50 mins
A man passes a planning ledger over a string quarantine barrier that cordons off a home impacted by Ebola.

Students read an article to learn about different disease containment methods such as food recall, quarantine, medical treatment, closing public spaces, and NPIs. After, students create action plans for a response to an outbreak of a disease using a graphic organizer. Students evaluate the different reactive policies to determine which could work as a response to the outbreak of a specific disease.


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. Watch a video from the CDC to learn about the different people and actions involved in an outbreak response. 

Have students watch this video from the CDC, Behind the Headline. As students watch the video, have them answer the following questions:

  • Who is involved? (Suggested response: federal, state, and local partners; doctors, epidemiologists, statisticians, nurses, communicators, biologists, virologists, mosquito experts, and administrative staff)
  • What do they do? (Suggested response: watch and analyze data, inform the community, look for patterns, safety training, respond to emergency calls, go to the outbreak site, lab testing)
  • What skills do they need? (Suggested response: mapping, communication, analysis, reporting)
  • What else do you notice?

As a class, discuss student responses to these questions.


2. Read to learn about different reactive policies and practices in response to an outbreak.

  • Set the purpose of the reading by connecting the reading with their action plan. An example introduction to the reading could be: In the action plan you will create for your selected disease, you will need to include certain policies and procedures to stop the spread of disease once an outbreak has been identified. Today, you are going to read about some common policies and procedures that communities use to do this.
  • Have students begin to read the article, Preventing and Containing Outbreaks.
      • With a partner from their project group, have students read through the section of the article, “Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions.”
      • After reading this section, ask your students: Will this work for your disease? Is this a realistic plan? Who is involved?
      • Allow students to discuss in their project groups and orally respond to each question.
  • Once students have had a chance to discuss and share their ideas, distribute the Action Plan Research worksheet for students to begin filling in the row for NPIs.
  • With their same reading partners, students read the next section of the article, “Quarantine.”
  • Introduce the term reactive, and add to the word wall started at the beginning of the unit. Tell students that reactive measures occur after the outbreak has started, and are intended to minimize the existing illness.
  • With their same reading partners, students read the remainder of the article, continuing to stop, discuss, and add to their Action Plan Research worksheet after each section.

By the end of this activity, students will have reactive measures listed on their Action Plan Research worksheet. They will add additional proactive measures in subsequent activities.

Informal Assessment

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

  1. What is the name of the 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:

  1. Isolation in hospital.
  2. Doctors, nurses, clinicians, health care providers.
  3. Isolation of infected person per case. Appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment by those who come into contact with the infected person. 
  4. As soon as the person is diagnosed.
50 mins
Dawn Arlotta

This African-American father was shown in the process of teaching his young daughter how to properly wash her hands at their kitchen sink, briskly rubbing her soapy hands together under fresh running tap water, in order to remove germs, and contaminants, thereby, reducing the spread of pathogens, and the ingestion of environmental toxins. Children are taught to recite the Happy Birthday song, during hand washing, allotting enough time to completely clean their hands.

<b><u>Keywords</u></b>: Prevention; Hand washing; Children; Kids; Contaminants; Germs; H1N1; Skin; Dermal Contamination

Students learn about disease prevention steps such as handwashing, food washing, waste management, pest control, environmental safety, and vaccination through interactive learning stations.


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).
50 mins
Health workers use diagnostic tests specially designed for the field to quickly detect the presence of the Ebola virus and implement proper protocols.

Students learn about the Ebola crisis and discuss the impact of infection on people’s and communities’ lives through video and readings. Students explore the role of context and how different regions and cultures present unique challenges for response and prevention of disease.


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. Watch National Geographic photographer Pete Muller’s video to learn about how Ebola impacts a rural community in Sierra Leone.

  • Set the purpose for the video by telling students that they will need to think about the impact of outbreaks on the community when creating their action plans. Suggested statement: Outbreaks happen differently depending on where you are in the world. In a big dense city, disease may spread differently than it would in a farming community where people live miles away from each other. We are going to watch a video that highlights how the locations of Ebola outbreaks affect the community response to the disease. You will want to consider how the location of an outbreak of your focal disease might impact the things you put in your action plans!
  • Pete Muller, a National Geographic photographer and 2017 Fellow, tells the story of how Ebola has impacted a rural community in Sierra Leone. Have students watch the video Ebola: Photos From the Heart of the Struggle.
  • After watching the video, have students discuss the following questions in small groups:
      • How do you think people in the community perceive the disease?
      • What resources are available in this community to respond to the outbreak?
      • How might it be different if the Ebola outbreak happened in a big city like New York?

Suggested follow-up questions to scaffold student thinking might include: How far away might the nearest hospital be? How clean is the water? Who is preparing food? How educated are people about disease transmission and prevention? How do people communicate with the government to get help?

  • Next, as a whole class, have students brainstorm ideas for how to better educate the community about the Ebola disease and its survivors.
  • Record their ideas on chart paper. This chart paper can later be used a resource for students to think about educating the community about their focal diseases.
  • Review the concepts of rural and urban and add to the word wall that was started at the beginning of the Menacing Microbes unit.

2. Read about National Geographic Explorer Hayat Sindi and what she is doing to overcome challenges with healthcare in rural India.

