Archived Educational Activities
The educational activities listed in this section were developed from 2003-2013 as a collaboration between K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teachers and CDC subject Matter Experts (SME) as part of the CDC Science Ambassador Workshop and have been archived on this page for continued educational use. Before use, please check the related CDC website page to ensure that scientific content provided is still accurate.
|Public Health Topic Area
(Click on a topic to access individual activities.)
|Birth Defects and Developmental Disorders||2|
|Chronic Disease – Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity||4|
|Chronic Disease – Diabetes||5|
|Chronic Disease – Neurological Disorders||6|
|HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis||7|
|Infectious Disease – Other||8|
|Infectious Disease – Waterborne||8|
|Infectious Disease – Zoonotics Disease||9|
Birth Defects and Developmental Disorders
Congenital heart defects are one of the most prevalent types of birth defect and the largest contributor to infant mortality in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998). In this lesson students will A) learn heart anatomy by doing an on-line investigation, B) dissect a sheep heart and learn about congenital heart defects, and C) perform “cardiac surgery” to correct a septal defect on a sheep heart. The target age group for this lesson plan is students in the 11th or 12th grade.
In this lesson students will be presented with a problem – a cluster of unexplained neural tube birth defects are occurring in a town. Students will take on different roles (physician, parent, epidemiologist, lab technician, etc.) to investigate possible causes of the increased occurrence of birth defects, and then use the evidence gathered to propose the most probable cause. The focus of the lesson is to better understand the process of investigating a scientific problem and the many risk factors associated with birth defects.
This lesson introduces students to one consequence of alcohol abuse, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Students will also investigate alcohol advertisements and determine the impact these advertisements have on their behavior. Finally, the students will use what they have learned about advertising to develop new advertisements aimed at preventing FAS.
This presentation will talk about a very important topic – health. How can we improve the health of the public? We will talk about some examples of improvements, discuss how we figure out ways to improve health, and learn about prevention and intervention – the ways that we improve health. We’ll also learn about four tools for improving public health – health communication, policy development, providing services, and engineered solutions.
In this lesson students learn about the importance of folic acid in birth defects prevention. Students apply the information they gain through this lesson to design a public awareness campaign. They then present their designs to the class.
Students will research the different stages of human embryo development. Next, the teacher will give a PowerPoint presentation about a category of birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs) and the relationship between NTDs and embryo development. Students then work in groups to research other birth defects and create and present a PowerPoint presentation to the class.
Students will analyze and describe graphs relating to early childhood development programs and use this analysis to formulate conclusions and inferences based on the data. Students will investigate risk factors for early childhood development and use this information to prepare a calendar of activities to enhance early development.
This lesson may be used to introduce the concept of autism spectrum disorders in middle school and introductory high school biology or life science classes. It will allow students to explore brain structure and function, investigate emerging research, and write a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifying new research they think is needed in the area of autism. To complete these activities, the students should be familiar with basic biology and the scientific method.
Students will use resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and compare expected child development to development that might indicate a diagnosis of ASDs. A final project will be the preparation of posters showing the signs of ASDs. These posters will be displayed in a community library, clinic or other public building.
In this lesson, students will learn about a topic that has been in the news a lot recently—autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). During the course of this lesson, they will evaluate information on several websites about ASDs and then make an informed decision about the truth of what they have read.
This lesson is designed for use in a 9th- or 10th-grade biology class to introduce students to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The lesson gives a basic overview of ASDs through literature, lecture, and group discussion. It concludes with a creative-writing activity where students demonstrate what they have learned about ASDs.
Students develop an understanding of autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) by being exposed to and making observations about items that create sensory extremes. Using an inquiry-based discussion, students discover the wide range of defining characteristics of ASDs. Then, students create posters about developmental characteristics that might occur in children with developmental disorders.
After being introduced to the idea that individuals can be tested to see if they are carriers for the genetic disease, cystic fibrosis, students engage in a simulated testing for carrier status and then discuss all of the bioethical implications of such information.
Students will play the role of medical residents and collaborate to create a medical chart for a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Each group will perform guided Internet research to learn about DMD and participate in a simulated case study review session.
