Attack of the giant viruses

Attack of the giant virusesScientists have discovered a giant 30 000 year old virus still alive under the permafrost. As the world warms, others will be uncovered. Could such an ancient virus wipe out the human race? In this activity, learn how to interrogate sources to separate science fact from fiction.

Learning objectives

  • Apply knowledge of microorganisms to check the facts in a newspaper report.
  • Evaluate how trustworthy scientific reports are in the media.

Try the activity

You need to login before you download the free activities

Curriculum link

England National Curriculum KS3:

  • Working Scientifically: Interrogate media reports to evaluate how trustworthy they are.
  • Biology: Cells and organisation.

GCSE Combined Science subject content:

  • Working Scientifically: Development of scientific thinking: evaluate associated personal, social, economic and environmental implications.
  • Biology: explain how communicable diseases (caused by viruses, bacteria, protists and fungi) are spread in animals and plants.

Running the activity

Starter Is the news story true? How could you find out?
Core task Students read a newspaper article and decide how concerned they are.
Plenary Why might you come to a different conclusion when reading different reports?
Extension Students use a checklist to decide how trustworthy a report is.
Plenary Students use a checklist to decide how trustworthy a report is.
For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Computer virus spreads to humans

The news story from the starter.

First human ‘infected with computer virus’

Another version of the news story from the starter which gives a more realistic viewpoint of what happened.

30,000-year-old giant virus ‘comes back to life’

BBC news story about the giant virus


Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • roxigeo says:

    Foarte bun

    O abordare superba!

  • Philippa says:

    Attack of the giant viruses

    Thank you very much for taking the trouble to comment, Janie – I’m glad the lesson captured your students’ attention and that it worked well. Thanks for suggesting making the newspaper articles ‘consumable’ for student annotation – comments like this are always helpful for other rushed-off-their-feet teachers.

    Looking forward to hearing if you’ve used any of the other activities, and – if so – how they went!

  • Janie Tranah says:


    I downloaded this activity this morning and used it this afternoon! It worked really well to capture the attention of my rather passive lower set Yr10. The post-it note activity, identifying level of concern, worked very well. I only had one colour available but I found that worked better because there was no obvious difference between the groups. This itself triggered a conversation within the class, as one pair questioned another as to why they weren’t concerned. As the post-it notes went up they split easily in to two separate groups. I was then able to question the students with the most extreme responses in both directions to get them to explain their responses. One student commented that they could have been reading different stories! At this point I explained that they were the same story but in different papers.
    As always you need to run a lesson through in order to stop the pitfalls. I printed the ‘newspaper’ articles in colour on thin card thinking I could reuse them, which I will be able to do. However I wish I had done them as consumables because it would have been really helpful for the students to use highlighters on their own copies to identify words or phrases new to them. I was surprised to find that some of them didn’t know the word ‘ancient’.
    When I do this lesson again, I will take more time to go through the checklist sheet with them first. My students didn’t know the term ‘peer-reviewed journal’. As soon as I explained to them that ‘peer-review’ was like us doing peer assessment in class, they understood straight away.
    I wish I had spotted the weblinks (above this box) before the lesson because I may well have used the video clip. I only found them as I scrolled down the paper to write this! I realise that this is my fault for being in such a hurry, but aren’t we always! Overall an enjoyable lesson and I will definitely use it again.