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Fall SAVY 2016 (Day 5) – Pathogens and Protectors: The Science of the Immune System

Posted by on Monday, October 24, 2016 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Our 5th week began with more brainstorming around how to treat allergies and organ transplant recipients, and we discussed current strategies with their shortcomings in each case (ask students about induced pluripotent stem cells or allergy shots). While we have talked a lot about the cells involved in the immune response, we spent time this week clarifying the organs in which these cells are produced, are matured, and interact. 

Using what they have learned about the adaptive immune system, I asked students to hypothesize how vaccines worked – what is being injected, how the immune system responds – and most painted a very accurate picture. One student brought up cowpox, the first vaccine (against smallpox), and others were aware or deduced that the injected material is a compromised pathogen, injected to teach our adaptive immune system how to fight that specific pathogen. 

I then posed the question: should we require people to be vaccinated against the flu? While most students believed people should be vaccinated, there was debate between those who would mandate it versus those who wanted to implement an educational system before allowing the general population to make their own decision. I presented them with data showing frequency of measles cases as well as morbidity rates before and after the advent of vaccines, and we debated the necessity of childhood vaccines – touching on the recent concerns surrounding a link between vaccination and autism (which has been proven false) and herd immunity. Students did a wonderful job raising salient points during the debate and respectfully sharing their points of view and personal experiences. 

Next week, I am excited for students to share what they have learned about pathogens and immunity with you!