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10 STEM Activities for COVID-19 and Virus Science

Use these free STEM lesson plans and activities to explore science related to viruses, pandemics, and COVID-19 with K-12 students.

Three images from COVID-19 science activities - herd immunity with dominoes, virus and soap and water with foil, butter, and sprinkles, and model lung with plastic bottle and balloon

Science teachers have always taught health, human biology, and microbiology to K-12 students. This year, however, these topics have new urgency and real-world impact. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are aware of viruses in new ways. But what makes COVID-19 different than the flu? How does social distancing make a difference in infection rates? What does herd immunity mean? What's the best way to disinfect surfaces? These are just a few of the questions students might have as school gets underway.

Science Buddies has a collection of STEM lessons and activities to help explore a variety of science questions related to viruses, health and safety, and understanding the variables in a pandemic. The majority of the activities are geared towards K-8. For older students, the free SimPandemic tool gives educators and students the ability to run simulations related to a pandemic.

The opportunity to safely explore questions about viruses, virus transmission, and related health and safety can help students better understand the current pandemic and the science behind many of the strategies and variables that are often discussed in relation to COVID-19.

Teach about Viruses and Healthy Practices with STEM Activities

  1. 1. What is Herd Immunity?

    In the Model How Herd Immunity Works activity, students use colored wooden dominoes and simple hands-on simulations to learn about herd immunity.

    Model How Herd Immunity Works
  2. 2. How Big is a Virus?

    In the Small, Tiny, Invisible: How Big Is a Virus? activity, students create a scale model that allows them to compare the size of a virus to other small objects.

    Model the Size of a Virus
  3. 3. COVID-19 and Soap and Water

    In the How Do Viruses React To Soap? activity, students make model viruses from aluminum foil and candy sprinkles and see how they react to soap and water. (Be inspired! See how things went when this family did this activity.)

    How Do Viruses React To Soap?
  4. 4. Engineering Design and Face Masks

    In the DIY Face Mask activity, students explore CDC-recommended ways to make face masks and then brainstorm and test ways to improve their homemade masks.

    Girl wearing a homemade face mask
  5. 5. How Well Do You Wash Hands?

    In the How Well Do You Wash Your Hands? activity, students use washable paint to practice hand washing and find out what areas are hardest to clean. How long does it take to do a good job getting hands clean?

    See Germs! Hand Washing Science Experiment
  6. 6. Make Hand Sanitizer

    In the Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer activity, students use recipes from the World Health Organization to make gel or spray hand sanitizer and learn more about the science behind the different recipes.

    DIY Hand Sanitizer Spray
    Homemade Hand Sanitizer Gel
  7. 7. Cover Coughs and Sneezes!

    In the How Far Can Your Sneeze Go? activity, students model the "spray" created by a cough or sneeze to observe how far droplets can travel and the importance of covering a cough or sneeze to limit the spread of germs.

    How Far Can a Sneeze Go?
  8. 8. Code a Social Distancing Simulation

    In the Program Your Own COVID-19 Simulator with Scratch activity, students use Scratch to code a COVID-19 simulation that shows how a virus spreads with different levels of social distancing.

    Program Your Own COVID-19 Simulator with Scratch
  9. 9. Model a Sick Lung

    In the Explore How Lung Infection Influences Breathing activity, students make a simple lung model and explore what happens when lungs fill with mucus or fluid.

    Model a Lung Infection
  10. 10. How Vaccines Work in an Outbreak

    In the Using Vaccines to Fight Outbreaks lesson (grades 6-12), students learn more about vaccines and use the SimPandemic tool to model different vaccine parameters to understand how vaccines affect both individuals and populations during an outbreak like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sample graph from Simpandemic pandemic simulation tool

SimPandemic Lesson Plans

SimPandemic is an interactive tool that enables users to run their own simulations to see how different variables and approaches impact the duration of a pandemic, the number of infections, the economy, and more. The Using Vaccines to Fight Outbreaks lesson plan is the first in a series of lesson plans to guide educators in using SimPandemic with students. Additional SimPandemic lesson plans will be available soon.

Thematic Collections

Collections like this help educators find themed activities in a specific subject area or discover activities and lessons that meet a curriculum need. We hope these collections make it convenient for teachers to browse related lessons and activities. For other collections, see the Teaching Science Units and Thematic Collections lists. We encourage you to browse the complete STEM Activities for Kids and Lesson Plans areas, too. Filters are available to help you narrow your search.

These resources were made possible with the generous support of sponsors like EPAM.

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