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iLabs: PANDEMIC!!!! (The class)

July 18, 2014

This past week we hosted the CSI Epidemic summer camp group in the Micro World Investigate Lab on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and Walt Gurley hosted them once on Friday in the Visual World Investigate Lab. I taught the general introduction to epidemiology on Tuesday, and Walt ended the week this morning with a class that used GIS technology to trace an epidemic back to its source.

But Wednesday was special.  Wednesday’s class was created and led by one of our summer interns, Megan Polzin.  She offered to write a series of posts about her experience. So without further delay, here is her first installment about her creation of “Day 2’s Lab.”

iLabs: Teaching Middle School Students About Pandemics by Megan Polzin

When I first began my job as an intern at the Micro World Investigate Lab, I knew that I would need to complete a project over the course of the summer. I was very indecisive about my project until Deb Bailey (room co-coordinator), knowing I was most interested in pursuing pathology, gave me the option of creating a class about pandemics aimed at middle school students.

With the goal of the class being to introduce epidemiology on global scale in a fun and creative way, the first challenge I faced was utilizing the 2-hour allotted time span while still keeping the students interested. Along with a brief presentation giving some basic information about pandemics, Deb had the idea of playing a game appropriately titled, “Pandemic.”

Pandemic, by Z-Man Games,  is a collaborative game in which all players have to work together to develop the cures to four pandemics, before time runs out and the diseases win. In essence, the players either lose together or win together.

There are multiple game pieces (pawns, disease cubes, research centers, cure vials, an outbreak marker, and an infection rate marker) as well as many different card decks (infection deck, player deck), and card types (epidemic cards, event cards, reference cards, and role cards). You can imagine how intimidating this game seemed at first glance!

Before deciding against using it in the class, I played the game with Deb one morning in the lab and caught on surprisingly fast! After playing again with my family, I knew I wanted to use it in the class, but would face many challenges transitioning this in-depth yet captivating board game into a classroom setting.

Pandemic Game Board

Pandemic game board.

Pandemic Pieces and Cards

Pandemic game pieces and cards.

Pandemic Vials and Game Markers

Pandemic vials and game markers.


One of these challenges was how was I going to get more than four people to view this board game? Also, since the students would be working in groups, some of the tiny cards (reference cards and role cards in particular) would need to be viewed by multiple people for them to plan their next moves.

Along with the board game, the presentation at the beginning of the class also presented a few challenges, including keeping the students’ attention and ensuring that the presentation was short while still conveying valuable information.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where you will see the ways in which I tackled these challenges!



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