Skip Navigation
Text Size A A A

We Heard the Bells: Educator's Guide

Suggestions for the Classroom

Throughout history, influenza viruses have mutated and caused pandemics or global epidemics.  In 1918 and 1919, the worst influenza in recorded history killed an estimated 50 million people around the world.  The 1918 flu killed some 675,000 in the United States, five times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in World War I. 

Themes:  Pandemic influenza, seasonal influenza, prevention, vaccination

Time Period:  1918-1919

Subject:  Science, health, history, biology, public health, medicine

Materials:  DVD player, television, screen, chalkboard, dry-erase board or large paper tablet and markers

Before Viewing

Introduce the topic and facilitate a discussion by asking the participants what they know about the flu. 

  1. What do the participants know about influenza?  (Write the answers where the participants can see them.)
  2. Has anyone in the room experienced the flu?  If so, what can they tell you about their experience? 
  3. Has anyone in the room ever received a flu vaccination?  Explain why or why not?  (Write the answers where the
    participants can see them.)
  4. What is a pandemic?  How often do influenza pandemics occur?  (Write the answers where the participants can see them. Let the participants know about the History of Pandemics found at
  5. Do you know of anyone in your family who survived the 1918 influenza pandemic?  If so, ask them if they would share the story.  (Let participants know about the Pandemic Influenza Storybook found at where personal flu pandemic stories can be recorded and shared.)

After Viewing

  1. Review the written responses provided from participants to the pre-view questions.  Compare and contrast the accuracy of the pre-view answers with what was learned in the video.  What did the participants learn from the video? 
  2. There have been four influenza pandemics in the 20th Century.  Have students explore and further study pandemics that have occurred after 1918-1919.  How were they similar or different from the 1918 pandemic?
  3. Write a diary entry or letter from one of the following points of view:  a volunteer nursing sick patients with the flu in 1918; a child living in Brevig Mission, Alaska during the 1918 flu pandemic; a member of the medical team traveling with Dr. Johan Hultin to Brevig Mission, Alaska in 1951 to identify a victim of the 1918 flu buried in the permafrost.
  4. Describe the differences and similarities between seasonal influenza and pandemic influenza.
  5. Compare and contrast the characteristics of patients who typically become very ill with seasonal flu with the characteristics of patients who became ill during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
  6. Describe some ways a person can help to prevent the spread of influenza.
  7. Even though no one knew what caused influenza in 1918, some communities took steps to prevent the spread of the disease.  Compare and contrast the impact of the influenza of 1918 on communities that did or did not take steps to prevent the spread of the disease.