This lesson focuses on empathy. Students in the classroom will be exposed to what it feels like to have muscular dystrophy through a modeling activity. They can then gain knowledge about the symptoms, prognosis, and treatment of muscular dystrophy through teacher presentation as well as Internet research.
Pedigrees showing heredity and family traits of sex-linked chromosomal disorders will be discussed to understand how these disorders are inherited. Based on this information, students will create projects on the different types of muscular dystrophy.
This lesson is for a senior level biology course and emphasizes the relationship between DNA sequences, mutations in DNA and the change in the resulting protein structure and function. Hemophilia A will be used as a real life example of how a mutation in DNA results in a change in a protein’s structure and resulting ability to function. In order to complete these activities, the students should have prior knowledge in DNA structure and mutations, protein synthesis, Mendelian genetics and sex-linked traits.
This lesson is for a standard level high school biology course and is meant to review and strengthen the concepts of neuron physiology and neurotransmission, and connect these concepts to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In order to complete these activities students should have prior knowledge of nervous system terminology and function.
This lesson is designed to be a supplemental activity for brain anatomy for a mid-level high school biology class. It allows students to apply their knowledge of the brain in understanding how neurochemical imbalances are thought to affect behavior and how different medications are used to treat the symptoms of ADHD. At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to discuss differences in brain anatomy and resulting behavior among youth with ADHD, and the different treatment options available for individuals with ADHD.
Chronic Disease – Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
This interactive lesson is for high school students and helps students to understand obesity and identify risk factors associated with obesity. Students will study risk factors for obesity and explore the effects of obesity on the human body. Finally, each student will determine their own obesity level and create an obesity prevention plan for teens. Obesity is a sensitive subject, and all precautions should be taken to ensure that student privacy is respected and information is kept confidential. This lesson should be introduced after students have had a unit about human body systems, or this lesson can also be incorporated into such a unit.
This lesson is for high school students and can be used as part of a unit about nutrition. It will help students understand the critical role that certain nutrients play in human health. Students will work in groups to analyze sample diets, each of which has too much or not enough of a particular nutrient. Additionally, students will analyze the prevalence of specific nutrition-related behaviors among youth in the United States. They will summarize their research and present their findings to the class through a skit.
This lesson is for an upper-level middle school biology class or an introductory high school biology class. Students will analyze food intake and physical activity and explore the relationship between the two. Students will also discover ways to improve diet and increase physical activity. Students will share this information with their peers in the form of posters that will point out simple steps to become healthier.
Students will use current obesity research to choose a new school nutritional policy with the goal of improving student health. Once a policy has been chosen, the students will “go on an adventure” and investigate the outcome of the policy’s implementation. A hyperlinked PowerPoint tool will enable students to discover the consequences, both intended and unintended, of different policy options. The students’ policy choices will then be evaluated based on policy processes and outcomes.
This lesson is designed for an introductory-level biology course or a food science course. The focus of the lesson is the relationship between micronutrients and the proper metabolic function of plants and humans. This lesson could also be taught as an introductory lesson in biochemistry, nutrition, botany, or ecology. Micronutrients specific to plants and to human metabolic function will be explored through research, observation, and discussion.
This lesson is designed for a high school biology, food science, or anatomy class and emphasizes the real-world applications of human nutrition. Student groups will play the part of aid organizations competing for funds to assist a fictitious village that has experienced a natural disaster and is now in a food crisis. They will research various aspects of micronutrient deficiencies and the logistics involved in delivering emergency rations to a village in crisis. They will then work in groups to develop and present an intervention plan. To complete these activities, students should have prior knowledge of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and how they help the body to function.
Chronic Disease – Diabetes
This lesson is for a general biology or anatomy and physiology class. The lesson emphasizes the importance of glucose homeostasis in the body, and the effects of type 1 and 2 diabetes on glucose homeostasis by using a classroom enactment of glucose regulation in the body.
This lesson can be included in a unit about nutrition and health for middle school students. Students will learn about the amount of sugars and fats in typical foods they consume. They will use food labels and various measuring instruments to determine the amount of sugar and fat in serving sizes. This activity gives students a hands-on opportunity to explore food composition in the forms of sugars and fats. At the end of the lesson, students will begin to explore the association between food choices and health outcomes like obesity and diabetes.
