The current flu scare is apparently causing some school administrators around the country to shut down activities and buildings in hopes of avoiding a potential pandemic. Whether these actions are necessary may still be in question but they do raise images of earlier pandemic concerns, specifically the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

As teachers of history, we can use the 1918 episode to address the many questions and concerns of our students. There are lots of resources and lesson plans that you can use to discuss geography and history standards. I’ve listed a few of those available below.


The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918-1919
The United States Department of Health and Human Services have put together this very information site. “Learn more about the pandemic, along with the Nation’s health and the medical care system and how they were affected. Also, take a glance at some people who fought the Influenza in the United States.” The HHS people also have some specific state by state data as well as info on the current situation here.
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Molly Billings of Stanford University put together a concise account of the events of 1918.
Influenza 1918

PBS always has great stuff and this useful site is no different. Lots of teacher resources.

Lesson Plans:

Geographic Diffusion of Disease: The Flu Pandemic of 1918-19
This lesson by the National Geographic people focuses on the spatial diffusion of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19. Spatial diffusion is the geographic spread of ideas, innovations, or phenomena (such as disease).
Pandemics: The Swine Flu of 1918
Students will gain an understanding of pandemics through research of the 1918 swine flu and apply the information by choosing a current virus and role-playing a member of the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).
Secrets of the Dead
Students learn the story of the 1918 influenza pandemic and about the use of electrophoresis and DNA fingerprinting to identify an unknown, using UPC barcodes to represent the DNA banding patterns.
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
Students will use primary sources to explain the chronology of the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and the public’s response.
Teaching with Documents: Documents Related to the Flu Pandemic of 1918
The National Council for the Social Studies created this wonderful article about using primary sources in the classroom. The two featured documents recall the loss of life and havoc in the United States.

Good luck!