Lesson Plan

Battling Disease

Poor camp conditions posed a big threat to soldiers.
Poor camp conditions posed a big threat to soldiers.
Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Subject:
Health, History, Mexican War, Military and Wartime History, Social Studies
Duration:
This lesson will take 30-45 minutes to complete.
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
indoors
National/State Standards:
National Standards:

Gr K-4 Social Studies: U.S. History 2, 3
Gr 5-12 Social Studies: World History Eras 4 & 7
Gr K-12 Language Arts: 1, 4, 12
Gr K-4 Science: 6
Gr 5-8 Science: 6
Gr K-4 Health: 1,3, 6
Gr 5-8 Health: 1,3, 6
Keywords:
military medicine, disease, Health and Medicine, Statistics

Overview

During the U.S.-Mexican War, approximately 70% of deaths in the army were due to disease. In this lesson students engage in an interactive activity to show the percentage of soldiers who died of disease versus battle wounds. Students will also study about the four health threats facing the U.S. and Mexican armies: poor drinking water, filthy camp conditions, mosquitoes, and poor personal hygiene. Students compare and contrast how soldiers fought these threats to how we combat them today.

Objective(s)

In this lesson students will discover that more soldiers died of disease than of battle wounds. Afterwards, they will learn about four health threats faced by the soldiers: poor drinking water, poor camp conditions, mosquitoes, and poor personal hygiene. Students will then create Venn diagrams to compare and contrast preventive health measures used during the US-Mexican War to those used today. Finally, students will discuss how preventative health measures keep us healthy.

Background

The 2-minute video segment "Medicine in the War" can be used to accompany this lesson plan. The video clip can be downloaded our For Kids page.
"Battling Disease" can be modified for Elementary and Middle School students. Students can work individually or in groups. Each individual or group can review one or all four health threats. Before starting, review and print out the PDFs in the Materials section.


Materials

Materials for this lesson plan include:
  1. Battlefield Stats: Deaths from Battle Wounds vs. Deaths from Disease
  2. Battling Disease Student Background
  3. Disease Venn Diagram


Procedure

STEP #1
  • Use Battlefield Stats: Deaths from Battle Wounds vs. Deaths from Disease to divide students into two different parts of the room.
  • Tell students that they are all soldiers who died during the U.S.-Mexican War. The bigger group died of disease and the smaller group died in battle or because of battle wounds.
STEP #2
  • If possible, watch the 2-minute video "Medicine in the War" which can be downloaded from For Kids page.
  • Hand out the Battling Disease Student Background worksheet. Have students read to themselves or outloud.
  • List each of the four health threats on the board. Health threats include: poor drinking water, poor camp conditions, mosquitoes, poor personal hygiene.
  • Ask students what can happen to their health if: they drink dirty water, there is too much garbage lying around, there are a lot of mosquitoes, they do not take bathes and care for their body. List responses on the board.
STEP #3
  • Tell students that Dr. Madison Mills was the Assistant Surgeon of the U.S. Army during the Battle of Palo Alto. His advice was modern medical technology in 1846. Today we still do some of these things to stay healthy, but we also have modern medical technology like vaccinations.
  • Split students into four groups, one for each health threat. (Option: Have students work in smaller groups or work individually and assign the same health threat to several groups/individuals.)
  • Hand out the Battling Disease Venn Diagram to groups/individuals to compare and contrast medical technology during the War with modern medical technology. (Option: Give an example such as: Threat: Poor hygeniene ¬†Technology: Take a bath Venn Diagram: U.S.-Mexican War, Modern, and Same.)
  • Tell students when they are finished with the Venn Diagram to answer the questions on the back of the worksheet.
  • Have students present their diagrams and answers to the class.¬†¬†

Assessment

Assess student performance in two key areas
  • Participation in group discussion
  • Worksheets
Above Proficient
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates and builds on the topic.
Worksheets: Venn Diagram complete. Thoughtful answers. Effective and accurate use of writing conventions. Drawings complete.

Proficient
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates to the topic.
Worksheets: Venn Diagram complete. Effective and accurate use of writing conventions. Drawings complete.

Below Proficient
Group discussion: Offers very little information of which some relates to the topic.
Worksheets: Venn Diagram incomplete. Writing conventions are not always followed. Drawings incomplete or no drawings.


Extensions

  1. Have a class discussion about the modern health tips that the students came up with to avoid disease.
  2. Have students pretend to be Dr. Madison Mills and write a short essay about what the soldiers should do to stay healthy.
  3. Have students set a personal health goal and track progress towards its achievement.


Additional Resources

The video to accompany this lesson plan can be downloaded from our For Kids page. Click on "Medicine in the War."
Information on U.S. Army Medical History is in U.S. Army Medical Department,1818-1865 by Mary C. Gillett