This lesson is designed to be part of a unit about how the body works. Students will learn about diabetes and glucose metabolism through skits and class discussion. They will assume the role of doctor and develop scripts to explain diabetes to patients and construct models of glucose metabolism to demonstrate how diabetes works. This lesson also serves as an opportunity to educate students about an important public health concern—the worldwide epidemic of diabetes.
Students examine a case study of a woman with a family history of type 2 diabetes and create a “family health portrait” that will assess her risk of developing diabetes. Using the family health portrait to record the woman’s family history, students identify her genetic, behavioral, and environmental risk factors for type 2 diabetes and make recommendations for lifestyle changes.
Chronic Disease – Neurological Disorders
This lesson is for a standard-level high school biology course and is meant to review and strengthen the concepts of brain anatomy and memory and link these concepts to Alzheimer’s disease. To complete the activities in this lesson, students should have prior knowledge of nervous system terminology and function.
This lesson is designed for the high school biology classroom and fits into the broader study of populations and disease demographics. The lesson teaches students about the symptoms, risk factors, and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.
This lesson is designed for a high school physical science, environmental science, or biology class to explore hazardous materials found at the local, state, and national level. Students will become familiar with federal agencies responsible for the cleanup of hazardous substances and related health issues associated with these substances.
Middle school students will design and construct a two-sided placemat looking at both the physical and chemical properties of lead and the adverse effects of lead on humans. The completed laminated placemat will provide information and an opportunity to incorporate interactive activities.
This lesson is for a high school environmental science or introductory chemistry class and emphasizes the leaching of inorganic lead [Pb+2] compounds as found in association with historic building sites. Students will collect soil, water, and paint chip samples from their homes and use a qualitative precipitate laboratory to locate geographic lead hot spots, correlated with the historic construction of building episodes in their community. Associated with this lesson will be the construction of a word wall detailing the physiological effects of prolonged exposure to inorganic lead, culminating in a writing assignment outlining a fictional case study of a child afflicted with lead poisoning.
Students research a variety of chromosomal abnormalities and resulting syndromes to determine risk factors for and contributors to the abnormalities, and characteristics of the syndrome. Students use the Internet, especially resources from the National Center on Biotechnology Information, to do research and create a PowerPoint presentation.
This lesson plan will enable students to learn karyotyping as part of cytogenetics and all the information that can be supplied by karyotyping.
Students will address the bioethics of genetic screening though lecture and three learning modules. The three learning modules will investigate the incidence of a gene related to breast cancer within a family and different issues the family could face.
Individual student research will be pooled to create one class PowerPoint presentation entitled, “The Human Genome: 23 Chromosomes in 23 Chapters”. Each student will choose a different chromosome on which to research one gene associated with a particular condition or disorder.
HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis
This lesson plan is designed for middle school biology or life science classes and introduces human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and (acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) as a public health problem, including its modes of transmission, treatment, and prevention. Students should have covered lessons in human anatomy and physiology — specifically, organ systems, blood circulation, and immunity as a prerequisite for this lesson. Material in this plan can also be used to supplement teaching of such human biology topics.
This lesson is designed for 5th and 6th grade students as a scientific introduction to HIV/AIDS. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic and age of the audience, emphasis has been placed on the communicability of viruses, the distinction between a virus and a disease, and correction of misinformation associated with HIV/AIDS. This lesson plan is activity driven with quick checks for understanding throughout and a final product-based assessment.
This lesson is designed for a 10th grade biology course. The lesson uses scientific research information to correct misconceptions, answer learning guides, and present posters on topics associated with HIV/AIDS. A review activity will then allow students to work together to summarize key points about HIV/AIDS, while simulating the contagiousness of a virus throughout the class.
Infectious Disease – Other
This lesson engages high school students in a demonstration of how germs are transmitted from person-to-person and involves them in an inquiry-based activity and webquest. Using these tools, they will determine the abundance and types of microbes that are found around them.
