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CDC NERD Academy Curriculum Overview and FAQs

This page provides a curriculum overview and frequently asked questions (FAQs) that can be easily shared with STEM organizations, leaders, and educators. Please share the link to this web page to help increase awareness and highlight the value of the CDC NERD Academy curriculum.

A public health STEM curriculum (grades 6–12)
Novel Emerging Respiratory Disease

Although NERD is fictional, the science is not. This timely and relevant curriculum, available in English and Spanish, is built upon data collected by the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is presented in age-appropriate, relatable scenarios.

CDC NERD Academy is an innovative educational resource to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students about public health, epidemiology, and related careers. It features English and select content in Spanish:

  • Educational videos that cover basic concepts in public health and epidemiology
  • Scenario-based STEM activities centered around a novel emerging respiratory disease (NERD)
  • Public health career spotlights
Modules can help students answer key public health questions:

Each module has:

  • STEM lesson plans* (for teachers)
  • Educational video (for students)
  • Activity demo video (for teachers)
  • Career spotlight poster* and videos
  • Glossary*

*available in Spanish

  1. What exactly is a pandemic?
  2. How does disease spread?
  3. Who is at risk?
  4. Where do public health data come from?
  5. How are public health data visualized?
  6. Why do laboratory testing?
  7. Why is contact tracing so important?
  8. How is an outbreak investigated?

This curriculum can empower students to:

  • Make informed public health decisions
  • See themselves in public health careers

Frequently Asked Questions

NERD (novel emerging respiratory disease) is a fictional disease created for this curriculum. NERD etiology, data, events, and information presented 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 was designed by STEM teachers and CDC public health experts. It is made possible through a partnership between the CDC Science Ambassador Fellowship program and the CDC Foundation.

Educators working within any of the related disciplines may use this curriculum with English- and native Spanish-speaking students. On the first page of each STEM lesson plan, STEM connections are listed to indicate the related disciplines covered such as science, engineering, math, chemistry, English language arts, and social studies to name a few.

The curriculum was designed for all teachers, including those who are new to public health and those who have experience teaching public health concepts. The STEM lesson plan equips teachers with all that they need, including student handouts and detailed answer keys, for teaching the lesson. The student-facing educational videos present all the subject matter content needed to answer the key public health questions and complete the activities. Students do not need any former knowledge of foundational public health science topics.

Each module has been carefully aligned with the National Health Education Standards and Next Generation Science Standards practices and cross-cutting educational concepts to fit into most classroom curricula. The modules use real-world examples that build upon student curiosity while teaching them foundational science and math skills. If teachers do not have enough room to teach all eight topics, they can choose any of the standalone modules to complement existing curriculum.

Teachers can download modules and use them sequentially in a comprehensive series, reorder them, or use modules as standalone lessons. Teachers may use Spanish-language lesson plans, posters, and glossary to aid in student comprehension for those who are learning English and Spanish is their first language. 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 lesson plan (available in English and Spanish) has an overview, learning objectives, key vocabulary with definitions, alignment with national standards including the National Health Education Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, detailed activity instructions, discussion prompts, extension ideas, student handouts with answer keys, a career spotlight, and more.