This activity is part of the Menacing Microbes unit.

Unit Driving Question: How does a community get ready for an outbreak?

Lesson Driving Question: How can we plan to stay healthy in the future?

1. Use a disease profile to select an outbreak scenario for which to respond.

Inform students that they will be testing each other’s action plans against different microbial disease outbreak scenarios.

  • Using the action plans that were created in the previous activity, Creating an Action Plan to Prepare for an Outbreak, distribute the completed action plans so that each project group has a plan from a group other than their own.
  • Distribute one Scramble! packet to each group.
  • Have students read the microbial disease profile at the beginning of the action plan they were given.
  • Have students use this disease profile to choose an outbreak scenario from the Scramble! packet to test their provided action plan.


2. Mobilize each other’s action plans in response to a novel scenario to test the effectiveness and thoroughness of the plan.

  • Using the Scramble! packet, have students use page four to apply the provided action plan to the chosen microbial disease scenario.
  • Have students act as the command center team from the action plan to improvise role-play through the outbreak response.
      • Have students walk through the flow chart in each other’s action plans, acting as if they are mobilizing the outbreak response, checking to see that all relevant groups and people are included for an effective response.
  • Remind students to not move on to page five of the Scramble! packet without a context card.


3. Respond to an additional challenge in disease outbreak responses—the role of cultural and geographic context.

  • Soon after students begin to mobilize by enacting their provided action plan, distribute one context card to each group.
  • Have students consider the implications of an outbreak of this disease in the specific location in the world as outlined on their context card.
  • Students should continue to role-play through the action plan, using the student evaluation rubric on page six of the Scramble! packet to indicate the effectiveness of the plan.
  • Students are finished with the assignment when they have completed the demobilization of the team.


4. Discuss and debrief the activity.

  • Facilitate a whole-group discussion for students to share their responses to the following questions:
      • What did the action plan that you used do well?
      • What surprised you in this activity?
      • What did you learn about your own action plan when trying to implement this one?
      • How important is it for a community to have an action plan like this?


Collect students’ evaluation rubrics to assess their ability to:

  1. Implement an action plan against a disease scenario,
  2. account for different cultural and geographic factors involved in a disease outbreak, and
  3. evaluate an action plan for its effectiveness.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Social Studies

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify how responses to disease outbreak differ based on cultures and geographic locations.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Modeling
  • Simulations and games

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1:  Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D4.6.6-8:  Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time, identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.

What You’ll Need

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Heterogeneous grouping
  • Homogeneous grouping
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Once disease outbreak response and prevention plans are developed, it is useful to practice them to ensure their effectiveness. Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security enacted a practice drill that incorporated details of past disasters with a fictional scenario that tasked government officials with making the kinds of immediate decisions that they would need to make in a real pandemic. The officials had to react as the development of the outbreak unfolded according to a script developed by Johns Hopkins. Some of the measures that they discussed involved entry bans from other countries and vaccine distribution. There were people at various levels of implementation involved and a great deal of coordination was needed. The simulation went to the levels of the CDC and National Security Council. In the end, the simulation surfaced numerous gaps in planning and approximately 150 million lives were lost. Knowing how a plan might fail can help with the development of better plans in the future.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, whose mission is "to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats."


deactivate, disband; often refers to armed troops, disaster response teams, or similar groups.


harmful condition of a body part or organ.


set into motion, assemble for action.


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.

preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen, or of a portion of the pathogen's structure that upon administration stimulates antibody production against the pathogen but is incapable of causing severe infection itself.