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Deadly Diseases

Secondary, Middle


This ESD resource explores the environmental, social, political and economic factors that ultimately determine where diseases will strike.

Students begin the lesson by brainstorming examples of disease outbreaks that have plagued different parts of the world and offer reasons for why they occurred. They then analyze a case study of the 2005 outbreak of Marburg Disease in Africa to learn about the nature of the epidemic and the local social, economic and environmental factors at play.

Next students visit a WHO website and select a country that in recent years has experienced several instances of infectious disease.  Their task is to identify the factors specific to the country and to the disease that spawned the epidemic(s).

As a culminating activity, students share their findings and reflect on the similarities among conditions that gave rise to the different outbreaks and based on the information gathered, predict whether or not these diseases could impact their own communities.

The resource provides background information and a number of links to sites that effectively support the students in their research.


General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

While some attention is paid to mapping and organizing information, this resource does not not explicitly teach these or other skills.


  • Students will find the topic interesting
  • Solid ESD content and approach
  • Lesson design encourages systems thinking
  • Excellent use of a case study approach
  • Multi-disciplinary learning opportunities provided


  • The resource lacks an action component
  • No out-of-doors or experiential learning opportunities have been included.
  • Opportunities for students to express and clarify values have not been exploited

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 24:Disease Defence and Human Health
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science for Citizenship 11: Scientific understanding enables humans to respond and adapt to changes locally and globally
  • Manitoba
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    • Grade 7
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People & Places in the World: Global Quality of Life
    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Current Topics in the Sciences 30S: Science, Technology, Society & the Environment
    • Grade 12
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interdisciplinary Topics in Science 40S: Science, Technology, Society and the Environment
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 12
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Issues 120: Humanity
        • World Issues 120:Interdependence
  • Northwest Territories
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    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 24: Disease Defense and Human Health
  • Nunavut
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    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 24:Disease Defence and Human Health
  • Ontario
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    • Grade 11
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      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Human Health and the Environment
        • Environmental Science (Workplace Prep.) Human Health and the Environment
    • Grade 12
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science (Univ./College Prep.) Pathogens and Disease
        • Science (Workplace Preparation): Disease and Its Prevention
      • Technological Education
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        • Health Care (College Prep.) : Health Care,The Environment and Society
        • Health Care (Univ./College Prep.) Health Care, the Environment, and Society
        • Health Care: Support Services (Workplace Prep.) Health Care, the Environment & Society
  • Prince Edward Island
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    • Grade 12
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      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Geography 621A Global Issues : Inquiry- What are the issues?
        • Geography 631A Global Issues: What are the issues?
  • Quebec
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    • Grade 9
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      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The Contemporary World: Environment
  • Yukon Territory
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    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science for Citizenship 11: Scientific understanding enables humans to respond and adapt to changes locally and globally

Themes Addressed

  • Human Health & Environment (4)

    • Access to Health Care
    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
    • Health Promotion
    • Quality of Life

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The information sources students are directed to (Centre for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the New York Times) provide an accurate description of the epidemiology of disease outbreaks.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

The resource successfully acheives its goal of illustrating for students how these 3 dimensions determine the geographical location of disease outbreaks.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The design of the lesson and the resources included provide an excellent opportunity for students to employ systems-thinking.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Opportunities for action experience have not been included.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered

While there are plenty of opportunities for students to examine  their feelings about the information they uncover,  no explicit instructions for values clarification have been included.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

Attention to the socio/economic predictors of disease outbreaks will encourage feelings of empathy among students for those less fortunate.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

This criterion has not been considered.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Given the intended scope of the lesson, its culminating activity does a good job in providing local context and relevancy.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

Students are steered towards factual information which they are to interpret for themselves and use to formulate their own 'answers'.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Enough attention is paid within the lesson to allow teachers & students to pursue outcomes in health, science, social studies, geography and language arts.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The learning activities in this resource are largely limited to reading and responding.  However there are opportunities for students to work cooperatively, use the internet, create maps and prepare and deliver presentations.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Poor/Not considered

There are no opportunities for experiential learning within the core activities of the resource.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

The resource offers suggestions for assessment but no rubrics or instruments have been included.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Effective use of the accounts of actual events is a strength of the resource.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

Students are given opportunities to make content choices within the overall objectives of the lesson.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.