Studying Pandemics and Public Health
A Grade 6 science unit
Our Grade 6 scientists dug into an engaging unit this fall, themed around understanding how scientists work, and all of the important roles that science and scientists play in our society.
Using the current pandemic as the backdrop, the students did activities, including research and discussion, that modeled how viruses spread through a population and how testing and tracing work.
After their research and initial lessons, each student was assigned a virus that became an epidemic in the last 100 years. The students dove deeply into the history of each virus, learned the animal from which the virus initially jumped into humans, as well as the symptoms of the disease that it caused in people.
Next, they then used observational skills to make a model of their virus. These are displayed proudly outside of the science labs, including photos of each student holding their virus.
Within this unit, the classes did various activities to understand how masks and hand-washing help stop the spread of a virus. In learning about the impact of hand-washing on a virus, and how diseases can be destroyed by the chemical and manual processes that take place when washing one's hands, the students took their insights a step further to share them with the community.
Each student co-created poster as their culminating activity in this unit. Just like professional scientists and public health officials, the students were assigned to the task of educating the ASP public on what they had learned. The kids split up into groups, chose a topic, and designed a poster shaped like a mask that each addressed a different way that the public can stop the spread of the virus.
To add extra real-life relevance and present a unique challenge, the students were constrained by the communications principles that guide real public health initiatives: using illustrations to convey their messages, minimal words, and many references to the scientific data that supported their claims.
The students greatly enjoyed the design and collaboration process, and their engagement and enthusiasm created an ideal atmosphere of ownership over their own learning. The class ultimately decided to display the posters all together, and created an installation in the Middle School Commons along with their artists' statement, to give context to the work they created and its intended impact on the community.