Pandemic & Epidemic Lesson Plan

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Need a lesson plan on diseases? This lesson plan familiarizes students with past and present pandemics and epidemics through a video and a text lesson. Students will then participate in a fun, engaging activity that demonstrates disease transmission as well as a vocabulary challenge.

Lesson Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between an epidemic and a pandemic
  • Describe several epidemics and pandemics, including how many people were impacted, what caused the disease and when it occurred
  • Describe what it takes for a disease to be considered a pandemic
  • Describe some factors that might make an epidemic a pandemic


  • 2 class periods (approximately 120 minutes total)

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).


Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.


  • paper cups (two for each student)
  • water
  • Drano
  • phenolphthalein (talk to the chemistry teacher) with dropper
  • paper for notes
  • Copies of the Epidemics quiz, one for each student
  • Copies of the Pandemics quiz, one for each student
  • Copies of the text lesson Pandemics: Definition, History & Examples, one for each student
  • Notecards with vocabulary terms and/or epidemics listed (see vocabulary section), enough so that each student will receive one (using the same word more than once is fine)


  • Black Death
  • Cholera
  • disease activity
  • Ebola
  • epidemic
  • global
  • HIV
  • Influenza
  • mortality
  • pandemic
  • SARS
  • virulence
  • Yellow fever


Day 1

  • Before students arrive, fill all but one of the cups 1/2 full of water. Fill the last cup 1/2 full of water and add several drops of Drano. Make sure you keep track of that cup.
  • When students arrive, ask them what they know about the words 'epidemic' and 'pandemic'. Make a running list of what students know about each term on the board (write down correct and incorrect responses). Next tell students they are going to learn all about epidemics and pandemics.
  • Begin the video lesson What is an Epidemic? - Definition & Examples
  • Stop at 0:53 and go over the terms epidemic and pandemic.
  • Place students into groups of 4 - 5 and tell them each group is a continent. BEFORE passing out the cups, tell students to avoid splashing or drinking out of the cups because one contains a few drops of Drano. Now pass out the cups, remembering which person has the 'infected' cup.
  • Instruct students that one person is the class is infected with a disease. Within their continents, students are going to swap fluids with three people. They need to do this by pouring all of their cup's contents into their partner's cup. Next, they will pour 1/2 of the fluid back into their cup. Emphasize to the students the importance of writing down and keeping track of the order and with whom they swapped fluids.
  • Place a couple of drops of phenolphthalein in each cup. Those that have been infected will notice the water turns pink. Phenolphthalein turns pink in the presence of a base (Drano).
  • Discuss the following:
    • Was this an epidemic? Did it become a pandemic?
    • Can they trace who was originally infected? How?
    • What factors do you think can make an epidemic a pandemic?
    • How have these factors changed over time (think travel)?
  • Now, have students make three columns on their note sheet - one labeled 'Ebola', one labeled 'SARS' and one labeled 'Yellow fever'. As the video plays, pause it at the following points so students can fill in their columns with the following:
    • What caused the disease (virus or bacteria)
    • Where the disease originated
    • When it occurred (dates)
    • How it is transmitted
    • How many people were impacted by the disease and was it a pandemic?
  • Here are the stopping points for each epidemic:
    • Ebola 1:41
    • SARS 2:19
    • Yellow fever 3:05
  • Finish the video and take a moment to review each epidemic highlighted in the video so students can beef up their notes.
  • Finally, work with students to edit the list on the board that was started at the beginning of the class.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account