Rollout of educational units

Every day, adults are making decisions that affect their own and their family’s lives. Many times these decisions require a basic understanding of scientific concepts. This is especially true of decisions related to health. Should children take daily vitamins? Is it better to buy organic food? Is that vaccination really necessary? Even before adults go in search of scientific information to inform these decisions, they need to have a basic understanding of how science and our bodies work. The basis for this understanding is introduced in school. Indeed, for many adults, the last formal training in science occurs in high school or an introductory college course. Unfortunately, these lessons are oft forgotten, never mastered to start, or simply lacking in the type of information needed to understand and evaluate real-world scientific concepts.

Educators are working to change this. Modern science teaching standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards, focus more on the practice of science and understanding of cross-cutting concepts than relaying discrete facts and figures. Educators are moving toward lessons that promote an understanding of the relationships between cause and effect, structure and function, and stability and change. The ultimate measure of success being that the next generation of adults goes into the world with a questioning attitude and a comfortable grasp of the scientific framework in which to consider complex issues related to health and the world around us.

One area of health and science that has suffered the current lack of evidence-based evaluation is vaccines. Many parents have been misinformed or susceptible to half-truths proffered by self-proclaimed experts. The result has been outbreaks of diseases previously well-controlled and, worse, unnecessary suffering by children whose parents have heard these messages and decided against vaccination. The Vaccine Makers Project, produced by Medical History Pictures and sponsored by the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is pleased to announce the launch of an educational curriculum incorporating Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards and focused on educating students about how the immune system works, how disease develops and how scientists have leveraged this knowledge to protect children around the world from suffering and disease through vaccination. Scientific discoveries are introduced in the context of the scientists who discovered them and the informational building blocks that enabled discoveries along the way. Materials are enhanced with clips from the documentary film, Hilleman: The Science of Saving 8 Million Lives a Year and newly developed 3-D animations showing various aspects of the immune system and disease, including how antibodies work and how viruses infect cells.

Unit one focuses on the immune system. Composed of three lessons, students get an overview of the immune system and its components (lesson 1) before delving into non-specific (lesson 2) and specific (lesson 3) immune responses. Unit two focuses on the development of diseases and how vaccines are made and work. Presented in four lessons, students are introduced to the evolutionary battle between man and disease (lesson1) before focusing on case studies of two pathogens that have been particularly adept at evading the immune system – influenza and HIV (lesson 2). The remaining two lessons in this unit focus on vaccine development (lesson 3) and cases studies showcasing the serendipity, genius and scientific community needed to develop two particular vaccines, mumps and hepatitis B (lesson 4). Upon completion of the units, a culminating extension activity involves current-day vaccine safety concerns and evaluation of the scientific basis of these concerns. The project is designed to enable science and health teachers to easily collaborate across content areas with activities that involve math, writing, history, ethics and communications.

Vaccines are not unique in the controversy and misunderstanding around a scientific issue; however, it is expected that a better understanding of the immune system, the underpinnings of disease and the science behind vaccine development will foster an immunity against misinformation and allow for sound decision-making when students are presented with opportunities for themselves to be vaccinated or to vaccinate their future children. Additionally, these units will hopefully equip and inspire students to think critically about other areas of concern for which a scientific literature and solid set of data exist, including vitamins, organic and genetically-modified foods, climate change, and evolution among others.


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Science Teachers Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts. Committee on Strengthening Science Education through a Teacher Learning Continuum. Board on Science Education and Teacher Advisory Council, Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. 2010. Common Core Standards: Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects. Washington DC: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

About Us- About the team

The Vaccine Makers Project was produced by Medical History Pictures and sponsored by the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Medical History Pictures

Medical History Pictures (MHP) is a Pennsylvania-based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation committed to public education about medical sciences through the development, production and broad dissemination of compelling documentary film and video coupled with continued outreach programming. MHP believes that by putting a human face to medical science, public understanding and confidence in that science can be strengthened. MHP pledges to present scientifically defensible, historically accurate and emotionally compelling content in all its programming.

Medical History Pictures is a partnership of Dr. Paul Offit, Gloria Lewis and Donald Rayne Mitchell. For the past fourteen years Gloria and Donald have worked together, producing and directing television commercials and long-format documentary-style projects. They have collaborated with Dr. Paul Offit since 2001 to create two educational video presentations for the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia titled, Vaccines: Separating Fact from Fear and Vaccines and Your Baby, in addition to The Vaccine Makers project.

Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The Vaccine Education Center was launched in October 2000 to provide accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. The Center, through its websites, videos, informational tear sheets, e-newsletters, webinars and speaker programs, seeks to dispel some of the common misconceptions and misinformation surrounding vaccines. The goal of our team is to communicate the facts about each vaccine as well as how vaccines are made, how and why vaccines work, who recommends them, whether they are safe, whether they are still necessary, and when they should be given.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the nation’s first pediatric hospital, has been a center of research, development and testing of vaccines such as those that prevent rubella (German measles), rabies, mumps, chickenpox and rotavirus. The Hospital has been the site of many pioneering research initiatives that have benefited children everywhere. It is home to one of the nation’s largest pediatric research and pediatric educational programs.

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