Infectious Disease – Waterborne
Natural disasters affect human population on multiple levels. They can cause immediate death, injury, destruction of property and infrastructure, and disruption of services and mechanisms that protect persons from illness. This lesson plan specifically addresses the implications of a natural disaster and its effects on water quality and a community’s health. Students will learn methods used during an emergency response to test and treat water that has been contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms. Water treatment options introduced can vary depending on the location and type of emergency involved, but have the same goal to reduce human illness and death. After completing this lesson, students will have an improved understanding of which organizations are involved in emergency response and why safe drinking water is a substantial heath concern after a natural disaster.
Students will learn about the scientific method and the characteristics of life by assuming the role of epidemiologists. The scenario that they will investigate is that many individuals in the school have recently become ill with gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and headache).
In this activity, students will determine the agent and the source of the agent causing a hypothetical outbreak of diarrheal illness. The activity is modeled after the 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidium infections that involved a public water system in Milwaukee. It provides opportunities for students to use analytical thinking skills to determine the cause of the outbreak. This activity is targeted for high school students. It can be used as an introduction to epidemiology using internet and printed resources learn terminology and basic principles. It can also be used as a wrap up activity after having learned some epidemiology in the classroom.
Infectious Disease – Zoonotics Disease
In this lesson, students will research one aspect of either hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) or lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV). Students will use what they learn during their research to produce a public service announcement in the form of a brochure, poster, radio announcement or television commercial. This lesson is for use after students have covered the basics of viruses, viral infection, and immunology. Students should know what a virus is, the basic methods of transmission, and how the human immune system reacts to infection by a virus. This lesson is suitable for students in grades 6–10 and could be used in a science, health, or health science technology course.
This lesson is for a high school introductory biology class. Students will take part in a scientific investigation of a 1993 hantavirus outbreak and learn how to prevent hantavirus infection.
This lesson is designed for high school students in grades 9–12 in a biology or health class. In this lesson, students will explore the impact of rabies at both the local and global level. Students will understand the epidemiology of rabies, including how to prevent and treat the disease. Students will also learn the problem-solving skills required related to controlling disease transmission by following protocol. The lesson will conclude with the students creating educational materials to raise awareness about rabies and distribute within the school and community.
This lesson is designed for a middle school science course. West Nile virus is an infectious disease in the U.S. Although most people infected with the virus are asymptomatic, West Nile disease can be serious, particularly among older people. In this lesson, students will assume the role of entomologists in a case study to investigate increased mosquito activity and the possibility of West Nile virus transmission in the fictional community of Anywhereville. Students will then present the community with ways to prevent West Nile virus infection by creating a West Nile prevention poster.
This lesson is designed for a junior or senior level high school biology course and emphasizes the history of the West Nile virus (WNV) event in the U.S. This lesson highlights the issues associated with disease spread and prevention. Students will work to develop a prevention plan for an American Indian reservation that is experiencing a new occurrence of West Nile virus infection, while taking into consideration the cultural and environmental implications relevant to this population. To successfully complete these activities, the students should have some knowledge of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and gel electrophoresis.
This lesson is designed for 6th-8th grade students to explore the health benefits and risks involved in pet ownership and interaction. Zoonoses will be introduced, and students will examine the safety of their interactions with household pets.
This lesson is designed for 6th–8th grade life science students and focuses on the transmission of diseases between animals and humans. Ringworm and roundworm will be used as examples of zoonoses (infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans by animals). Students will be assigned specific roles within a group and complete research to identify the organism causing disease, how the disease presents in humans, treatment, and presentation strategies. Through an interview style presentation, students will communicate what they have learned with the class. This lesson integrates science research and uses language arts, drama, and art to apply research to a real life situation.
In this lesson, students examine issues surrounding the use of cochlear implants as an intervention for infant hearing loss. They will represent the perspective of advocates, parents, audiologists, and physicians in a group discussion about a parent’s choice to have his or her child receive a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a surgically placed electronic device designed to stimulate hearing in children and adults who have severe to profound hearing loss and can derive little or no benefit from hearing aids. Through research and discussion, students will explore the social, medical, and psychological impacts of infant hearing loss and cochlear implant use
This lesson serves as an extension of a unit on waves that links the science of sound to the way that we hear. This lesson also investigates the role of hearing loss prevention as a way to improve public health. Students will wear earplugs while taking notes on vocabulary words, and then take a short vocabulary quiz as an exercise designed to show students what it might be like to have hearing loss. Next, students will generate a model of the process of hearing, and then complete a short group presentation on one of several hearing-related topics. This lesson is designed to be embedded within a unit on waves. This lesson should be introduced after students have an appropriate amount of background knowledge about waves.
