STEM experiment makes learning infectious

A major whole school STEM experiment has taken place at Sydenham High, putting the school into mock quarantine.

Simulating a major epidemic, the ZARS paper virus experiment is designed to enable students to study the stages of a contagious disease, the speed of its progress in a close community and practice data gathering and analysis.

The mock epidemic started on Monday 23 November with a student ‘falling ill’ at Assembly.  By break time a ‘clinic’ had been set up in the entrance hall to provide students with paper virus notes that they were to hand out to ‘infect’ others.  Students then returned to the clinic the following day to find out if they were to survive the virus or succumb to it at the throw of a dice. The clinic is being manned by volunteer students and staff who record all infections and outcomes for final analysis.

Throughout the experiment students are being given information about the nature, symptoms and development stages of the virus, as well us explanations of why people survive and why they don’t.

Over the four days of the experiment there were 128 reported ‘cases’ in senior school: 80 were immune, 33 were contagious and 15 ‘died’. The virus affected 16 per cent of the student body with Year 9 being the worst affected year group. Meanwhile staff were disproportionately affected with 25 per cent ‘catching’ the virus.

A simplified version of the experiment, where students are either immune or ill, also took place at Junior School.

The week long experiment culminated with a presentation of the full results and some preventative health advice on combating every day contagious viruses – such as adopting good habits like ‘Catch it. Kill it. Bin it’ – as the winter flu season approaches.