Updated: May 9, 2020
What's going on everyone?
I did it! I finally made a lesson that Science teachers can use in their classrooms. Since I published Hey Listen Games, I've been building a catalogue of Social Studies, ELA, and Socioemotional lesson plans. However, creating lessons for Science and Math teachers has proven to be more challenging because I have not taught either subject. I also feel there are less Math/Sci content relevant video games available that would be worth using in our classrooms. A previous colleague of mine mentioned that the video game Pandemic II, based on the board game Pandemic, could be a great way to teach about vaccines and the spread of diseases. You can find the lesson plan for Pandemic II here.
Pandemic II is an online game where your goal is to create a disease that kills as many people as possible. You choose between a Virus, Bacteria, or Parasite and do your best to make sure the disease spreads as far and wide as it can. You want to create a pandemic. This game will get students thinking about different types of diseases, various symptoms of diseases, how diseases can spread, and how we can go about stopping the spread of the diseases. It allows students to interact with possible consequences if communities are not properly vaccinated, or prepare to fend off a pandemic.
Pandemic II starts with your selected disease appearing in a single country. From there, it is your goal to kill as many people as possible by spreading your disease across the world. This isn't the easiest process. On my first play-through my disease began in Madagascar, an island. I managed to kill every person in Madagascar, but I wasn't able to successfully spread the disease to other countries. I got lucky my second time around by starting in the United States. This made it very easy to spread to the rest of the Americas. Another aspect to take into account is how many people travel to, or through, the infected countries. The United States has many shipyards and airports which helped bring my disease to the continents across the Atlantic. The game will get students thinking about how the spread of diseases can be amplified by human made factors.
Beyond human made factors, the game will also get students thinking about natural causes that can lead to epidemics and pandemics. The game provides you with an evolution chart where you can "buy" different symptoms, transmission methods, and different types of resistance. If your disease begins in Northern Africa, it makes sense to make your disease more heat resistant. There is also probably less water in Northern Africa so it would be wise to choose transmission methods like insects, rodents, or airborne. There is also a news-ticker on the main screen informing you about weather, climate, and natural disasters. If you see there is flooding somewhere, then it is time to make your disease transmit through water. You also need to think about your disease's symptoms. Choosing symptoms like sweating, or vomiting, may help spread your disease, but it also makes your disease more noticeable. The more noticeable your disease is, the faster a cure/vaccine will be made to prevent it from spreading any further. That's usually a good thing, but remember in this game; we are the villains. We want to make sure that we can kill the entire human population before a vaccine can be generated and distributed.
Vaccines and the anti-vax movement are becoming a major concern in many parts of the United States/world. Despite extensive research and clear evidence that vaccines are not only effective, but necessary; many people still refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) “Diseases that used to be common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, rotavirus and Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) can now be prevented by vaccination. Thanks to a vaccine, one of the most terrible diseases in history – smallpox – no longer exists outside the laboratory. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives.” If enough people begin refusing to take vaccines, more people will get sick and a pandemic becomes a possibility.
A lot of my students don't have a full grasp on the importance and effectiveness of vaccines. Many of them emigrated to the United States and were traumatized when my school gave them 4 or 5 shots on arrival. We are in a period of human history where most diseases that would lead to a pandemic are gone because of the effectiveness of vaccines. Generational memory loss is a real thing and we need to make sure that the need for vaccines isn't lost on future generations. Pandemic II is a wonderful and free game that our students can play to help them initiate these conversations.
Please let me know if any of you have feedback for this lesson because it is the first Science lesson I have made available!
Thanks for reading,