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Survival -- December 2005

Can be purchased for as little as $4.50 each


Teacher’s Guide

Teaching Suggestions for
Secret Agents: Understanding Bioterrorism

      Article, Page

"The Secret World of Biological Warfare," pg. 6
The use of pathogens or poisons as weapons has a long and deadly history. A sidebar (pg. 12) defines some of the disease-causing organisms available to terrorists. Individuals and governments are working to prevent and defend against bioterrorism.
Science and Social Issues, Historical Analysis

"First Line of Defense: The Research Laboratory," pg. 13
In an effort to defend against bioterrorism, research laboratories seek to understand pathogens and how the immune system works. A sidebar (pg. 15) defines important terms.
Experimental Design, Drawing Conclusions

"PLAGUE! An Interview with Jon Goguen" (People to Discover), pg. 16
ODYSSEY interviews Jon Goguen of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is an expert on Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the plague.
Cause and Effect, Inductive Reasoning

"The Science of Smallpox," pg. 18
Smallpox, declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1980, is today classed as a "Category A" bioterrorist threat. A sidebar (pg. 20) describes how vaccines work.
Inductive Reasoning, Cause and Effect

"Monkeypox and Exotic Pets," pg. 21
Last summer, monkeypox infected people who had been bitten by infected prairie dogs sold in pet stores.
Cause and Effect, Hypothesis Testing

"Making Choices: The Ethics of Bioterrorism" (Activity to Discover), pg. 22
Doing "the right thing" is not always easy, as these hypothetical crises show. Decide on a course of action and tell ODYSSEY why you made your choice.
Critical Thinking, Decision Making

"SARS: Experiencing an Epidemic," pg. 24
Follow the story of a family in Singapore during the SARS outbreak. Theirs is a story of fear, protection, and the crippling effect of an epidemic on day-to-day life.
Process Analysis, Decision Making

"Robert Koch and the Hunt for Anthrax," pg. 26
Over 100 years ago, Robert Koch’s studies of anthrax uncovered the cause of the disease and led to public health efforts to control it.
Deductive Reasoning, Scientific Methodology

"Vaccine Gambit" (Brain Strain), pg. 29
How’s your math? It may seem like simple addition and subtraction, but you need to see the big picture if Romeo is to save Juliet.
Deductive Reasoning, Following Directions

"Name That Bug! Detecting Danger with DNA," pg. 30
Quick-response methods for detecting and identifying suspicious microorganisms are being researched and developed in laboratories across the United States. New DNA-naming methods are important in combating terrorism, but they are not the only techniques (sidebar, pg. 33).
Inductive Reasoning, Drawing Conclusions

"Join the Disease Detectives" (Activity to Discover), pg. 34
Follow the drama of a fictional terrorist attack and see how well you would handle an emergency medical situation.
Critical Thinking, Inductive Reasoning

"A Growing Fear: Will Agriculture Be the Next Terrorist Target?" pg. 38
Although there have been no documented cases of agroterrorism, the United States Department of Agriculture has security procedures in place.
Cause and Effect, Inductive Reasoning

"What’s Up" (including Planet Watch), pg. 42
This transitional month for skywatchers offers a great view of winter stars and a glimpse at some springtime constellations. It’s also the month of the vernal equinox. Read about the famous ancient calendar, Stonehenge (c. 2800 B.C.E.), and follow directions to make your own cardboard calendar.
Observation, Following Directions

Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
  1. What does bioterrorism mean? What kinds of dangers are included in that concept? Can our country protect itself against bioterrorism? How?
  2. We think of bioterrorism as a modern-day problem. Is it really? Can you think of any historical events that fit that category? How has the threat of bioterrorism changed in recent years?
Classroom "Syzygy":     Talk, Connect, Assess
Pg. 6 – "The Secret World of Biological Warfare"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. How are biological weapons different from other weapons of war? Consider their purpose, mode of action, and effects. Are they more or less powerful, and in what ways?
    2. After reading about the threats of bioterrorism, consider what can be done to lessen them. Make three lists of actions: (1) local activities; (2) national operations; and (3) international efforts. Add to your lists as you read the issue.
  • Connections:
    1. History: Research further the 1980s conflict with the Rajneeshees in Oregon. Prepare a time line or other visual aid to clarify the sequence of events. Cite the sources of your information and indicate which sources you considerable reliable or biased-and why.
    2. Visual Arts: Research some of the bacteria and viruses mentioned in the article and create for each one a poster similar to the diagram of the bacterial cell on pg. 9. Label each poster with the name of the organism. Show its structure and depict something about its effects on health. Display the posters on a bulletin board titled "A Rogue’s Gallery of ‘Bugs’."
    3. Government: Select one specific biological agent (either from the main article or from the sidebar on pg. 12) and research (perhaps on the Web site) the nature of the threat it poses and the government’s assessment of its risks. Make notes on how communities are advised to respond should a biological attack occur.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. In a one-page essay, define biological warfare. Discuss its history, purposes, methods, and outcomes. Offer one or two ideas about how to respond to an attack or prevent one from occurring.
    2. Write and deliver a persuasive speech. Your audience is the General Assembly of the United Nations, and your topic is the development and acceptance of an international "bioterrorism treaty."
Pg. 38 – "A Growing Fear: Will Agriculture Be the Next Terrorist Target?"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. In what ways is our agricultural system vulnerable to terrorist attack? What can we do to protect ourselves?
    2. Review the sidebar "Plants as Modern-day Canaries" on pg. 41. How might genetically engineered plants serve as sentinels? In what other ways might genetic engineering be used to stop or limit agroterrorism? What are the risks of using genetic engineering in this way?
  • Connections:
    1. Graphic Arts: The article describes how farmers report suspected pathogens and subsequent investigations are performed. Review this information and transform it into a "flow chart" poster, revealing the step-by-step process with a series of arrows and connecting boxes.
    2. History: Select one of the plant or animal pathogens described and research past outbreaks of that pathogen either in the U.S. or in other agricultural centers of the world. What were the effects of those outbreaks, and how were they resolved?
    3. Language Arts: Pretend that our crops or livestock were attacked by a terrorist, and write a journal account of how that attack was met and dealt with. If you would like to set your story in the future, feel free to include plausible futuristic means of combating the attack.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Pretend you are a local agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Write and deliver a speech to teach farmers how to spot and respond to an agroterrorist attack.
    2. In an informational essay, explain how our efforts to prevent an agroterrorist attack have actually improved our ability to maintain healthy crops and livestock.

Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (Work out the cryptic code a secret agent used to identify these biological agents. Answers follow.)

Large-Group Project: What does "Homeland Security" really mean? Break the class into groups for detailed investigation of the following categories: Who is responsible for Homeland Security? What do the national alert colors mean? What national response plans are in effect? What are your local response plans? Invite other classes for a presentation of your findings.

Small-Group Collaboration: Review the "Time Line of Terror" beginning pg. 8. Break the class into teams of three. Ask each team to select and investigate one of the events in the time line. One team member researches the event, another organizes the information into a clear and informative poster, and a third presents the team’s findings to the class.

Community Connection: From the CDC Web site, find out what pathogens are on the A-category list of bioterrorist threats. Have a local doctor talk about some of those pathogens and how the medical community would respond to an outbreak.

Whole-Class Activity: Create a bulletin board titled "Emergency Readiness" for your school. Show security measures to prevent or limit the dangers of bombs, fires, disease outbreaks, and other major threats to health and safety.

Answers: The code is a reverse alphabet: A = Z; B = Y, etc. PATHOGEN, SALMONELLA, YERSINIA PESTIS, SMALLPOX.)

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Last modified: February 29, 2004