Students learn about the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (EHDI) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), build a simple ear model, and use the ear model to observe how otoacoustic emission (OAE) screening can detect some types of hearing loss. This lesson would be a good addition to a unit on how the ear works.
This lesson is designed for a high school biology class. It will help to introduce the importance of vision health to students. Students will investigate how it feels to be visually impaired, understand different types of visual impairment, and learn how to treat and prevent visual impairments. It is expected that students already have an understanding of eye anatomy and physiology.
This lesson is designed for a high school biology, anatomy, or health class to explore the importance of sun safety in relationship to skin cancer prevention. Students will begin with an inquiry based lab regarding sunscreen effectiveness. After analyzing the relationship between lab results and common student practices regarding sun screen use, students will administer and analyze a simple survey to their peers. This lesson will culminate with students developing and implementing a public service campaign designed to increase student use of sunscreen and sun safety awareness. In order for these activities to be most effective, the students should have prior knowledge of skin cancer.
This lesson has been developed for a general biology class to look at skin cancer risk factors and ways to reduce those risk factors. The use of tanning beds will be surveyed. Based on this information, as well as information drawn from existing materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, students will compose public service announcements (PSAs) highlighting the links between artificial UV exposure and skin cancer.
This lesson is designed for a middle or high school biology class. Students are presented with scenarios in which choices about sexual health must be made. The lesson is designed to give students some practice in making choices that will influence their future sexual health. In doing so, it is hoped students will gain knowledge about the consequences of their choices and be empowered to make the healthiest choice possible.
This lesson is designed for a high school biology or health class to learn about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), understand and evaluate the risks of STIs among teenagers, and discuss the leading strategies to prevent STIs. The culminating activity for this lesson is the creation of informative posters or brochures aimed at the prevention and treatment of STIs in the local community
This lesson plan gives middle-school students the opportunity to examine dating violence data, provide them with a chance to challenge preconceived notions, develop analytical skills using the data and then, it is hoped that students are able to gain positive attitudes about forming their own positive dating relationships in the future. Students will need to be familiar with the scientific method and be able to identify the components of line and bar graphs prior to taking part in this lesson. This lesson discusses a sensitive topic.
This lesson is designed as a real-life application of the scientific method. It is appropriate for any high school science class. Students should have prior knowledge of the basics of the scientific method before beginning this lesson. Students will use their knowledge of the scientific method to analyze and evaluate data about teen dating violence. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be asked to draw conclusions from the scientific process that could guide behavioral modifications to prevent teen dating violence. The authors recognize the sensitivity of the sample data discussed in this lesson. Teen dating violence and the behaviors that could lead to violence might be too sensitive for some younger students. School policies should be reviewed before using this lesson. Students need to be familiar with basic scientific investigation before proceeding.
Teens are more likely to die in a car crash than from any other cause. In order to best understand good driving skills, students should be introduced to the principles of good driving at both middle and high school levels. This lesson plan is arranged to spiral from introductions to reinforcment. It is recommended that teachers choose one or two activities as well as one or two minilabs.
This lesson is geared toward high school students. Students will generate a list of behaviors that may distract drivers. Students will be given simple tasks to perform with and without distractions to simulate driving;the ability to focus on one task while distracted by something else will be measured. Students will investigate leading causes of death among teenage children using WISQARS™. This data will open students’ eyes to the impact motor vehicle accidents have on the teen population. Students will create banners and slogans encouraging safe driving and raise awareness of the problem. Students will be able to make connections between motor vehicle injury data, brain development, and mortality rates. These lessons include basic math and graphing, computer simulations, teacher lectures, and activities.
This lesson is designed for a high school biology course addressing science in personal and social perspectives by investigating the factors that impact teen driving. Students will be introduced to survey development and design by generating a survey to assess the specific risks impacting teen driving. Students will also be introduced to national teen driving data and asked to develop awareness materials to influence positive teen driving behavior. Teachers should be aware of the sensitivity of this topic for students who have been personally affected by a motor vehicle crash (or possibly among family members or close friends).
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