Ebola #Top 3 activity

ebola imageWill the next outbreak be a global pandemic? The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the largest in history, and killed more than 11,000 people. Even survivors are suffering long term health problems. Scientists have responded quickly with a number of possible vaccines. In this activity students are asked if they would volunteer to be part of the safety trial. They gather information from different sources, weigh up risks and benefits and apply what they know about genes to decide if it is a risk worth taking.

Learning objective

  • Weigh up risks and benefits and make a decision, using scientific knowledge of the function of genes.

Try the activity

Sample: you can download this activity without registering/logging in.

Curriculum link

England National Curriculum KS3:

  • Working Scientifically:  Scientific attitudes: Evaluate risks
  • Biology: Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes: a simple model of chromosomes, genes and DNA in heredity

GCSE Combined Science subject content:

  • Working Scientifically:  Development of scientific thinking: evaluate associated personal, social, economic and environmental implications; and make decisions based on the evaluation of evidence and arguments; evaluate risks both in practical science and the wider societal context
  • Biology: The genome and gene expression: explain the following terms:…chromosome, gene,…

Running the activity

Dilemma Invitation to trial the vaccine
Science Students use their knowledge of genes to explain how the vaccine works
Decision Gathering information, weighing up risks and benefits and coming to a decision
Plenary How did you make your decision?

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Ebola teacher information

Information about the Ebola vaccine and the trials.

Progress towards the Ebola vaccine in 80 seconds

Short video clip which can be used at the start of the lesson.

Ebola vaccine volunteer video

The first woman to receive the trial Ebola vaccine talks about why she volunteered and what the trial involves.

Ebola virus: how it spreads and what it does to you

Video with further information about Ebola

Outbreak game

A strategy-based computer game where students investigate infectious diseases in an attempt to stop them spreading.

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  • lknowles says:

    Love this moral dilemma

    The kids really engage with this exercise.
    In Brasil where I currently teach, I have used this with Zika instead of Ebola – 99% of them will not volunteer to be a test subject for a vaccine!
    I find it very interesting , the rest of the world is freaking out about Zika, here Dengue and chikungunga are ones which can actually kill you!

  • soulbrother says:

    Zika Breaking news

    I linked the use of this resources to the dilemnas faced by local travellers and international travellers such visiting athletes’ families, trainers and entourage etc . It highlights how an informed decision requires some knowledge and understanding of science behind vaccines and vectors decision making processes . Students gathered extracts from various media sources written, paper based and online. Very enjoyable eye opener for students as they compared reporting angles or perspectives and debating revealed their reasoning. Excellent resource

  • dawbsk says:

    Ebola, but generated wider discussion

    I used this resource with a large group of Year 12 students as it was a current news story at the time. The activity was great and students worked well with the material. However, from my point of view, the real benefit was when the issue of “big drugs companies” was raised – this generated a huge discussion, with some students clearly adopting a suspicious attitude, but with no real basis in fact – a point that others in the class quickly picked up on. It was very rewarding to see them engaged with an important topic like this. Thank you.

    • Gemma Young says:

      Thank you for taking to the time to comment. It is great to hear that this activity promoted such a relevant and meaningful discussion. One of our aims is to get students thinking about their attitudes towards science and technology so good to see it taking place in practice.
      Gemma from the writing team

  • brennyboo says:


    having read through the planning I can see how much effort has gone into this. looking forward to using this in the new school year.

  • pattoogood says:


    An excellent resource that was contemporary and relevant. Students found it easy to relate to and were willing to be involved in discussion and research.

  • ishtein says:


    Very nice and interesting activity. It also provides the opportunity to talk with the students about the variety of information sources and how we can use them. The teachers guide is very helpful and clear .

  • benosher says:

    Ebola activity

    Activities that rises ethical dilemmas and promote live discussions are very important in science classroom
    This Ebola activity Is also very relevant.

  • randah says:


    This activity is very interesting and relevant for the biology students. I already told the biology teacher in my school about it.

  • randa says:


    I like this activity and i think that pupils will like it too espcially that they study biotechnology in addition to chemistry and this subject is relevant to our life and i think that i will try it with my pupils

  • simona says:

    Ebola activity for students

    I think that the topic is up to date. The activity is very interesting, and raises ethical dilemas that pupils can talk and argue about. The scientific subject is relevant to biotechnology students in my school. I’ll definitely try this activity with my students.

  • lesley245 says:


    This is a fantastic, up to date, fully planned lesson topic. I am looking forward to trying this with my pupils who I think will be stimulated to look at all the issues surrounding the dangers of this virus and vaccination pros and cons.