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

Controlling the Contagion Lesson Driving Question: How can we prevent the spread of disease? 

1. What does it mean to be proactive?

  • Ask your students: What does it mean to be proactive? 
    (Potential responses: Anticipating what might happen, planning ahead, preparing in advance and acting ahead instead of simply reacting to circumstances, being ready.)
  • Have students turn and talk to their neighbor about ways that they are proactive in their daily life. Have students share out their answers with the rest of the class to check for understanding.
  • Add proactive to the word wall that was started at the beginning of the Menacing Microbes unit.


2. Use learning stations to identify proactive policies and practices to be included in an outbreak action plan.

  • Introduce this step of the activity by informing students that there are many proactive measures that individuals, communities, and governments can take to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases. In these learning stations, students will learn about six of them.
  • Set up six learning stations in the room grouping the materials listed into the following categories:
  1. Vaccines
  2. Food safety
  3. Pest control
  4. Clean water
  5. Large-scale community plans
  6. Personal Hygiene
  • Before students begin their station rotations, assign students specific roles in the group to help focus their attention at each station.
      • Each group should have a designated recorder to write down the important information on the Action Plan Research worksheet.
      • Other group members can use the columns of the Action Plan Research worksheet to focus their attention on particular aspects of each source (e.g., student A will look for the definition and people involved, student B will consider whether the method will work for the group’s disease and whether it is realistic).
  • Have student project groups visit all six stations to explore more about each proactive measure.
      • As project groups visit each station, they add to the corresponding rows of their Action Plan Research worksheet. For each policy or practice, students will discuss: What is the definition? Is it proactive or reactive? Who is involved (government, community, and individuals)? Will this work to effectively contain our disease? Is this a realistic measure to implement? Why or why not? Should we include it in our action plan?
      • Once they discuss each question, they can record their response in the corresponding box on the table.
      • As students are working through the stations, circulate the room and check-in with them. Use the Action Plan Research worksheet to assess their understanding of the different reactive and proactive measures. Use the organizer to ask students questions about how each of these measures would work for their disease.
      • As students finish their last learning station, have them move on to completing the exit ticket outlined in the assessment section.

By the end of this step, students should have the following rows in the Action Plan Reseach worksheet completed: NPIs, quarantine, isolation, closing public spaces, food recall, vaccines, food safety, pest control, clean water, large-scale community planning.

Informal Assessment

Have students complete and submit an exit ticket that identifies one proactive policy or practice that will work for their disease. Have students submit the following details on the proactive policy or practice they have chosen:

  1. What is the name of response?
  2. Who oversees this response?
  3. What happens during the response?
  4. When is this response used?

An example of a completed exit ticket on food washing:

  1. Wash produce.
  2. People preparing food to eat.
  3. Wash produce with cold running tap water to remove dirt. Firm produce such as apples or potatoes can be scrubbed.
  4. Just prior to preparing (e.g., cutting, cooking).

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Biology
    • Health
  • Social Studies
    • Civics

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify the different roles that individuals, organizations, and the government have in enacting proactive policies for response to disease outbreaks.
  • Evaluate which proactive measures are most appropriate to implement in a disease outbreak.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Reading
  • Self-directed learning
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Energy Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts

  • D2.Civ.10.6-8:  Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2:  Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7:  Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

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

  • D2.Civ.12.6-8:  Assess specific rules and laws (both actual and proposed) as means of addressing public problems. 
  • D2.Civ.2.6-8:  Explain specific roles played by citizens (such as voters, jurors, taxpayers, members of the armed forces, petitioners, protesters, and office-holders).
  • D2.Civ.6.6-8:  Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organization in shaping people's lives.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, 1 computer per pair, Projector

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Preventing infectious disease outbreaks requires planning ahead. Prevention plans can help reduce illness, hospitalization, and death. Proactive measures anticipate future outbreaks of disease and work to prevent the transmission of disease among people. Rather than waiting for the outbreak to occur, proactive measures keep people healthy.


Proactive measures are recommended in contexts outside of disease prevention any time people are forward planning and acting accordingly. For example, communities educate people about the tolls of drug abuse as a proactive step to keep people from using them. Students who study for their tests are proactive in an effort to prevent low grades. An outbreak response and prevention plan that includes both reactive and proactive measures will not only control an outbreak once it starts but will help keep future outbreaks from occurring.  


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."


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.

personal hygiene

action or habit of keeping oneself clean, especially as a means of maintaining good health.


to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually