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What exactly is a pandemic?

Lesson Plan
CDC NERD pandemic map of globe graphic.

In module 1, students study public health and how public health workers protect and improve the health of communities. They analyze characteristics of specific disease events to determine the level of disease occurrence (e.g., endemic, outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic). Students track disease progression over time and learn what it takes to pursue a public health career as an epidemiologist.

Educational Video for Students

This video will help students answer the question “What exactly is a pandemic?”

During this video, students will learn how epidemiologists, also known as disease detectives, classify levels of disease occurrence as endemic, or as a cluster, outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic by using number of cases, location, and time. They will also learn how health is defined and about the people involved in keeping us healthy as individuals and as whole communities.

Activity Demonstration for Teachers

In this activity, student groups analyze data from health-related events to determine levels of disease occurrence. Then, they track NERD cases to justify when to declare a pandemic.

This video illustrates how to teach this activity in a classroom setting. It demonstrates how teachers can prepare handouts and arrange classrooms for student learning and engagement.

Public Health Career Spotlight: Epidemiologist

An epidemiologist, also known as a disease detective, investigates the causes of diseases, how diseases are spread, and how diseases can be prevented or controlled.

Download this poster and display in the classroom for reference and discussion during student activities.

male epidemiologist standing with hand on hips.

DOWNLOADABLE Poster pdf icon[297 KB, 1 Page, 508]

See the collection of public health career spotlights from all modules in this curriculum.

To learn more about public health STEM careers, visit See Yourself in a Public Health Career (