The Epidemic

I saw some teaching that was worthy of note today. I work in an Environmental Science class, and currently they are studying populations. They did a lab today to study the way an epidemic spreads.

This is the way it worked. Everybody had a test tube with what looked like water in it, but one of the test tubes had been “infected.” Then the students wandered around the room exchanging droppers full of water with one another.  They also kept track of the students with whom they had contact and the order in which that contact happened.

After about ten minutes, the teacher called an end to the trading and treated each test tube with an agent which turned the infected tubes pink. Eighty-nine percent of us were infected! The task then was to trace down the source of the infection. We started with the two who were not infected and their lists of contacts. Soon, the class had the source isolated.

This teacher does a good job with hands-on activities to help the kids learn. I think they have the idea of density dependent down now.  Some of the infected students had no direct contact with the source of the infection. Since the simulated epidemic was AIDS, one boy said that he learned it was important to be monogamous. His teacher pointed out that with AIDS in particular, it might be better to be abstinent.

Hands-on activities sometimes help kids with a concept the way no amount of bookwork will. I know this teacher was glad to see that her lesson got through. I am sure it is a lesson that the kids won’t soon forget.

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