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KS4: Harmful Microbes

In this lesson, close examination of various illnesses illustrates to students how and where harmful microbes cause disease. Students test their knowledge of disease-causing microbes by researching various illnesses and how they can impact the community.

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Learning objectives
All students will:
  • Understand how harmful microbes (pathogens) can pass from person to person
  • Understand that sometimes microbes can make us ill and cause infection
  • Understand that different infections cause different symptoms
  • Understand how global travel has influenced the spread of disease
Most students will:
  • Understand how infectious diseases impact the local community
Background Information

Some microbes can be harmful to humans and can cause disease: the Influenza virus causes the flu, Campylobacter bacteria can cause food poisoning, and dermatophyte fungi, such as Trichophyton, can cause diseases such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. Microbes like these are known as pathogens. Each pathogenic microbe can make us ill in different ways.

Someone who is ill because of a harmful disease-causing microbe is said to be infected. Many harmful microbes can pass from one person to another by a number of different routes – air, touch, water, food, aerosols (such as sneezes and water vapour), animals, etc... Diseases caused by such microbes are said to be infectious diseases.

In this lesson plan, students discover the different types of infectious diseases caused by harmful microbes and their characteristics. They explore how infectious diseases can spread and consider how they would manage an outbreak.

Main activity:
  • Harmful microbes and their diseases
Extension activities:
  • Harmful microbes fill in the blanks
  • Outbreak activity scenario discussion
  • Infectious disease timeline
Curriculum links


  • Working scientifically
  • Scientific attitudes
  • Experimental skills and investigations


  • Communicable diseases
  • Structure and function of living organisms
  • Cells and organisation
  • Nutrition and digestion


  • Health and prevention
  • English:
  • Reading
  • Writing

Art & Design:

  • Graphic communication
Supporting Materials
Teacher sheets
KS4 Harmful microbes teacher guidance
TS1 Disease match answers
TS2 Differentiated harmful microbes and their diseases answers
TS3 Harmful microbes fill in the blanks answers
Student worksheets
SW1 Harmful microbes
SW2 Differentiated disease match worksheet
SW3 Harmful microbes fill in the blanks
Student handouts
SH1-4 Harmful microbes and their diseases
SH5-6 Differentiated diseases