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Geography of Disease Wycombe High School Buckinghamshire

Wycombe High School in Buckinghamshire designed and organised a month long project for its year 9 students. The project, essentially a large scale enquiry activity, involved investigating multiple diseases from a range of different perspectives.

The project involved a range of subjects including; Mathematics, ICT, Geography, English, Music, Drama, Science, Business Studies and Religious Studies. Such a broad and complex topic supplied Wycombe High School with an excellent opportunity for cross-curricular co-operation, creating links between a range of subjects, each with its own perspectives and themes.

The project began with three off-timetable lessons introducing the project, examining how tropical diseases like Cholera, Malaria and Bilharzia spread and outlining what students were aiming to achieve at the end of the project.

Download: Introduction to the Project (Word, 34K)

During the core stage of this cross-curricular enquiry into disease students worked on tasks that were firmly cemented in real life contexts. Students were given the scenario of a deadly virus threatening to spread to the UK and were encouraged to consider answers to probing questions such as the following:

  • What actions should the World Health Organisation take to control the spread and stop it in its tracks?
  • What simple measures could individuals take to protect themselves?
  • How can we plan for such an event?
  • Can we model the possible spread?
  • How might it spread across the UK and how long might we have?
  • How can we identify the sick and how might we prevent the spread?
  • What measures could you, as the government, put in place to reduce or eliminate these problems?

The link between geography and maths was especially strong and students explored a variety of different probability techniques to model the spread of disease. Paper-based and computer generated models helped them understand that disease can spread differently, even in identical conditions.

Computer models developed by Durham University gave students the chance to create their own scenarios including the use of barriers to prevent disease spread. These interactive models provide an easy way to introduce students to the main aspects of disease spread. By changing variables like proximity, susceptibility, population and area, students can effectively customise their own Petri dish of infected people. You may access the models for free at the Smart Centre website.

At the end of the project the students were taken off timetable again to bring together everything they had learnt. They designed emergency booklets for public and government consumption. The booklets were designed to give clear, simple and relevant information in the event of a highly virulent disease.

Download: Lesson Plans and activities (Word, 152K)

The Assistant Head wrote of the project, ‘Developing inter-curricular projects that have a real impact is a challenge but one the school believes in. This project is of considerable significance in that it breaks down the boundaries between subjects while retaining the integrity of the subject disciplines and works with issues of direct relevance to the students.

The teachers involved include Jo Walker, Mathematics and Statistics Leader; Hugh Mothersole ICT in Subjects Leader; Rachel Aston who supported Jo in managing the project and in teaching the Geography lessons; Chloe Tucknott who organised the English, Music and Drama; Silvia Rodriguez, MFL; Lavinia Sullivan, Science; Louise Peden, Business studies; Sarah Brace, Religious Studies; Sheila Cornall, Science and Suzzie Sauer, Drama.

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