1998 WWLPT Biology Institute:
Motion of aVirus Through a Population
Standards addressed: Science as
inquiry, authentic assesment, develop community of science learners, cross
disciplinary application possible, and quantification and articulation
with math curriculum.
Target Age or Ability Group Audience
Teacher Instructions/Special Precautions
Materials & Equipment Needs
Background [Prior Knowledge
or vocabulary necessary to complete activity]
The Student Lab
Method of Evaluation/Assessment
References including Web Addresses
Science Educational Standards
This is an inquiry based activity that simulates the movement of a virus
through a population. Students will be engaged in acting out the spread
of a virus through their classroom. The students will use critical thinking
skills to determine the source(s) of the virus and the factors that influence
the rate of transmission.
To observe how fast a virus can spread through a population
To determine how a point source can be determined
To learn the role of an indicator
To make students aware of the factors that influence the spread of a virus
through a population
Target Audience or Age Group
Middle School and High School (grades 7-12)
Notes to the Teacher: to
Safety Issue: This exercise will involve the use of a weak
base (.1 M Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) )
* the number of test tubes with sodium hydroxide may be varied.
Fill all of the test tubes one quarter full with tap water except
Fill one test tube one quarter full with a weak solution of sodium hydroxkde.
Phenolpthalein is a indicator of pH. Phenolpthalein is clear in a
basic solution and pink in an acidic solution.
Materials & Equipment
Needs to top
one test tube per student involved in the activity
one eyedropper bottle of phenolpthalein
weak concentration of Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) [.4g per 100ml of water]
Virology (study of viruses), Bacteriology (study of Bacteria)
and Epidemiology (the study of the spread of a disease through a population)
can be used to in the classroom setting to help teach students critical
thinking skills. The following is just one sample inquiry based
activity that allows students to observe first hand the spread of a virus
through a sample population. There are many possible interdisciplinary
links (psychology, health, social studies, ecology) that can be incorporated.
The Student Lab to
Purpose: To test the factors that influence the rate at which a
virus spreads through a population
1) Obtain a test tube with the special liquid (be careful not to spill)
2) Write your name on the back of the lab sheet
3) Walk around the room and introduce yourself to one person.
Write their name on the back of your lab sheet and the time that you talked
4) Exchange about half of your "special" fluids with the person you
talked with. Also, receive some of their fluid.
5) As time permits. Walk around the room and talk to other people.
Also, record the their names, time of contact, and exchange some fluids.
How will the number of people you have contact with effect your chance
of becoming infected ?
6) At the end of the time period have a seat and receive a special
material "Phenolpthalein" from the teacher.
1) How many people did you exchange fluids with ?
2) What is the color of your fluid at the beginning of the experimental
3) What is the color of your fluid at the end of the experimental
4) How many people were involved in the activity ?
5) Did you end up infected ?
6) How many people in the class ended up infected ?
7) What percent of the class was infected ?
8) What percent of the class was not infected at the end of this
Conclusion: (answer you inquiry question)
What did the liquid in your test tube represent ?
Could you tell by looking at the liquid if it was infected ? Explain
What did the phenolpthalein represent in this activity ? Explain
What factors could influence how fast a virus spreads through a group of
people (population) ?
Can you think of any way to test these factors ?
Methods of Evaluation/Assessment
Formal laboratory report
Class extension projects
Ideas to top
Outside readings on various disease ( Hepatis
B, Hantavirus, Anthrax,
Lassa Fever, Diptheria
Student design of this laboratory exercise with their own variation to
Governmental Policies relating to Health Issues
Water Treatment Policies of Local Communities
Reading of Various fiction and nonfiction Books (The Hot Zone by R. Preston,
The Coming Plague by R Preston, Virus Hunters by C.J. Peters)
References Including Web Addresses