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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 spread, and how they can be prevented or controlled.

  • Watch the videos below to bring a real CDC epidemiologist into your classroom. Share the links with students and encourage them to watch with family and share with friends.
  • Download the poster below and display it in the classroom for reference and discussion when you talk about a career as an epidemiologist.

Hear from Wade, a real CDC epidemiologist, as he describes what he does, what he studied in school, and the skills he uses in his daily work.

Hear from Wade, a real CDC epidemiologist, as he describes his career path and how he works with other STEM professionals to help people stay healthy.

Learn what it takes to be an epidemiologist.

To learn about the other careers featured in NERD Academy, visit the collection of public health career spotlights.

To learn more about public health STEM careers at CDC, encourage students to visit See Yourself in a Public Health Career.