Thursday, October 2, 2014

Collaborative Science/Geography Project on Viruses and Ebola

Today Mr. Gacek's sixth grade Geography class came upstairs to visit Mr. Campbell's seventh and eighth grade Science Class. The seventh and eighth graders recently finished working on a case study related to Ebola. Today they taught what they had learned from the study to the sixth graders.

The seventh and eighth graders began by teaching the students about viruses: what they are, what they are made from, and how they replicate. The older students then showed the younger students how to build a model of a virus, in this case a bacteriophage. Together the students built a virus model out of pipe cleaners.

The students then all watched a short video about the nature of viruses. Viruses exist all around us every day. Our immune systems have evolved to be very adept at warding off viruses. The video humorously showed in animated fashion how a virus can spread via sneeze from one person to another. You can watch the video courtesy of NPR here.

Mr. Campbell then introduced Ebola, a virus which has created a recent epidemic in West Africa. Seventh and eighth graders worked on a case study related to an earlier outbreak of Ebola, this one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The older students then explained to their younger group members how they gathered evidence related to the case and hypothesized about how Ebola was spread. Most of the groups hypothesized that it was fruit bats which spread the virus. Fruit bats were the host species. People living in the DRC could have contracted the virus from handling or eating the bats, or they could have contracted it from eating animals which themselves had eaten the fruit bats. The hypothesis formulated by the students was that Ebola could have traveled from Central Africa to West Africa via the bats.

For the final activity, Mr. Campbell gave each group a scenario card. Each scenario presented a complication related to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Students had to apply their understanding of Ebola, viruses, and general science to the problem and formulate a solution.

Mr. Gacek and all the sixth graders would like to thank Mr. Campbell and all the seventh and eighth graders for being phenomenal teachers. We learned an extensive amount in a short period of time. It was an excellent experience for us all!

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