Heidi A. Everett-Cacopardo
Science is a subject that easily provides many avenues to engage the curiosity of students. There are typically a variety of means to make a “real world” connection during a biology lesson. In my opinion, the easiest aspect of teaching science is bringing relevance to a lesson. However, in order to teach a subject dealing with a population numbering in the billions the students must think “outside the box” and call upon their creative talents. Tactile activities can reinforce concepts in a unit and activate creative thinking. Hands on activities help those students who learn by doing and provide a better foundation for the students who need more then recording notes in class. I try to implement various activities that call upon Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory (Campbell, 2004) when planning a unit. Generating data through a fictional school wide outbreak of an infectious disease created by the students is one example of how I will try to connect the statistics of HIV/AIDS to an actual event-taking place in the classroom.
The topic of human population growth can be considerably difficult for students to grasp. Students view the world through only the lens of their experiences. The idea of a population being decimated by an infectious disease is a foreign concept since my students live in a developed nation like the United States. The citizen of a developed country typically does not encounter an epidemic because public health agencies and healthcare services usually prevent the spread of an infectious disease. In addition, the standard of living in a developed country is often taken from granted. My students have access to clean, running water, toilets, medicine, electricity, and food. This access may not be available to the average citizen of an underdeveloped country.
Currently, AIDS is ravaging African countries and this disease does not receive as much media attention as it should in the United States. Africa is not alone in its plight with HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of people infected and living with HIV/AIDS is “between 35 to 42 million” (4% of the world’s population) (WHO, 2004). Throughout the world, certain regions have large populations infected with HIV. Unfortunately, many students do not pay attention to the media, as most of them do not read periodicals or watch the news. In order to focus their attention on the global AIDS epidemic, I will open the second part of the unit with an introduction to epidemiology and use an activity that involves paper dolls representing a number of HIV/AIDS infected individuals. Students will be given paper dolls with sets of numbers and the names of countries around the world. These paper dolls represent “people” in populations of countries where HIV/AIDS is present. Throughout the lesson, I will announce the number and country of the paper dolls held by the students, and have the students place their dolls on the map of the world. My intent is to provide a visual of the countries that have populations infected with HIV. I hope this activity will emphasize that HIV infection is taking place all around the world right at the same moment that we are learning about statistics of disease. Each time a student’s paper doll number is called, we will add the doll to a world map created by the students. The students will then take the numbers on each paper doll and then make a choropleth map with data on the paper dolls. This choropleth map or map chart will serve as an example for the students to reference throughout the portion of unit on graphing HIV/AIDS.
The communities that my students live in appear to be healthy and unscathed by infectious diseases like AIDS. However, an individual infected by AIDS will not be easy to distinguish from an uninfected individual. My students seem to be completely unaware that they most likely have encountered someone who is HIV positive in their life. Urban communities who are home to large minority groups are at greater risk for exposure to various infectious diseases. African American populations are at a greater risk for HIV than other minority groups; however, the Hispanic population is predicted to see an increase in number of infections (CDC, 2006).
In many sub-Saharan African countries, the number of people dying due to HIV is difficult to comprehend for those who have never been exposed to an epidemic. I hope to provide the students with a sense of the number of people dying from AIDS more realistic through a fictitious infectious disease outbreak that they will monitor and collect data on as it “spreads” throughout the building and classrooms. A map of the building will depict where the outbreaks are taking place and be used as an example of a choropleth map or map chart depicting populations.