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SPARK - Science for Middle School

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Fatal Infections: Why are Some Diseases Incurable? - Senior SPARK

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

This exciting course will centralize around major illnesses that stem from deadly microbial organisms. Our focus will be on zoonotic infections, or in other words, diseases that pass from animals to humans. Most newly arising diseases and some of the most fatal, originate from our animal counterparts. Zoonotic diseases tend to be some of the most deadly because our bodies’ immune system are not prepared or trained to battle these new invaders.

How do germs invade the human body? How does our body fight these tiny invaders and in some circumstances lose the battle? Why do some diseases affect humans and not animals or vice versa? In this course, you will learn why certain infections cannot be cured and what makes a germ infectious to humans. Ever curious how vaccines work to protect us from deadly microbes? We will explore the human body’s natural defense system, as well as the symptoms, diagnosis and relevant treatments for some of the most lethal germs on earth.

In this course, we will grow microbes and analyze their colonies. Also, we will tour microbiology laboratories studying disease to learn how their research might one day cure patients. We will learn how our body’s natural defense system works and why, in some circumstances, it fails to eliminate the invading organism. We will describe the inherent differences between bacteria and viruses, as well as how they survive and proliferate in humans. Symptoms and diagnosis will also be emphasized.

For the purposes of this class, we will discuss some infections that have attacked people throughout history, including rabies, mad cow, and the bubonic plaque. For comparison, we will brainstorm on newer entities such as Ebola that have only arisen in the last few decades. This course will detail ancient medical remedies, current treatments and theoretical future medicines for these fatal infectious diseases. Furthermore, we will touch on how these deadly microorganisms have shaped our culture, fears and myths, examples such as vampires and werewolves.

By the end of the week, students will be familiar with the different types of invisible germs and how the human body’s natural defense system works to combat these invading microbes. Using hands-on experiments, students will grow their own microbes and explore why some germs are deadly, while others are harmless. Students will understand how infections spread in humans and their animal hosts. Moreover, students will explore the medical lineage of these diseases, such as where they originated and the historical significance of these pathogens on our society. If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian, historian, doctor or scientist, this is the perfect class to get you started!

Middle school students have varying backgrounds. There are no prerequisites for this course, but introductory biology may be advantageous.

*This Senior SPARK course is designed for students currently in 8th grade (entering 9th grade Fall 2015). Younger students are encouraged to register for our Junior SPARK courses.