Flu Tracking (Part 3/3)

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Students will analyze past and present influenza data to determine how epidemiologists evaluate a spread of the disease.

Big Idea

Will it be a bad flu season this year? Use actual data to track the spread of the true flu.

What Students Will Learn in this Lesson

1 minutes

Students are comparing three flu seasons and looking for patterns again. Then they will compare what they found to a true pandemic. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic is of particular interest to our area as many historians have indicated that it started at Camp Funston, Fort Riley, KS which is near our school.  In fact, our World History teacher has a detailed unit on it. This lesson is a nice complication to what students learn in World History. Here is an overview of what students will learn today.  


3 minutes

Have student watch the brief documentary about the Flu Pandemic of 1918.


While students watch the video, give students a map of the world and have students identify the locations mentioned in the video.  (Locations they should identify:  Northern France, United States, Boston, MA, Fort Devons, MA, Alaska, , India, South Seas).  

Ask students what criteria do scientists have for a pandemic?  Have them use the conceptual clues from the video and their root word knowledge to help them answer the question. (pan=all, demic=people)

(A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads world-wide and could possibly affect all humans.)

Class Discussion: Looking for Patterns

9 minutes

Facilitate a class discourse to help students look for patterns in their data. Encourage them to use their notes if necessary. First, have students consider the criteria epidemiologists use to classify a flu season as a pandemic. Provide students with several questions to help them direct their thinking.  

  • How would you define a pandemic?  
  • What evidence would support scientists' assertion that the 1918 session was a pandemic?  
  • The 2009-10 flu season was particularly severe and by some standards is considered a pandemic.  Do you agree or disagree?  
  • What reasons would you give that 2009-10 was not a pandemic?  

Give students several minutes to draft a response.

Here is an example of student work that shows several of the trends in the data that students should consider while preparing for the class discourse.  This is another student work sample that  will show the variation a teacher might see in student responses.

Then have students to rehearse their ideas with a partners before bringing the class together as a whole.  Call on one person randomly to start the discussion. During entire class share, the teacher’s role includes facilitating discourse by: 

  • asking questions to challenge student thinking; 
  • listening carefully and monitoring understanding; 
  • encouraging each student to participate – even if it means asking, “Who can repeat what Bekah said?” or “Who can explain in another way what Trevor did?” 

The student’s role includes: 

  • listening and responding to the teacher and one another; 
  • using a variety of tools to reason, make connections, solve problems 
  • communicating, and make convincing arguments of particular representations, procedures, and solutions.

Next have students compare a severe flu season to a mild flu season.  Provide students with several questions to help them direct their thinking.  

  • How would a severe flu season differ from a mild season?
  • What are early indications do epidemiologists have that give clues to the severity of the flu season?
  • How would you classify this flu season?  Why do you think so?


(Note: Here are my class discourse guidelines that I provide each of my students.)

At the end of the discussion assist students in creating a graphic organizer of several of the key points highlighted in the class discourse.  



Student Activity: Comparing Flu Seasons/Preventing the Spread of the Flu

28 minutes

Remind students of the importance of vaccination and good hygiene in preventing the spread of the flu.  Using the graphic provided in the powerpoint, review the steps involved in antigenic drift. Ask student to recall the information in the web quest they learned by completing the web quest, discuss the current state of the flu season both statewide, regionally, and nationally. Compare the current season with graphic from the 1918/1919 influenza pandemic that is provided in the powerpoint. Then using the graphic in the powerpoint, lead students through the dominant influenza strain A subtypes in the last century.  Discuss these trends as evidence of genetic drift. Briefly touch on the frequency of Influenza B during this season. Discuss the new flu strain discussed in the lecture that students viewed as part of the web quest. Ask if they have seen evidence of this strain in their flu data. Briefly discuss any new strains that are on the CDC’s watch list (i.e.:  H7N9).

At the end of the lecture, provide students with time to summary their findings. Using their notes, web quest, and other resources that we have used throughout this unit, students should write a summary of their findings about the three flu seasons they analyzed. In this summary, they should elaborate on their Finding Patterns answers. They should also discuss how virus can be used as a model for natural selection and why viruses are a good model organism. Students can either type their response or write it in their lab notebooks.  Students should cite their sources using in-text citations, but since this is a timed essay, they do not need to complete a works cited page.  

(Note:  I use the attached powerpoint and summary of the web quest as a review of several recent lessons so students can see how these lessons are related. Here are three examples of student work.  The first example almost satisfies all of the requirements of the assignment.  Only minor edits are needed and work needs to be cited.  The second essay requires some major revisions and evidence to support claims. The third example has my comments within the text of the paper. 

Putting It All Together: Next Year's Vaccine

5 minutes

After looking at the data for the last several years, have students make a list of the five most prevalent strains of the flu. Then chose three that should be included in next season's vaccine. Students should look back in their notebooks and compare their new predictions with their former predictions. Students should explain how their minds have change since they have observed new data.