CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Facing TB in the Crisis Years

History, English Language Arts
2 lessons
To explore how social groups and geography influenced the experiences of people with active TB from the 1940s to the 1960s
Students explore Canada’s response to tuberculosis from the 1940s to the 1960s and role-play to show the range of experiences for those with active TB.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Engage students in a discussion of the different experiences of Canadians in the 20th century. Have students cite key events, such as the world wars, the Depression, or the repatriation of the Constitution, and describe how Canadians in different regions or groups responded to or were affected by the events.


Outline the Opportunity


Have students visit the topic Tuberculosis: Old Disease, Continuing Threat on the CBC Digital Archives website and view the clips "Greetings from the 'san'", "TB resurfaces in Vancouver's downtown", "Inuit go south for tuberculosis treatment," "Aboard the M.V. Christmas Seal," and "Former TB patients revisit Fort San".

Have small groups of students prepare role-plays to present the different experiences of Canadians: those afflicted with TB and those dealing with the sick. The presentations may be set in the past or set in the present, looking back with hindsight. Ensure that the groups cover a variety of Canadian locales and social groups, including the experiences of First Nations peoples, immigrants, Newfoundlanders, and people in more populous or developed regions. Have students present their role-plays.

Revisit and Reflect


After each presentation, allow students to question the presenters while they are still in role. Discuss what authorities did well and where they could have improved. Encourage students to comment on whether the nation's response to tuberculosis in the middle years of the century supports or conflicts with their previous understanding of Canada during this time period, and why.




As a class, students can create a T-chart with the headings "Challenges" and "Possible Responses" to help them consider the implications of an infectious disease outbreak, such as Canada experienced with SARS, in the near future. When the chart is complete, students can re-read it and consider how Canadians might view it 50 years from now. Ask: What actions do you think future generations might criticize? Can those actions be rewritten and still be valid as possible responses? What new challenges and responses come to mind?

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