Sign up for updates

Skip Navigation

Rewind, Reflect, Fast-Forward

Key Events and Personal Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rewind, Reflect, Fast-Forward
  • Grades:
  • Length: 60 Minutes

Rate this Page

Average Rating (3 votes)

View Comments


Students will compile key events in the COVID-19 pandemic timeline, learn where to find accurate national and state coronavirus disease statistics, and reflect on how the pandemic has affected their lives.

Teacher Background

This activity asks students to look back to spring 2020 during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and trace the pandemic's development. Students will follow the instructions on the accompanying Student Sheet A to “rewind” back the initial phases of the pandemic, “reflect” on its impact on themselves, and others and “fast-forward” to the future. A set of PowerPoint slides is included for you, the teacher, to use during the next day, when discussing students’ responses to the “rewind” portion of their assignment.

Objectives and Standards

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to

  • identify key events in the COVID-19 pandemic timeline;
  • identify what they want to learn about the virus, the pandemic, and public health efforts;
  • reflect on personal impacts of the pandemic, both negative and positive; and
  • summarize what they have already learned about the virus and its effects (optional).


Science/Health/Math Skills


Interpreting information


NGSS Science & Engineering Practices

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Developing and Using Models

Analyzing and Interpreting Data


Materials and Setup

This activity asks students to look back to spring 2020 during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and trace the pandemics development. Students will follow the instructions on the accompanying Student Sheet A to “rewind” back the initial phases of the pandemic, “reflect” on its impact on themselves and others, and “fast-forward” to the future. A set of PowerPoint slides is included for you, the teacher, to use during the next day, when discussing students’ responses to the “rewind” portion of their assignment.


Materials Needed

  • digital or paper versions of Student Sheet A (has three sections)
  • internet access for student research
  • Rewind, Reflect, Fast Forward slides, for use by teacher to guide student discussion on second day



15 minutes on day one to introduce the activity and a 45-minute class period on day two.

Procedure and Extensions

Engage & Explore

  1. Ask students when they think the COVID-19 pandemic began. Accept all answers.

  2. Tell students that you want them to “rewind” back to when the pandemic began and identify some key dates so far along the timeline. Also ask them to think about things they would have done in the past few months that might have been different if there were no pandemic.

  3. Ask students to complete the Rewind, Reflect, and Fast-Forward student activity sheet, including all questions, before the next class. You also can ask them to complete the COVID-19 KWL sheet before class or after class (optional).


  1. Use the accompanying slides to review what students learned in their Rewind, Reflect, Fast-Forward activity sheet exploration. If students raise a question for which you do not have an answer, have them add it to their “what I want to know” lists. You can suggest a possible online source for the information (e.g., CDC, NIH, public health site, journal article)

Slide 1: How did we end up here? Ten time points to a pandemic

As noted in your activity sheet, the last six months have been vastly different from most years. Dealing with the coronavirus has become a central focus in many people’s lives: avoiding getting infected; dealing with an infection; figuring out how to manage life, work,and school during a pandemic; or trying to figure out how to treat the disease and prevent it in our homes, community, nation,, and world. Your assignment asked you to “rewind” the timeline and go back to where the pandemic started.

  • When did the Chinese government in Wuhan first confirm that there were multiple cases of pneumonia from an unknown cause? [Answers are provided in brackets, the answer for this prompt is December 31, 2019.]

NOTE: If students ask whether the virus was manufactured by someone to create the pandemic, you can tell them that, despite many online rumors, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that epidemiologists collected many specimens in China from hospitals, patients, and animals that can carry coronaviruses. It appears likely that the virus transferred to humans through contact with an animal, possibly a bat.[1] There is evidence that the version of the virus that infects humans also is related to a coronavirus that has been identified in pangolins.[2] This is called a “zoonotic” pathogen because it moves from animals to humans. The World Health Organization reported that the virus’s genome does not have the markers of a “laboratory construct,” that is, it was not created in a laboratory.[3]

  • What did the World Health Organization (WHO) announce on January 7, 2020? [They identified a new coronavirus as the cause of an outbreak of infectious respiratory illness in Wuhan, China.]

  • What did they name the illness? [On February 11, they named the illness COVID-19 for “Coronavirus disease 2019”.]

  • What COVID-related news did China report on January 11, 2020? [The first death attributed to COVID-19.]

Slide 2: COVID-19 spreads

  • On January 20, 2020, the WHO confirmed that COVID-19 had been found where? Why was this news important? [Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. The disease was no longer contained in China.]

  • What did the U.S. confirm on January 21, 2020, and where did the event occur? [The first case in the U.S. was confirmed on January 21, 2020 in Washington state.]

  • On January 23, China set up a city-wide quarantine in Wuhan to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. What did the quarantine do, and how many people were impacted in Wuhan? [The quarantine affected the 11 million citizens of Wuhan, who could not travel to or from the city. It also meant that all buses, subways, and ferries were shut down to limit travel around the city. People were encouraged to stay home.]

  • On January 30, the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency, as more than 9,000 cases had been reported in 18 countries (not including China).

Slide 3: COVID-19 spreads in the U.S.

