Helping Students Understand Coronavirus

September 29, 2021

Viral infections have been around since the beginning of time. But it wasn't until the mid-1800s when medical and science researchers began to make great strides in germ theory — and those strides continue to this day. But every so often, something new emerges that sends the scientific community scrambling.

Such is the case with COVID-19.

Since its identification roughly 24 months ago, researchers have pushed to learn as much as they can about the virus. How it spreads... its symptoms... its potential treatments. All of this in an effort to mitigate and stop the resulting pandemic as COVID-19 spread around the globe.

Helping our children to understand how their own efforts can help prevent being infected or infecting others makes for valuable lessons, and is especially important as virus mutations occur.

Understanding the virus, how it presents, and how to prevent the spread is a great place to start.

Our friends at American Scientific have put together an Understanding Coronavirus Kit to help with that. This kit gives students the opportunity to explore the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) even as scientists continue to study and learn more about it themselves. Students will also use science and engineering practices to ask questions, conduct experiments, and draw conclusions as they learn about COVID-19. How is the disease spread? What is the nature of scientific understanding – how does it develop and evolve?

American Scientific Understanding Coronavirus Kit

Best suited for middle school students, this kit includes six activities that can be adjusted for use with younger and older students. The first activity is Handwashing using Glo Germs, a lotion-based simulated germ solution developed for aseptic training. Students will demonstrate the effectiveness of handwashing for preventing the spread of pathogens, such as coronaviruses.

The second activity is Soap versus Coronavirus in which students will examine the effect of soap on a lipid (vegetable oil) and draw conclusions about the possible effects of soap on viruses that have an outer lipid membrane, like COVID-19.

In the third activity, Sneeze Simulation, students will explore how coronavirus might spread in the air from a cough or sneeze as well as the possible effects of masks or other materials.

While exploring how coronavirus might spread as an aerosol from a cough, sneeze, or heavy breathing associated with loud talking, singing, or exercise, students will be able to decide for themselves the answer to the fourth activity question To Mask or Not to Mask? This exercise explores how masks of various materials can mitigate the spread.

Using a model diaphragm included in the kit for the fifth activity The Lungs, students will examine how our lungs function to pull oxygen into the body, and consider how COVID-19 may impact this function.

In the final activity, The Effect of Coronavirus on the Lungs, students will use a straw to mimic restricted airflow due to COVID-19 symptoms and demonstrate the resulting lung capacity using a lung volume bag.

With knowledge, we all gain power in this fight. This kit answers many questions about COVID-19 that can help students better understand what we are all fighting. All of this information and more can be found in the Teacher's Guide that's included with this kit.

What's In The Box

One Lung Breathing Model
One stethoscope
One 8 oz. Glow-Germ lotion
One handheld ultraviolet light
One plastic test tube
One 1ml plastic bulb dropper
Three colors of washable Tempera paint
Two disposable masks
Paper confetti
One ping pong ball
One Lung Volume Bag Set
One drinking straw
One stopwatch
Four disposable cups
Six sheets of printer paper
One measuring tape

This kit, and hundreds of other science education products, are available from the Forestry Suppliers website.

Stephanie Miller

With over 25 years experience, Stephanie serves as a senior copywriter, social media director, and senior editor for Science Scene. Stephanie is always on the lookout for new educational and STEM-related opportunities and technology.