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Invisible Threats

Author(s): Gregory Vogt, Ed.D., and Barbara Tharp, M.S.
Invisible Threats
  • Grades:
  • 6-8 9-12

How can something we cannot see harm us? How can protect ourselves from a getting disease? Can we help animals with similar types of diseases? Activities in the Invisible Threats guide will help you and your students learn about and understand infectious diseases—how they are contracted and prevented. Explorations include infectious disease history, vaccines, links between infectious diseases and climate change, and a team challenge game. Also included are non-fiction stories about polio's impact on one family, and the race to find a cure for the potentially deadly elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. Both stories provide up-close accounts of specific infectious diseases caused by viruses.  

  1. Polio - Students explore the U.S. polio epidemic that occurred from the 1930s–1960s, and read about one family's experience with it.

  2. What Do You Know About Vaccines? - Student teams investigate the causes, symptoms and treatment of several infectious diseases, and the vaccinations used to protect against them.

  3. To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate, That Is the Question - Students learn about the concept of "herd immunity" by looking at three scenarios for the imaginary town of Fairhaven.

  4. Who, What, When, Where? - Students construct an infectious disease/vaccine timeline.

  5. EEHV By The Numbers - Using actual statistics for a virus that attacks baby Asian elephants, students try to find clues that could be useful in combatting the disease.

  6. The EEHV Menace - Students focus on the virus currently threatening Asian elephants by reading The Index Elephant. Using various art supplies, students then create an exhibit to share with other classes about this deadly threat.

  7. Climate Change and Disease - Using a climate Internet site provided by NOAA, students explore the possibilities of climate change increasing the spread and range of mosquito-borne infectious diseases.

  8. And Now, It's Time for Infectious Jeopardy! - Teams of students compete in rounds of a Jeopardy-style quiz which focuses on what they have  learned in the unit.

Organisms and Environments: Invisible Threats is most appropriate for students in grades 6–8, but also may be successfully used with high school students.

We thank the staff at the Houston Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for their invaluable assistance.

Note: This publication is the field-test version. Results from the field-test, currently under review, may alter the final contents of the guide.

Download: Organisms and Environments: Invisible Threats

Related Content

  • Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus

    Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus Slide Set

    Paul D. Ling, Ph.D., a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, is a leading global expert on elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. This classroom slide set may be used with the video and classroom activities.

  • Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus (EEHV)

    Saving Baby Elephants from a Lethal Virus (EEHV) Video

    Paul D. Ling, Ph.D., a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, is a leading global expert on Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), a disease that is killing baby Asian elephants. Join him as he discusses the virus, key discoveries, and a treatment protocol developed by his research team which keeps the elephants alive.

  • The Index Elephant

    The Index Elephant Reading

    In this storybook, young students track a mysterious illness that is killing baby elephants. They learn how doctors and scientists identified the pathogen, found a treatment and are working to make a vaccine.

Complete genome sequenced of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus 4


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Development of the Science of Infectious Diseases teaching materials and video resources was supported in part by funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, grant numbers R25AI084826 and 4R25AI097453.