Pathogens and Our Defenses

In this activity, students play a card game pitting immune, public health, and medical defenses against a variety of pathogens. By mapping which defenses are effective against which pathogens and looking for patterns, students gain a basic understanding of how each defense works. Finally, students are asked to make their own pathogen card and predict which defenses will be effective against it.

Intended Audience:
Grades 9-12

Learning Objectives:

At the completion of this activity, the students will be able to:

  1. Describe components of the human immune system and how they work.
  2. Describe different categories of human pathogens based on organism type, how they are transmitted, whether they live inside or outside of host cells, and notable features.
  3. Predict whether a particular immune, public health, or med-ical defense will be effective against a pathogen based on its features.


Infectious Disease, Immunology

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Pathogens and Our Defenses

Supplementary Artwork:
If you prefer to have professionally printed card decks (as opposed to the Avery nametag inserts), you may use the high-resolution artwork below. The graphics are designed to be printed on standard poker-sized cards, 2.5" x 3.5". For each “Defense” deck, you need to print 4 copies of each card, and for each “Pathogen” deck, you need to print 3 copies of each card. To find vendors who print custom cards, Google “custom card game.”
Pathogens and Our Defenses - Card Artwork

You light up my life: Bioluminescent bacteria and anglerfish


This activity introduces students to bacteria by investigating symbiotic relationships.  Although symbiotic relationships can be harmful or beneficial, this lesson focuses on helpful bacteria to show students that not all bacteria cause infections.  The bacterium focused on in this exercise is Photobacterium (formerly Vibrio) fischeriP. fischeri, made famous by the movie Finding Nemo, is a bacterium found in the light organ of certain fish and allows the fish to attract prey to survive.  Consequently, the bacteria benefit by feeding on the residual prey.  The success of this feeding circuitry involves P. fischeri communicating with one another.

Intended Audience

Grades 5-8

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this activity, students will be able to:

  1. Define microorganism and the types of symbiosis.
  2. Explain how anglerfish and P. fischeri are in a mutualistic relationship.
  3. Demonstrate that P. fischeri must be close to one another and use chemical signaling to exhibit luminescence.

Necessary Student Background

Before the interactive activity, students should know the basic definition of microorganism, bacteria, and the concept of symbiosis, specifically mutualism.  Additionally, it is important to remind students that organisms strive to survive using energy efficient strategies, and these strategies are affected by the environment.


Microorganisms, symbiosis, bacterial signaling, bioluminescence

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You Light Up My Life



Which Microbe are You? Human Microbiome Edition

Students explore the human microbiome in this lesson, first by voting on some discussion questions, then by taking a 'microbial personality' quiz that matches them with a particular microbiome microbe. From there, students create concept maps in small groups, incorporating their microbe and some general terms and ideas. Students also create their own quiz question by learning about additional species that are part of our microbiome. Finally, students revisit the discussion questions from the beginning and justify their answers using examples from the human microbiome.

Intended Audience:
Grades 5-8, 9-12

Learning Objectives:
At the completion of this activity, the students will be able to:

  1. Define the terms “microbe” and “microbiome.”
  2. Describe some of the diverse features of microbes that live in or on the human body.
  3. Explain some ways in which microbes in our microbiomes help us.

Topic: Human Microbiome 

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Which Microbe are You? Human Microbiome Edition

Supplementary Artwork
ASM designed unique buttons for each microbial identity in the personality quiz. If you would like to reproduce these for your students, you can submit the hi-resolution artwork in this zip file to the vendor of your choice. Note that this artwork is sized for 1” round buttons and includes bleed. 

Which Microbe Are You? Human Microbiome Edition - Button Artwork