CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Epidemics in History

Social Studies
2 lessons
To compare Canada’s early response to the AIDS crisis to historical responses to epidemics
Using a variety of sources, students will explore current and historical responses to medical crises.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Discuss with students times when they think it is appropriate to keep sick people from those who are well. Then ask them to list conditions that should be necessary before those sick people return to school or work.

Outline the Opportunity

Have students explore the topic The Early Years of the AIDS Crisis topic on the CBC Digital Archives website, especially the clips "The politics of the plague", "Are AIDS victims a danger to society?", "AIDS and gay rights", "Red Cross advises gays, Haitians not to donate blood" and "Mandatory HIV screening and quarantines debated."

From their exploration, students should note what restrictions were placed on groups with a high risk of carrying or developing the AIDS virus.

Students should then research and make notes of the way that governments and society have responded to epidemics over time, for example, cholera in Quebec in 1832, polio in the United States in the early 1900s.

Revisit and Reflect

From the information they have gathered, students can discuss and analyze how, if at all, society's response to infectious disease has changed. Has society become more compassionate? Has society become more thoughtful? Students should explain and support their opinions.




Today, Africa faces an AIDS crisis. There is a worldwide threat of biological warfare, and anthrax has been released in North America. Have students role-play a panel of experts advising governments and citizens' groups on how to use historical information about epidemics, including the early years of the AIDS epidemic, to respond to these new infectious disease threats.

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