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Lesson 3-5: The Scientific Method in Vaccine History

Page history last edited by mariaelizabethbunn@... 9 years, 2 months ago



Engaging the Student (Entry Task) 

Developing the Ideas--Lesson

Checking for Understanding (exit ticket)

Student Handout 
Teacher/Lesson Notes

Part 1:

50 min.


Part 2:

50 min.


Part 3:

50 min.

Part 1: Opening Activity–Introduce the History of Vaccination

Time: 10 minutes

Introduce the topic of vaccination by asking students to recall some of the diseases for which children are routinely vaccinated. Answers may include measles, mumps, polio, and tuberculosis. Ask, Which of these diseases commonly occurs in the United States? Students should recognize that today, none of these diseases is common in the U.S because of the practice of vaccination. Tell students that in this lesson, they will be learning about the history of vaccination and the use of the scientific method in the study of infectious disease and the development of vaccines.


Show the video clip “Plotkin and the Role of Vaccination” Explain that the speaker is Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, who developed several vaccines in use today. 


Part 2: Opening Activity—Introduce the Scientific Method

Time: 10 minutes

Tell students that in this part of the lesson, they will learn about how the scientific method is used in studying the spread of disease. Ask, What is the scientific method? (Responses will vary.) Emphasize that it is a systematic way of asking and answering questions in science.


Have students prepare for the activity by reading the article Identifying Pathogens & Transmission Vectors.


Part 3: Opening Activity—Introduce Improving Research Methods

Time: 5 minutes

Tell students that they will now continue exploring web resources related to the use of the scientific method in the development and testing of vaccines. Explain that after reading an article on vaccine development, they will use what they have learned about modern methods of investigation to update the research protocol used by a famous inventor of an important vaccine.


Show students the video clip “Plotkin and the Future of Immunization”.



Part 1:


Part 2:

View the full lesson plan here:


View the answers to Student Recording Sheets here:


Overview and Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize students with the history of vaccination and the use of the scientific method in the development of vaccines and the study of infectious disease. Explain that in this lesson, students will explore the processes that health officials and researchers use in identifying agents of infectious disease, the source of an infection, and how the infection spreads. Additionally, Part 2 of the lesson plan includes a role-­‐playing activity to engage students in the use of the scientific method in a disease outbreak investigation. This lesson plan gives you a one-­‐period class option (Part 1 or Part 2), a two-­‐period class option (any combination of Parts 1, 2, and 3), and a three-­‐period class option (Parts 1, 2, and 3).


Lesson Objectives:

After completing Part 1 of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the importance of vaccination to the development of human society
  • identify historic milestones in the development of vaccination procedures and vaccines
  • recognize the names of pioneers in the development of vaccines
  • list the steps in the development and licensing of vaccines


After completing Part 2 of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain how public-­health officials study the sources and spread of infectious diseases
  • list the main steps of the scientific method as it is applied to the study of infectious disease
  • model the development and revision of scientific explanations
  • describe the importance of public-­health activities in improving the health of the members of a community


After completing Part 3 of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • design a scientific investigation of vaccine safety and effectiveness



This Lesson is sourced at:

The History of Vaccines Website, an award-winning informational and educational site created by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


Part 1

Opening Activity: 



Part 2

Opening Activity:



Part 3

Opening Activity:




Part 1: Closing Activity

Time: 10 minutes

  1. Have groups of students view the Breakthroughs Section of the History of Vaccines timelines. 
  2. Have students view the video clip “Combined MMR Vaccine”, in which Maurice Hilleman, PhD, who developed many vaccines, including those for measles and mumps, gives some perspective on the importance of vaccines.


Part 2: No closing activity. 


Part 3: Closing Activity

Time: 5 minutes

Have each student complete the matching game “Pioneer Breakthroughs”.




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