50 mins
A scientist works in a hood at the Institute of Virology in Marburg, Germany, while wearing a hazmat suit.

Students investigate a real-world example of a public health action plan through charts and tables developed by the city of San Francisco. Students use examples from another regional action plan to launch a discussion about how to write an action plan of their own


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. Analyze a real-world example of an action plan to learn about the people involved in a response to an outbreak in a dense urban area.

  • Set the purpose for this step by telling students that you are going to share with them real-world examples of community action plans for disease outbreaks. Many places around the world have action plans for responses to infectious diseases. Some of these plans are for specific diseases, some are designed to respond to outbreaks in a more general way. The example documents for this lesson are from more general responses to disease outbreaks.
  • Share the San Francisco Infectious Disease Emergency Response chart and the San Francisco Understanding the Infectious Disease Emergency Response Structure table with project groups.
      • Explain to students that they will not need to include this level of detail in their action plans, but this information is intended to give them a sense of all of the different kinds of people accounted for in an action plan developed for a large city in the United States.
      • Students will use this information to think about what kinds of teams of people they might want to include in their action plans.
  • Model for students how to use these documents in order to identify appropriate teams involved in a response plan. 
      • Say: To locate the source of the disease and monitor how it is spreading, I will need to use the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch (pink).
      • Show students where this team is on the table. Explain that these are the people who will investigate the source of the outbreak and patterns of how it is spreading. Read several of the titles of people on the team and their corresponding roles.
      • Say: If one response to my disease is quarantine, I will want to include the Disease Containment and Implementation Branch (grey).
      • Show students where this team is on the table. Explain that these are the people who will coordinate with the community to implement a quarantine. Read several of the titles of people on the team and their corresponding roles.
  • In their project groups, have students review the Infectious Disease Emergency Response chart and the Understanding the Infectious Disease Emergency Response Structure table of people included in the Infectious Disease Emergency Response for San Francisco.
      • To guide student groups’ reading through these documents, have each group choose one proactive and one reactive response to think about who would be involved from this flow chart following your modeling examples. Each group should select different response measures to analyze.
  • After reading, have student groups share with the class what each response measure is, what teams are responsible, and what each team would do.
  • Record this information on the board for the whole class to use as a resource. 


2. Analyze a real-world example of an action plan to learn about the steps included for a large urban area.

Inform students that their action plan will include a flow chart similar to the one in Figure 1 of the Regional Acute Infectious Disease Response Plan developed for King and Pierce Counties in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The flow chart they create will have a corresponding written component that attends to the following categories (also in the sample Action Plan on pages 7-17):

  • Activating the Plan
  • Notification and Warning
  • Coordination
  • Lab Testing
  • Waste Management (if applicable)
  • Mortuary Services (if applicable)
  • Monitoring, Isolation, and/or Quarantine
  • Demobilization

Students do not need to read these sections of the example in detail but can refer to them if they need help understanding or addressing the category.


3. Write an action plan to prepare for a disease outbreak.

In their project groups, have students use their Action Plan Research worksheet and all other resources from the Menacing Microbes unit to complete the Action Plan for Response to Outbreak of Infectious Disease for their particular disease. Resources that students should reference from previous activities are listed on the Action Plan Resource List.


Collect students’ action plans and use the Action Plan Scoring Rubric to assess students’ understanding of the content related to their focal diseases. Students will need their action plans for the next activity when they apply their plan to specific scenarios. If you are unable to return these to students in time for their use in the next activity, consider collecting after completing the next activity, “Mobilizing an Action Plan for an Outbreak.”

50 mins
Local authorities of Boffa, Guinea, meet with an Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, and others in February 2015.

Students use scenarios to put their disease outbreak action plans to use. Students then use specific locations such as Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Sydney, Australia; Sênmônoŭrôm, Cambodia; or Tofino, Canada, as contexts for the application of their action plans.


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.
50 mins
On August 18, 2018, a health worker administers the Ebola vaccine to a woman recently in contact with someone infected by the disease Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After learning about awareness days for handwashing and vaccines, students brainstorm how they can take action on each of these days as it relates to their disease outbreak action plans. Students create an infographic to display in their community to raise awareness.


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. Learn about Global Handwashing Day and National Immunization Awareness Month.

