Devastating Diseases

Author: Sara Patricia Chavarria and Rachel Hughes

Time: 1 – 1.5 class periods
Class sets of Handout 1
Class sets of Handout 2
Prepare Overhead 1:
Materials: Handout 1 (Smallpox)
Handout 2 (Malaria)
Overhead 1 (Devastating Diseases)


In this Apply lesson students are asked to consider the implications of disease as a result of extensive human contact. Students will learn about two major devastating diseases: small pox and malaria by exploring the historical perspective of the spread of these diseases. Students will then be challenged to address how to stop diseases from spreading in the future. It is important to note that unlike smallpox, malaria cannot be restricted to a conversation with historical perspective, but is still considered an epidemic and affects millions of people today.

Students will be able to:
i. Critically read literature addressing historical data and answer relevant questions.
ii. Formulate an opinion and support it using all knowledge documented and learned in this and previous lessons.

National Council for History in the Schools:
Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 2D: Evidence historical perspective.
  • Standard 3E: Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causations.
  • Standard 3J: Hypothesize the influence of the past.
  • Standard 4C: Interrogate historical data.
  • Standard 5A: Identify issues and problems in the past.
  • Standard 5B: Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.
  • Standard 5E: Formulate a position or course of action on an issue.
  • Standard 5F: Evaluate the implementation of a decision.

World History Standards

  • Era 6, Standard 1C: The student understands the consequences of the worldwide exchange of flora, fauna, and pathogens.

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites



1. Not all side benefits of trade are positive. Sometimes, negative results can be extreme and even lead to death. As students start the lesson ask them to identify (or review if you have conducted earlier classes) what positive and negative impacts of trade they can think of. Students can write these down or just discuss as a class and place on a t-chart on the board.

2. .Students will read the following two articles (Handouts 1 & 2) and discuss how disease can be devastating to human populations.

3. When the students have finished reading the articles, display Overhead 1.

a. As a group answer questions 1-4. They are to take notes.
b. When done with the first 4 questions, give students time to answer question 5. (20 minutes max)
c. Have students share their answers and moderate their discussions. What seems to be the consensus?

i. Stop trading?
ii. Stop all traveling? (This includes soldiers!)
iii. Invest in medical exploration?
iv. Invest in technology?
v. Invest in global education?

4. End by asking students the following question, “Does being part of a free society mean being responsible about our actions and how they can affect human beings and the planet?” Students should explain their responses. Ask students to relate their response to the topic of disease and travel.



Embedded Assessment
1. Assessment of prior knowledge concerning the positive and negatives of trade using can be assessed within class discussion or students’ written responses.

2. Students’ written responses and oral responses within a class discussion allow for assessment of their ability to formulate an opinion and support it using all knowledge documented

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo