Note: A "One Health" educational assist for future health and healthcare scientists.

Encouraging Middle School Students to Learn About Infectious Diseases Through Web-based Adventures


A report by the Federation of American Scientists in 2006 recognized the shift by government, business, and education to environments in which games play a greater role in learning. One of the recommendations from the report was that “Educational institutions need to transform organizational systems and instructional practices to take greater advantage of new technology, including games.” Through previous NIH/NIAID R25 education grants to Dr. Leslie Miller, innovative materials to teach middle school students about infectious diseases and the microbes that cause them was developed. The product has come to be known as MEDMYST, which is an abbreviation for “medical mysteries”. Currently, MEDMYST is a series of five web adventures delivered via the Internet and designed to engage students in problem-solving activities not likely to be encountered elsewhere. A Spanish language version of the medical missions is also available on the web. There are also MEDMYST magazines and classroom activities for teachers, and each of these components is available free of charge on the web site ( All components are aligned with content from the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993). Results of extensive field testing of these materials have shown this approach to be a very successful teaching tool.


Based upon the success of this model, the development of Mission 6 is underway. The purpose of Mission 6 is to introduce players (primarily 5th to 8th graders) to the concept of a “discovery-to-control” continuum for zoonotic diseases. The focus is on the discovery part of the continuum, and includes relevant material on epidemiology, etiology, and discovery of a new viral disease. The format allows the highlighting of careers in science and health, and reinforces science process skills for successful completion of the game/story. Mission 6 also sets the stage for the next mission, which will focus on the control portion of the discovery-to-control continuum, and will include concepts like vector control, the use of diagnostic tools, and vaccine development.


Provided by:

Kimberly Schuenke, PhD, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX;

Leslie Miller, PhD, Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning, Rice University, Houston, TX;

Supported by a grant 2R25AI062762-03 from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.