Plagues aren't Funny

An interdisciplinary project that our 9th grade team has chosen asks students to consider how people have managed conflicts throughout history. To integrate the biology curriculum, my students will focus on plagues, viruses, and other diseases, and how people have responded to these crises. Students will be asked to create a comic book that shows how a virus develops or evolves, what their assigned disease causes/caused, and any technological developments that came about as a result of the disease, in response to the disease, or that manages the disease.

To make this assignment more interesting than just focusing on one time period, students will be assigned different plagues, pandemics, and diseases ranging from the Peloponnesian War Pestilence,The Black Death, and the Spanish Flu to polio, smallpox, measles, malaria, HIV. By getting the variety of viruses, students should see how sanitation, vaccines, and medical practices have evolved to address these issues.

Comic books seem like an ideal form for presenting their research because the virus is a ready-made "villain", and scientists, doctors, or technological developments can be the "hero". The hope of the assignment, for me, is for the students to learn more about:
  • Viruses and diseases, how they infest, how they evolve
  • Medical technological advances
  • Writing nonfiction stories
  • Conducting research
  • Tools available on the web for organizing and communicating information

Students may hand-draw their book or use online tools for creating it. "Comic Life" looks like a great program that I am hoping to have students tap into for this assignment, although there are other cartooning programs available. They will also be encouraged to use brainstorming tools, either file cards or online mindmapping tools, for organizing their research into a story line.

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