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Critical Thinking in Science

Part 7: Microbiology and Infectious Disease


Students will research the causes of infectious diseases and define their major characteristics. They will use this information to look at the spread and treatment of a viral disease using statistics from North Carolina. This lesson is written using the 5E Learning Model.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will compare and contrast bacterial and viral illnesses.
  • Students will evaluate NC disease statistics and treatment plans.
  • Students will create a plan to monitor and eradicate a disease.
  • Students will increase their inquiry skills.

Curriculum Alignment:

  • 1.01 Identify and create questions and hypotheses that can be answered through scientific investigations.

1.02 Develop appropriate experimental procedures for:

  • Given questions.
  • Student generated questions.

1.04 Analyze variables in scientific investigations:

  • Identify dependent and independent.
  • Use of a control.
  • Manipulate.
  • Describe relationships between.
  • Define operationally.

1.05 Analyze evidence to:

  • Explain observations.
  • Make inferences and predictions.
  • Develop the relationship between evidence and explanation.

1.06 Use mathematics to gather, organize, and present quantitative data resulting from scientific investigations:

  • Measurement.
  • Analysis of data.
  • Graphing.
  • Prediction models.

1.08 Use oral and written language to:

  • Communicate findings.
  • Defend conclusions of scientific investigations.
  • Describe strengths and weaknesses of claims, arguments, and/or data

7.01 Compare and contrast microbes:

  • Size, shape, structure.
  • Whether they are living cells.

7.02 Describe diseases caused by microscopic biological hazards including:

  • Viruses.
  • Bacteria.
  • Parasites.
  • Contagions.
  • Mutagens.

7.03 Analyze data to determine trends or patterns to determine how an infectious disease may spread including:

  • Carriers.
  • Vectors.
  • Conditions conducive to disease.
  • Calculate reproductive potential of bacteria.

Classroom Time Required:

Approximately 5-50 minutes class periods are needed.

Materials Needed:

  • Access to research materials: books, encyclopedias, internet, text book, etc.
  • Copies of research questions
  • Materials to create data chart
  • Copies of state county map and Rabies Cases data
  • Graph paper with labeled axis
  • Technology Resources:

Pre-Activities/ Activities:


  • What are germs? (15 minutes)
  • Begin a class discussion by asking the students “What are germs?” and having them come up with their own definition for germs.
  • Ask the students what they know about viruses and bacteria.
  • Researching Viruses and Bacteria (Time: 40 to 50 minutes)
  • Students will be researching the characteristics of viruses and bacteria. They may use the internet, books, or even text books to find the answers to the following questions.
  • Students should begin by defining vectors and carriers. They will then be asked to find the following information about viruses and bacteria:
  • Living or nonliving
  • Contain DNA or Not
  • Method of transmission (vector, carrier)
  • How do they affect the body?
  • Examples of viruses and bacteria and the illnesses they cause


  • Create a Data Table organizing the information (Time: 50 minutes)


  • Students will complete the Rabies worksheet (See Worksheet 1) and will require a map of the North Carolina counties and 2007 Rabies data.
  • Map is available at and the data is available at
  • Additional information on the disease can be found at the CDC’s website. If computer access is available, students should research the cause and transmission of rabies. If this is not possible, students can use encyclopedias, articles, or books to answer the questions.
  • Students will color code the county map based on the number of cases in each county in 2007.
  • Students then answer questions about the disease, its spread and treatment options.
  • How can we eradicate rabies? (2-50 minute classes)


  • How can we eradicate rabies? (2-50 minute classes)
  • Students will complete an Experimental Design Graphic Organizer (See Worksheet 2) to describe how they can more accurately monitor rabies in North Carolina.
  • Students will then write a plan to eradicate rabies in NC. They will use their monitoring information from the graphic organizer and the information from the Elaborate section to create a plan. Students will be asked to think of the best form of the vaccination in order to treat animals such as bats.


See Evaluate piece of Activities Section.


  • Critical Vocabulary
  • Virus
  • Bacteria
  • Infectious disease
  • Transmission
  • Eradicate

This lesson is part of the Critical Thinking in Science Unit and relies on the inquiry skills and vocabulary practiced in the first two lessons (Introduction to Experimental Design and How important is a decimal place?). This lesson should be used while teaching Goal 7 of the North Carolina Standards of Learning (microbiology). Students are researching bacteria and viruses and then focusing on Rabies, a well known viral infectious disease. Students will be asked to create a plan to eradicate rabies in North Carolina using a monitoring plan and information from the experiment.