  • What COVID-related event happened on February 29, 2020, in Washington state? [First U.S. COVID-19 death was in Seattle, Washington, February 29, 2020.]

  • A week later (March 8), how many confirmed cases were in the US? Were any of those cases in our state? [The U.S. topped 500 confirmed cases by March 8; 22 of those cases were in Texas.]

  • Does this March 8 news about states where people were ill with COVID-19 suggest that COVID-19 started in a single state or had it affected people in many states by March 2020? [Many states saw COVID-19 cases in about the same timeframe. There werer probably multiple points of entry of SARS-CoV-2 into the U.S.]

Slide 4: Pandemic

  • On March 11, the WHO labeled the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic”? What is a pandemic? [A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.]

  • Where are we today? [Go to and and fill in current numbers for the world, U.S., and Texas. Note that the WHO reports in cases per million, not cases per 100,000, so you will need to divide the WHO number by 10.]

Total Cases

Total Deaths

Cases per 100,000 people

Slide 5: Flatten the curve

  • Why is it important to slow the spread? [As COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., elected and appointed officials, public health staff, infectious disease physicians, scientists, and school boards collaborated to establish strategies to slow the spread of the virus. During the initial spread of a disease, people may need more medical care, medicines, or special medical equipment than can be provided immediately. We saw this happen in many countries, including the U.S. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were not enough respirators for patients in some cities and inadequate supplies of protective gear for medical staff. National and local public health agencies asked everyone to help slow the rate of new COVID-19 cases by wearing cloth masks (instead of medical masks), washing their hands, and social distancing. Slowing the rate of new cases gives medical personnel time to learn better ways to treat the disease, researchers time to work on vaccines and medicines, and public health officials time to learn how the disease spreads (e.g., touch, air, water).

  • Remember the calls to “flatten the curve”? What did that mean? [Look at the animation on this slide. The number of cases of an infectious disease like COVID-19 will rise quickly without any mitigation (that is, without strategies to reduce the disease spread). Without effective medication or a vaccine for COVID-19, preventative strategies such as masks or social distancing were our most important mitigation strategies.]

Slide 6: Missed opportunities

  • What happens when people don’t follow public health recommendations? [Look at this slide. After an initial surge of infectious disease cases, the number of cases decreased when people followed public health orders like wearing face coverings and social distancing. But soon, people became tired of following the rules and the number of cases increased again. This is called a “resurgence.”]

Slide 7: When will it end? How do pandemics end?

  • Enough people develop natural immunity. This happened after the 1918 influenza pandemic, but at a terrible cost: 50–100 million people died, and the H1N1 virus that caused it continued to infect people 40 years later.

  • Containing the virus. The last coronavirus we encountered was SARS-CoV. People infected with the SARS-CoV virus got sick very quickly, so they didn’t spread it before they knew they were infected. Sick patients could be isolated until they recovered. There were only about 8,000 SARS cases globally and fewer than 800 deaths. The last case was 2004.

  • Develop and distribute a vaccine. When scientists in 2009 saw a new H1N1 virus emerge (called swine flu), they moved quickly to develop a vaccine for it. Luckily, the 2009 virus was not as contagious as the 1918 virus, and the vaccine controlled the spread of the virus. Now, protection against H1N1 is a component of the annual flu vaccines that are updated and distributed each year.

  • How will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Masks, hand washing, and social distancing can slow the spread of the virus while vaccines are being developed and distributed.

Slide 8: What is OUR role?

  • The role of EVERY person is to NOT TRANSMIT COVID-19 TO ANOTHER PERSON. How? [Protect yourself from catching COVID-19, and protect others in case you already have COVID-19 and don’t know it. Yes, you can be infected and spread the virus even if you have NO symptoms. That condition is referred to as being “asymptomatic.” You also can get infected and spread the virus BEFORE you start showing symptoms. That is called “presymptomatic.” Both conditions are reasons you must protect others even if you feel healthy. What are some strategies that are known to help prevent transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19?

  • Three simple actions: Wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. These actions are not fun, but they ARE essential. If we follow these three steps, the virus spread slows, we get time to develop and distribute a vaccine, and our friends and family do not become ill. Once vaccines become available, be sure to become vaccinated.


  1. Students can share what they know and want to know via a submitted assignment, online bulletin board, or discussion. Note that you (the teacher) can select specific questions for students to answer rather than assigning all the questions.

  2. Have students submit the REWIND section of Lesson 1 as homework. They should be allowed to keep their personal reflections (REFLECT and FAST-FORWARD) private.

[1] Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2020, July 1). Identifying the source of the outbreak.

Mallapaty, Smriti. (2020, July 16). Wildlife trade should be focus of pandemic origins investigations. Nature 583, p. 344. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02052-7.

[2] Li X, Giorgi E, Marichannegowda M, Foley B, Xiao C, et al. (2020, July 1). Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 through recombination and strong purifying selection. Science Advances 6(27). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9153.

[3] World Health Organization (WHO). (2020, April 23). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 94.


References and Resources



The COVID HACKS curriculum project is made possible thanks to the support from Laura & John Arnold and Baylor College of Medicine. Scientists, educators, and physicians from Baylor College of Medicine provided content, feedback, and technical reviews.