another context. Students will then use IBM’s THINK app to explore different ways to “see” data in the context of health.
Part two of the lesson requires students to consider how diseases are spread and use critical thinking to track the spread of a fictional outbreak and identify “patient zero.” The flu is typically transmitted through the air via coughing or sneezing. The flu can also be easily transmitted via direct contact with contaminated surface containing strands of the virus. Objects, such as doorknobs, that are able to transmit infectious diseases are called fomites.
In part three of the lesson, students explore different surfaces to make conclusions about their potential as fomites.
Before the lesson
To prepare for this lesson, you should review the Seeing portion of IBM’s THINK app to indentify tools that could be used to learn about the spread of disease. You should also read the Spanish Influenza example found in the Understanding portion of the app.
For Part 2
For Part 2 of the procedure, you should prepare the following, prior to the start of class:
- Number each test tube 1-30
- Fill and close all but one of the 10mL test tubes with 6 mL of water
- Fill and close one test tube with 3 mL of vinegar or HCL and 3 mL of water. REMEMBER THE NUMBER OF THIS TUBE.
For Part 3
Part 3 of the lesson requires that you prepare petri dishes at least one week prior to the implementation of the lesson. To do this, select 10 areas of the classroom that you will swab. You should select different types of surfaces that you think might provide a good environment for germ growth. These can include different types of doorknobs, keyboards, or light switches. To prepare the dishes:
- Label one Petri dish for each area of the room you will swab.
- To prevent contamination, put on latex gloves and then moisten a cotton swab in distilled water.
- Gently rub the swab on the first area of the classroom you have selected.
- Remove the Petri dish cover and lightly rub the swab across the surface of the agar (without tearing it) in a zigzag pattern.
- Cover the dish immediately and place the used swab in a Ziploc bag to dispose of it properly.
- Tape the sides of the Petri dish to ensure that it is sealed.
- Dispose of the latex gloves.
- Repeat for the other areas of the room.
- Store the dishes in a dark, warm area for at least a week.
- After students have completed part 2, you should properly dispose of the dishes by pouring a small amount of bleach on them to kill any potentially harmful growth.