Pandemics and Their Numbers

Everywhere our students are hearing about the HINI influenza. Their interest offers an opportunity to co-teach with a science teacher in an investigation of what we know and don’t know about this pandemic. The New York Times has created an interdisciplinary lesson Pandemic Panic: Researching the 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) Pandemic that asks students to inquire into the current influenza as advisers from multiple perspectives and to share factual information they learn with their classmates and school communities.

The lesson opens with students considering “what we know” and “what we want to know.” The investigation begins as student groups take on such roles as “health advisers” or “economic advisers” or “historical advisers.” “Statistics advisers” could be added, in my opinion. What do the numbers tell us? FluView from the CDC 2008-2009 Influenza Season Week 38 ending September 26, 2009, gives great graphs of several types, some with an over-abundance of information that students will have to sort, select, and make sense of for themselves and their classmates. Statistics and percentages are topics that take on real meaning here.

If the class becomes interested in other diseases that have affected the world, they could research such epidemics as yellow fever. To get them into the story, look into Yellow Fever and the Reed Commission. They could research the number of victims over time and create a timeline from when the disease first reached the present United States up to the discovery of how to control it. A google search on “number of victims from yellow fever” brings up a few good sources, such as an August 10, 1879, article from The New York Times and another from September 24, 1897. Fascinating! But students will need to find other resources as well—encyclopedias and other books, offline as well as online. 

If the information found is sufficient, they could calculate rates of change over the course of different decades. Were there times when the disease rates rose more quickly? When they did not change at all? You could explore with them the concept of the slope of a line, what it actually tells us. Your students will find that numbers tell interesting stories! 


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updated 12/07/2011.

Dynamic Math and Science Learning With Simulations

Bob Panoff, executive director of Shodor and CSERD: Computational Science Education Reference Desk is passionate about using computational science teaching methods to stimulate student engagement in learning math and science from grades K to gray!

In a recent article for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) entitled “Simulations Deepen Scientific Learning,” he explains the role of simulations in making scientific theory understandable for students. Find out about all of Shodor’s computational projects at http://shodor.org/interactivate.

As an example of how one of the simulations work, click on the following link to see how a disease spreads in a virtual population with the Disease Epidemic Model simulation: http://www.shodor.org/featured/DiseaseModel/.

 

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/05/2012.

What’s the Difference Between Viruses and Bacteria?

Many people think that germs are what make us sick but scientifically speaking, germs are microbes that can be both harmful or helpful and come in four varieties – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. We’ll leave the discussion of fungi and protozoa for another post and focus on bacteria and viruses in this one. Microbeworld says that viruses are as different from bacteria as goldfish are from giraffes. That is REALLY different! So what are the differences between the two microorganisms? With people still concerned with the H1N1 virus – knowing the differences and similarities might be really helpful!

What’s a Germ?
This page from Science NetLinks provides images of the four types of microbes and a general description of the differences between them.

Virus or Bacterium?
This site gets into more detail in regards to cell structure and reproductive differences.

What’s the Life Span of a Virus?
This podcast and background information tells the differences between the cold virus and flu virus – both life span and how they are transmitted.

Bacteria: More Than Pathogens
This article, written by molecular biologist Trudy Wassenaar, helps clear up the misconceptions associated with bacteria.

Structure Of ‘Beneficial’ Virus That Can Infect Cancer Cells Solved
There are lots of bacteria that are beneficial – not so much for viruses. Here is a Science Daily article that describes a virus that “attacks” cancer cells.


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We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/21/2011.

Tracking Nutrition and Fitness Goals

Developing sound nutritional and exercise habits early in life will help children become healthy adults. This is one of the most important life skills that we can teach our middle school students. But, just how can we help students in our science classes understand exactly what we mean when we say “take care” of their bodies?

Here’s an idea: Start out by having your classes test their knowledge about their food choices for each meal and then create a daily food record. After a short quiz on matching food products to ingredients, have students answer questions about what the nutritional values in foods mean. Next, have students calculate calories and protein in their diets and compare daily totals with the suggested minimum requirements for their age groups. This is often an eye-opening activity, even for adults!

It is possible that this exercise may open up discussion on how teens’ perception of body image can lead to eating disorders. Finally, encourage your students to keep food and exercise logs over a period of time to see their new habits become part of a healthy lifestyle.

The following resources help students keep track of their health, fitness, and nutrition goals. Some of these web sites are set up to help users research proper nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Healthy Body Calculator
A feature of the Ask the Dietitian web site, this calculator requires an individual’s age, gender, weight, height, level of activity, and hours of sleep to generate a health profile. An explanation is provided for each evaluation along with the number of calories and nutrients needed each day for good health.

Calorie Control Council
This site has a lot of basic information related to health and nutrition. In addition to articles there are several calculators with which users can measure calorie intake, body mass index, and calories used in activities. All are set up to give immediate feedback and analysis. Middle and high school health classes will find information on cutting calories and fat in the diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and determining the nutritional content of low-calorie, reduced-fat foods and beverages.

Downloadable Nutrition and Fitness Log
This log is suitable for downloading and printing for classroom or home use. It comes in several formats that students will find easy to use to monitor their exercise and food intake.

Stress-O-Meter
Most kids in middle school do not realize that their mental health needs as much nourishment as their physical health. Stressful situations can affect performance at school, relationships with others, and success in sports. Students can check their stress levels with the brief quiz called the Stress-O-Meter.

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Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal science publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.