  • Set the purpose for reading by informing students that monitoring health is an effective and important proactive measure to contain and prevent disease. Suggested statement: Being in a rural place can have big challenges. You are going to read about, Hyat Sindi, a woman who is learning how to overcome some of these challenges. As you read, think about how you might address similar challenges if there was an outbreak of your focal disease in rural India.
  • Distribute the explorer profile on Hayat Sindi to students and discuss how she is working to overcome challenges with bringing affordable health care to rural India.        
    • While reading, have students think about if and how their action plan would work in different kinds of communities.
  • In pairs, have students read the Explorer Profile of Hayat Sindi.
  • After reading, have the pairs of students discuss how the context of rural India might impact the effectiveness of their action plan.

3. Jigsaw read to learn about additional cultural complicating factors for vaccination.

  • Set the purpose for this part of the activity by telling students that there are many factors that complicate disease containment and prevention. Suggested statement: Location isn’t the only thing that can have an impact on disease containment and prevention. Sometimes, there are cultural factors that can impact disease containment and prevention. You are going to read about some cultural factors that have impacted the effectiveness of vaccine campaigns.
  • Conduct a jigsaw read by setting students up in their project groups and assigning each student a different article to read. Students should read their assigned article and then teach the other members of their group about their complicating factor. The four readings are:
  • Have students annotate their text as they read by using the following symbols:
      • Checkmark next to something important.
      • Question mark next to things that you do not understand or have questions about.
      • Star next to something your group can use in your action plan.
  • After reading, have students with the same article get into a group to share the areas that they still have questions about. Have students try to clear up any misunderstandings as a group.
  • Next, have students take a few minutes to write a three-sentence summary of their article. Then, have students reconvene with their project group to share their article summary and discuss how this information should be considered when implementing their disease outbreak action plan.

4. Debrief discussion about how the response to outbreaks might impact people differently in different parts of the world.

To wrap up the activity, have students discuss in their project groups questions that challenge them to think about different community structures in the world and their relationship to disease outbreaks:

  • Possible questions include: In what ways might an outbreak of your focal disease in an African tribal community be different from an outbreak in a big city in the United States? From a rural American farming community? In rural India? In a big dense city in Asia, such as Tokyo? In a place where there might be many earthquakes, such as Alaska? In a place where there is war, such as Syria?
  • Ask: How might the response to the outbreak be different in these areas?
  • Revisit the column of the Action Plan Research worksheet that asks if a policy or practice is realistic. Ask students to consider if there are special geographic or cultural considerations, if there are, have students note them there.

Informal Assessment

Collect the Action Plan Research worksheet to assess students’ understanding of content, reactive and proactive response measures, and the application to their disease. The Action Plan Research worksheet is integral to the students’ ability to complete the action plan in the next lesson. If you are unable to return the organizer to them at the beginning of the next lesson, consider collecting this after they complete the action plan.

If you would like an additional assessment, collect students’ three-sentence summaries from step three to check for understanding of content.

Informal Assessment

Use the questions below to assess students’ understanding of the main ideas of this lesson. Have students write their responses in complete sentences.

  • Based on what you learned about proactive and reactive measures for disease prevention, what is an example of each measure that could help stop the spread of the common cold?
  • Think about the place where you live. What is at least one unique aspect of where you live that would be important to consider when developing an outbreak response plan?

Subjects & Disciplines


Students will:

  • Explain the different roles that individuals, organizations, and the government have in enacting reactive policies for response to disease outbreaks.
  • Explain the different roles that individuals, organizations, and the government have in enacting reactive policies for a response to disease outbreaks.
  • Evaluate which reactive measures are appropriate to implement for a disease outbreak.
  • 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.
  • Describe the ways that geographic and cultural context can impact disease containment and prevention.
  • Evaluate how geographic and cultural context can impact disease containment and treatment.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Jigsaw
  • Modeling
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Reading
  • Self-directed learning
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This lesson 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. 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. Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12: Key Ideas and Details, RH.6-8.2The 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.13.6-8: Analyze the purposes, implementation, and consequences of public policies in multiple settings. 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. D2.Geo.4.6-8: Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

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

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • None


  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Accessibility Notes

  • None

Background Information

Having a plan to respond to disease outbreaks, and prevent future outbreaks, is essential to our individual and community health and well-being. Once the source of a disease outbreak has been identified, it is important to take measures to contain the disease. The measures implemented in the response plan will be directly connected to the ways in which a disease is transmitted. For example, influenza is spread through droplets in the air. This is why it is important to cover your cough and throw away tissues when you have the flu. Not only it is important to take measures to stop further spread of the disease, but also to prevent future outbreaks of the disease. For influenza, this includes proactive measures such as hand washing and flu vaccines.


However, there are many complicating factors that should inform a community response plan. These include population density, climate, and cultural factors, all of which should be considered when planning for an outbreak of infectious microbial disease.


This lesson is part of the Menacing Microbes unit.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Lessons


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."


all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.


to keep under control, hold, or prevent escape.


act or policy of limiting the spread of an idea or influence.


to identify a disease or problem.


harmful condition of a body part or organ.

medical treatment

care given to a patient for an illness or injury, relating to the science or practice of medicine.

non-pharmaceutical interventions

actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, that people and communities can take to help prevent or limit the spread of illnesses.


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.

personal hygiene

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


set of actions or rules.


the number of people living in a set area, such as a square mile.


to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually


manufacturer’s request that all the purchasers of a certain product return a product that may be defective or contaminated.


having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.


having to do with city life.

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.

For Further Exploration