Inform students that, while it is important to have plans in place for outbreaks of infectious diseases, there are proactive measures that can happen in every community year-round. Two of the most effective measures are vaccination and hand washing.

  • In pairs, have students read the National Geographic resource about Global Handwashing Day. As students read, have them discuss the following questions with their partner:
      • What is it?
      • Who should do it?
      • Where do I do this?
      • Why is it important?
      • Why might people avoid it?
      • How often should I do this?
      • How can people participate in Global Handwashing Day? 
  • While still in pairs, have students read the Health and Human Services article, Honor National Immunization Awareness Month by Taking Your Best Shot. As students read, have students discuss the same questions that they answered for the previous article.
      • What is it?
      • Who should do it?
      • Where do I do this?
      • Why is it important?
      • Why might people avoid it?
      • How often should I do this?
      • How can people participate in National Vaccine Awareness Month?


2: Create an informational infographic to raise awareness about vaccines or handwashing

  • To create their infographic, students can use a school-approved design program or they can create their infographic by hand. The infographic should answer the same questions that students discussed when reading the articles on the two practices.
      • What is it?
      • Who should do it?
      • Where do I do this?
      • Why is it important?
      • Why might people avoid it?
      • How often should I do this?
      • How can people participate?


3. Debrief and Share.

  • Have each pair of students share their infographics with the class. As part of their presentation, students should include:
      • What their topic is (vaccines or handwashing).
      • How they plan to participate in the awareness day or month related to their topic.

Informal Assessment

Use students’ infographics to assess students understanding and ability to communicate the importance of vaccines or handwashing and how they work to prevent the spread of disease.

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Biology
    • Health
  • Social Studies
    • Civics


Students will:

  • Apply each other’s action plans to a novel outbreak scenario.
  • Evaluate an action plan for effectiveness in responding to an outbreak.
  • Identify how different responses are needed in different cultures and geographic locations.
  • Create an infographic about vaccinations or hand washing.
  • Create an infographic that raises awareness about vaccinations or hand washing.
  • Identify how responses to disease outbreak differ based on cultures and geographic locations.
  • Create an action plan for community emergency response to an outbreak of their focal disease.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning
  • Information organization
  • Modeling
  • Reading
  • Simulations and games
  • Writing

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.6-8.2 WHST.6-8.2.A: Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.  WHST.6-8.2.B: Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples. WHST.6-8.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.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. 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. D4.8.6-8: Apply a range of deliberative and democratic procedures to make decisions and take action in their classrooms and schools, and in out-of-school civic contexts.

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


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

Accessibility Notes

  • None

Background Information

Once a disease outbreak response and prevention plan is developed, it is important to practice the plan to ensure its effectiveness. Communities can coordinate simulations to rehearse their action plans, ensuring their effectiveness and revising as needed. Both Washington and Oregon have enacted plague drills to test their preparedness for disease outbreak. A recent practice drill conducted at the federal level surfaced numerous gaps in planning. Knowing how a plan might fail can help with the development of better plans in the future.


In addition to practicing action plans, public health education about disease prevention can be a strong first line of defense against outbreaks of infectious diseases. Education programs can effectively improve the health of many in the community. In addition to education about communicable disease, public health education can include topics such as chronic disease, violence prevention, substance abuse, nutrition, obesity, and mental health.


This lesson is part of the Menacing Microbes unit.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Lessons



become active or operative.

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."


social group whose members share common heritage, interests, or culture.


disease-producing agent, like a virus or bacteria; can also refer to the disease itself or the transmission of the disease.


process of organizing people or groups so that they work together well.


break up the organization of or disband.


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


harmful condition of a body part or organ.


process of becoming immune to a disease.

lab testing

procedure used to identify or characterize something, conducted under controlled scientific conditions in a lab (also called Laboratory).


set into motion, assemble for action.


watch, keep track of, or check.

mortuary services

service providing a space in which dead bodies are kept, for hygienic storage or for examination, until burial or cremation.


action of notifying someone or something.


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.


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


when disease-causing germs pass from an infected person to a healthy person.


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.

notice or bulletin that alerts to a hazard.

waste management

collection, disposal, or recycling of materials that people have discarded.