Teaching Moments - COVID-19

Compiled by STANSW Councillors Deborah de Ridder and Lauren McKnight. 

In an interview on ABC radio, Professor Brian P. Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, emphasised that rational thinking was key to combatting the alarm and racial discrimination that is emerging in the midst of the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. In response to this call, we believe that science teachers should encourage an informed and rational approach to the topic in science classrooms.  Science teachers should be aware of reliable and up-to-date resources about the virus. As “fake news” stories arise, we should not only counter with factual sources but also give students the tools to discern reliable sources for themselves.  
The Department of Health is providing up-to-date information and health warnings for Australians.  

What is a coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are a group of RNA viruses that originate in animals. In some cases, they can be passed on to humans in a process called zoonosis. The current crisis is caused by a virus called “SARS-CoV-2”, which is highly infectious and causes a severe respiratory illness now officially named “COVID-19”.  
The World Health Organisation has produced a 5 min video and a Q&A that provide an overview of the virus and control measures. 
A number of reliable scientific publications are maintaining free resource pages with emerging findings relating to the virus.  
The Lancet- COVID-19 Resource Centre 
Nature: Coronavirus latest 
Elsevier- Novel Coronavirus Information Centre 

Epidemiology resources  

The World Health Organisation has a wealth of information about the illness and links to various publications on prevention and control. The source “The First Few X (FFX) Cases  and contact investigation protocol for 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection” demonstrates the scope of an epidemiological investigation in the case of an infectious disease and the rapid response. Other technical guidance articles from WHO represent good source material to support the teaching of Biology and epidemiology with a current disease example. 
NRICH Maths have a series of teaching activities on Disease Dynamics that demonstrate mathematical modelling of disease spread that would be relevant for discussions of epidemics. 

Isolation, Quarantine and Hygiene 

Information on the difference between isolation and quarantine can be found this article from the CDC, and information on Australian isolation and quarantine practices can be found here. Running an experiment on handwashing? Students can compare their results with evidence-based recommendations or data and statistics from the CDC. A very practical demonstration of hygiene practices can be performed using UV-activated powders such as those sold by Glitterbug.  

Fake News

Fake news has been a significant concern during the recent epidemic. The NSW Department of Education’s Digital Citizenship site has advice for teachers about developing critical thinking skills and becoming a discerning digital citizen.