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Vector-Borne Diseases and Climate Change

Secondary, Middle

Description

Students learn about vectors and the spread of infectious diseases. Students will develop hypotheses about how climate change may affect vectors, the pathogens they carry, and the diseases they spread. They perform an experiment to model transmission of vector-borne diseases and discuss how climate change may impact the spread of such diseases.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The activities help students use or develop the following specific skills

  • Critical thinking and response
  • Experimentation (conducting and data analysis)
  • Observation
  • Computation
  • Communication (note taking, oral, written

More generally, the activities teach students the skills associated with the scientific method.

Strengths

The strengths of the resource include

  • the authenticity and relevance of the topic/issue addressed
  • the use of a simulation to engage the students
  • the effective use of a power point presentation to explore the understandings introduced by the simulation
  • the ease of use in terms of material required and 
  • the range/reach of the activities (includes an addendum for high school use)
  • the interdisciplinary elements (science, math, health, social studies)

Weaknesses

Weaknesses include

  • the absence of an action component
  • the absence of case studies (past and present)
  • the absence of extension activities that would have allowed students to explore related topics such as the ability of different peoples/nations to respond to the challenges presented by vector borne diseases.

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Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Economics (1)

    • Globalization
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Invasive Species
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Pesticides
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

In simulating the process of vector borne diseases, the resource is bias neutral -mosquitoes bite and in some instance infect the host. Although the resource considers individual factors that may make one more susceptible, attention is not given to socio-economic factors that may be at play.

In order that students may understand the possible link between climate change and vector borne diseases, the activity references a number of relevant resources that may be judged to present a balanced picture.

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

This particular example of vector -borne diseases allows students to consider the environmental factors at play(mosquitoes, climate); social considerations (disease and health); and economic implications( health costs , the causes of climate change)

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

While the simulation itself is quite uncomplicated -mosquitoes bite and some students "contract" disease - the discussions that follow alert students to the complexity of the issue in having them consider

  • How climate change affect vector-borne disease distribution and outbreaks and the distribution of mosquitoes in particular?
  • The factors that the model fails to consider
  • The assumptions that underlay the simulation and its conclusions
Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

While the resource is intended only to raise awareness and understanding, the teacher may choose to have students investigate vector-borne diseases such as West Nile, Lyme disease, or Avian flu that have been in the news and the possible connection between these and climate change. The results of that investigation could be presented to the school and local community along with a presentation or discussion on how to mitigate the dangers inherent in the phenomena. 

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 Satisfactory

An exploration of the connection between climate change and vector borne diseases provides an opportunity but not an obligation for students to consider the degree to which their actions and societal values contribute to the negative effects of climate change and the responsibilities attached to global citizenship.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Certain of the background readings provide opportunities for the teacher to explore with the students the disproportionate suffering borne by people in the developing world with respect to the impact of climate change as it relates to the spread of disease and other negative impacts.

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
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 Satisfactory

Once students have acquired an understanding and appreciation of vector-borne disease and the link to climate change, the teacher may extend the lesson by having students study and report on local examples that have been in the news of late. These may include West Nile disease, Lyme disease, Avian flu, or Swine flu.

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 Poor/Not considered
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 Good

The simulation explores certain of the factors that determine the spread of vector-borne disease and the possible impact of climate change on rates of spread. The guided discussion that follows the simulation drills down deeper by exploring the role of temperature, humidity, surface water, predator patterns and the degree to which vectors are more common in tropical and subtropical regions.

The simulation de-briefing also has students consider what factors the model does not incorporate and what assumptions were made by the simulation. The result is a deeper understanding of the complexity of the issue.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

An exploration of the issue of vector-borne diseases involves math (statistical analysis), science (environmental linkages, scientific inquiry, behaviour of organisms), health(personal and community health), social studies (natural and human - induced hazards). and language arts ( recording and communicating information)

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

The connection between mosquitoes, vector-borne diseases and human health is initiated by a simulation that has students play mosquito or host, with the students observing and recording the results of the interaction so as to arrive at their own conclusions. Additional rounds of the simulation, which manipulate the variables further allows students to reach their own conclusions as to the impact of these variables.

A power point presentation with an accompanying guided questioning helps to review and reinforce the understanding reached in the simulation and to expand the  

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 Good

The resource embraces a number of teaching strategies from the pedagogical spectrum. The central piece is a simulation that is intended to replicate the role of mosquitoes in spreading vector borne diseases. A background reading and a power point presentation with accompanying notes and questions is intended to introduce and reinforce the issues raised by the simulation. The result is a successful balance between discovery and directed learning. 

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 Satisfactory

The resource is built around a simulation that is intended to model the role of mosquitoes in spreading vector borne diseases and the degree to which climate change may effect the spread of these diseases.

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 Poor/Not considered
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 Good

The lesson assessment has students focus on and discuss three key questions

  • How does weather affect vector-borne diseases?
  • How could climate change affect vector-borne disease distribution and outbreaks?
  • How could climate change alter the distribution of mosquitoes in particular?

The accompanying power point presentation includes graphs and guided questions that may be used to measure student understanding.

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 Poor/Not considered
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

The online articles that are referenced by the resource include discussion of case studies focusing on vector borne diseases. Since examples of vector borne diseases such as Avian flu, Swine flu,and Lyme disease have been very much in the news, there is an opportunity for teachers to have students research local and national case studies that report on these diseases.

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 Satisfactory

Once the basic understandings are in place regarding the causes and consequences of vector borne diseases there is opportunity for extension activities in which students investigate, according to their interests, selected local, national or global examples of vector diseases on which to research and report.

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.