CDC NERD Academy Curriculum (for grades 6-12)
Learn how CDC NERD Academy empowers students to apply STEM concepts, make informed health decisions, and pursue public health careers.
Welcome to the CDC NERD Academy—an educational resource to teach your science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students about public health, epidemiology, and related careers!
This innovative and standards-based STEM curriculum covers eight basic concepts in public health and epidemiology, featuring a fictional, novel, emerging respiratory disease, or NERD for short. While NERD is fictional, the curriculum is based on real scientific data collected during the historic COVID-19 pandemic.
Designed as a collaboration between STEM teachers and CDC public health experts, the curriculum modules are age-appropriate and use relatable scenarios that will keep students engaged while learning about public health and its many career opportunities. It also encourages students to practice their skills in other subjects, including STEM, liberal arts, and the humanities.
The CDC NERD Academy curriculum includes detailed English and Spanish language STEM lesson plans with student activities and handouts, animated educational videos for students, activity demonstration videos for teachers, and career spotlights.
This curriculum can empower students to make informed public health decisions for themselves and their communities and to see themselves in public health careers!
Learn how CDC NERD Academy modules are aligned with STEM concepts, key problem-based skills, Epidemiology and Public Health Science Core Competencies, the National Health Education Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards. This information can also be found on the first page of each lesson plan.
Each module focuses on a key public health question. Students learn the scientific content necessary to answer each question through a student-facing educational video. Then, students apply their knowledge to a data-driven, NERD-focused activity provided in the STEM lesson plan. Each module includes English and Spanish language STEM lesson plans, an educational video for students, an activity demonstration video for teachers, and a career spotlight. Download modules and use them sequentially in a comprehensive series, reorder them, or use as stand-alone lessons.
Click on the buttons below to access a complete module or collective components including the curriculum glossary (in English and Spanish), public health career spotlight videos and posters, and a YouTube playlist
What exactly is a pandemic?
How does disease spread?
Who is at risk?
Where do public health data come from?
How are public health data visualized?
Why do laboratory testing?
Why is contact tracing so important?
How is an outbreak investigated?
The curriculum glossary is available in English and Spanish languages as a compilation of public health vocabulary used in all modules. It also includes vocabulary for additional student comprehension.
Public Health Career Spotlights: Videos & Posters
This YouTube playlist includes an overview of the CDC NERD Academy curriculum, followed by teacher demonstrations and student educational videos for each of the eight modules designed to teach basic epidemiology and public health concepts.
The CDC NERD Academy curriculum was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Science Ambassador Fellowship (SAF) program with input from STEM teachers and public health experts. Support for the curriculum is made possible through a partnership between the CDC Foundation and CDC, using funding provided to CDC Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. SAF is located in CDC’s Public Health Infrastructure Center, Division of Workforce Development, Epidemiology and Laboratory Workforce Branch. Videos for the curriculum were developed and produced by Osmosis.
NERD (Novel Emerging Respiratory Disease) is a fictional disease created for this curriculum. NERD etiology, data, events, and information presented in the CDC NERD Academy curriculum are loosely based on the understanding of COVID-19 prior to a vaccine becoming available. Some details have been generalized for educational purposes.
The CDC NERD Academy curriculum is in the public domain and may be used without restriction. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated (see Citation below). Links to nonfederal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations nor their programs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content contained on these sites. Web site links listed were current as of the date of publication. Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The findings and conclusions in the NERD Academy curriculum are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of CDC.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC Science Ambassador Fellowship—CDC NERD Academy, Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2022. Available at: www.cdc.gov/scienceambassador/nerdacademy.