Vaccine Science Education

These educational resources introduce elementary, middle, and high school students to concepts related to the immune system, the types of agents that cause infectious diseases, and vaccine history and science. Lessons employ the 5E’s pedagogic model of teaching (engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation) and are aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Educators are encouraged to utilize this flexible curriculum in whole or part to support learning objectives. Content can be used in a variety of settings including classrooms, STEM enrichment programs, homeschool sessions, museums, science centers, and science camps or clubs.

For an overview of all educational resources and additional information or to get started with the desired grade level, please visit:

Unit 1: The Human Immune System

In three lessons, Unit 1 introduces the immune system’s physiology; the body’s first line of defense, the non-specific innate immune system, and the highly specific adaptive immune system. The animations The Adaptive Immune System and How Do Antibodies Work? are viewed during this unit.

Lesson 1: Organs & Tissues of the Immune System

This lesson familiarizes students with the anatomy of the immune system. Interactivity includes a pop-up glossary of terms and a drag and drop diagram of the human body.

Lesson 2: The Innate Immune System

Students are introduced to the processes of the innate immune system and how it responds to immune system challenges. Using a castle and moat model throughout, the students demonstrate how the innate immune system works. Activities include pop up glossaries, data tables, and statistical analyses. Students create a multimedia resource to demonstrate their understanding of how the innate immune system works and watch an animation: Immune Cascade.

Lesson 3: The Adaptive Immune System

While focusing on the structure and function of the adaptive immune system, students compare the innate and adaptive immune systems by examining antigens, B cells, T cells, antibodies, dendritic cells, molecules, and processes. Unique features include a pop up glossary, a drag and drop concept map, a short written passage and creation of a multimedia resource to explain and demonstrate the functioning of the adaptive immune system. Students read the passage: Killer Cells, Memory Cells: A Brief Introduction to the […]

Unit 2: Disease and Vaccination

In five lessons, Unit 2 describes how disease and infection overcome our immune system using influenza and HIV viruses as examples, and explains the development and making of vaccines. Students play an infection simulation game, explore the influenza pandemic of 1918, model herd immunity, and read from Dr. Paul Offit’s book, Vaccinated, One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases. Animations and other readings highlight key discoveries, leading scientists, and ethical considerations in the history of vaccine research. The documentary film, Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children, is viewed during this unit. Unit 2 includes a lesson on vaccine safety.

Lesson 1: Development of Disease and Infection

The steps of the infection process are explored by examining the relationship between disease and the immune system. Pop up glossaries and drag and drop diagrams are used to practice the steps of infection. Students choose a disease to research, then write a simulated blog post or pop science magazine article and create a presentation about the development of that disease.

Lesson 2: Case Studies: Influenza & HIV

With HIV and influenza as models, students examine the concepts of antigenic variation and resistance and underlying genetic processes. They explore questions like why re-infection can occur with some viruses and not with others and why HIV degrades the human immune system. Students research the influenza pandemic of 1918 to investigate how antigenic variation can defeat the immune system. Activities include an infection simulation game and drag and drop interactive diagram of the infection process. Students watch the animation Antigenic […]

Lesson 3: The Discovery and Development of Vaccines

What are vaccines? How are they made? How do they protect people? What are the different modes of manufacturing them, advantages and disadvantages? These questions and others are explored in this lesson. Students use an online simulator to understand herd immunity. Small groups research how a particular vaccine is made, present their findings, and keep a notebook of the different types of vaccines.

Lesson 4: Vaccine History and Research

This lesson is designed to describe, identify and analyze key discoveries, the leading scientists and the main ethical considerations of vaccine research. Students read from Dr. Paul Offit’s book, Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases and view sections of the documentary film, Hilleman: A Perilous Quest to Save the World’s Children. Students investigate the roles of recombinant technology and viral attenuation in the manufacture of modern vaccines. They complete a timeline of vaccine history and write […]

Lesson 5: Vaccine Safety

What are the main issues regarding vaccine safety? What is the scientific basis for issues regarding vaccine safety? Students explore these questions and evaluate assertions related to vaccine safety. Using World Health Organization criteria to evaluate the credibility of their sources, groups create a media resource to illustrate an issue related to vaccine safety. The class debates a motion on whether or not vaccines are a benefit to society. Students write a passage on the results of the debate.