Outbreaks and extinctions??

My AP Biology students spent several days preparing arguments about whether we are heading toward the next mass extinction event or not. Each student took one side (yes or no) and developed an argument with scientific support. I offered two options for product – a debate to be held in class, or a written argument in the form of an essay.

If I had asked them whether they thought we were headed toward a mass extinction event two weeks ago, they likely would have all laughed at me. Now, though, they are struggling to find any scientific evidence to support that we are not heading toward a mass extinction event. This shift has nothing to do with the new global virus, but instead due to exposure to information in their textbooks and online lessons about mass extinction events. It has been an interesting shift in thinking and one I am excited to hear more about as the week progresses.

Today I had a sub. Instead of continuing to work on these arguments, I am asking the students to shift their focus. Today they are tasked with investigating outbreaks in history using this guidance:

Students will investigate outbreaks and pandemics in modern history. These include the first Ebola outbreak of 1976, Ebola outbreak 2014, Spanish Flu 1918, and one other of their choice. Then, students will investigate the Black death of the 14th Century. Finally, students will look at the CURRENT information on Coronavirus (COVID-19). For each of these outbreaks, students need to identify the following: 

    • Years of outbreak
    • Location (starting point and all places it spread to)
    • Number of infected and number of deaths
    • Modes of transmission
    • How was it treated
    • How the outbreak ended

By looking at these outbreaks, I am hoping to add a little more context to the idea of a mass extinction event, or provide an opportunity for further thinking about the limitations of outbreaks in human populations. Again, I am interested to hear how our conversation progresses tomorrow as we dissect all of this!

Debate Rubric general.docx

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