Using SARS-CoV-2 (and COVID-19) to Teach Biology

This blog post was written in January 2021 and there may be new scientific discoveries since publishing that would change what we know about this virus.

We live in a unique time where it has become even more clear that understanding biology is very important. At the moment, the virus SARS-CoV-2 is all over the news and those of us who are living in this pandemic on the planet Earth, those of us watching the news, are learning all sorts of new things about viruses, RNA, spike proteins, and new scientific discoveries and vaccines.

We as biology teachers have a really important job! We can use biology to explain some of what we understand about the virus SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the medical condition COVID-19). But we can also help students understand other aspects of biology by using SARS-CoV-2 examples in our teaching!

One of the units that lends itself really well to this topic is Protein Synthesis (Transcription and Translation). Using textbooks, students can learn the basics of what a ribosome does and what messenger RNA is. You can use SARS-CoV-2 to introduce this topic on a deeper level and introduce the idea of Open Reading Frames (a term that has more specific definition than “gene”). An open reading frame is a section of messenger RNA that encodes for a protein sequence.

After students have learned the basics, you can use this free SARS-CoV-2 Open Reading Frame Coloring Activity! You can get it by subscribing to my email list here; I send out free resources and tips on average once or twice a week (and you can unsubscribe at any time if you feel my emails and resources aren’t for you.).

In addition to this free SARS-CoV-2 ORF Coloring Activity, I have a SARS-CoV-2 Doodle Diagram Notes that you can use to teach about viral structure, its viral life cycle, and the health effects and guidelines around COVID-19. I added this set as a new Bonus for my Doodle Diagram Bundle you can find here on TPT and here on my own website.

Later next week, I’ll be creating the Interactive Diagram to match!

Snowflake Stoichiometry: the perfect way to review the factor label method