Photo by Lindsay Kurbursky

Epidemic! Fundamentals of Public Health, 1850-the Present

Explore the history of epidemics and the efforts taken to prevent them!  During four 50-minute lessons students will act as doctors during a 19th century cholera outbreak, investigate the germ theory, use primary sources to examine the Spanish influenza, and use social media to raise awareness of Ebola.

Included is a 2-hour Museum visit that will allow students to step back in time and see how scientists studied, diagnoses, and treated syphilis a century ago. There will be an introduction and activity followed by a specialized tour. A short conclusion activity explores public health dimensions of syphilis and students present their findings in the historic amphitheater.  

Each lesson is appropriate for students in social studies, science, and health science courses.

Click here for more details, including a list of the Indiana Academic Standards covered in this lesson. 

If you would like to use this unit in your class, email to make arrangements to receive the teacher's materials. 


Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • define “public health” and take on the role of a public health expert
  • describe real diseases and their effects on individuals and society, both past and present

  • recognize diseases through the observation of patient symptoms
  • explain how our society’s response to disease has changed over time, while also making connections between the past and the present
  • read and analyze primary historical documents
  • appreciate the major advances in—and limitations of—scientific techniques for studying and controlling disease since the nineteenth century
  • analyze current public health recommendations and create a public health campaign 

Additional things to know


  • Handouts for each lesson
  • PowerPoint for each lesson
  • Accompanying handouts for students
  • Accompanying worksheets for lessons
  • An overview of the Museum visit



Contact to learn more!



  • Please plan to schedule at least one month in advance
  • Offered Wednesday through Friday starting at 10 am; program will finish at 12 pm



Because of the nature of the building, spacing is limited

  • Wednesday to Friday: up to 32 visitors, including instructors, chaperones, and bus drivers

Copyright © 2021-2022 Indiana Medical History Museum

3270 Kirkbride Way, Indianapolis, IN 46222   (317) 635-7329

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software