On October 18th, All Girls Stem Society (AGSS) held its Pandemics Workshop, led by Kasie and Jade. Especially during these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, learning about diseases, how they spread, and how to stay safe is a must!
First, Jade explained to the girls the differences between epidemics and pandemics, and then Kasie continued the conversation with a lesson on viruses and bacteria. At the same time, volunteers helped answer any questions the girls had about the topic in Zoom’s chat. Then, based off of what was taught, the girls played an easy game in which they were asked to determine whether or not the organism shown in a picture was a bacteria or virus. From this game we were able to see that, as Kasie puts it, “the structure of bacteria is more spread out but the structure of a virus is more compact and clustered to protect the DNA and RNA that it contains.” Afterwards, Jade and Kasie begin to talk about the one and only, COVID-19. For instance, the girls were taught about how the virus spreads, the effects of COVID-19, such as destroyed lung tissue, and how our bodies recover from COVID-19. To fight off the infection or to recover from COVID-19, our bodies are highly reliant on our immune systems. As one of the girls describes it, the immune system is “like an army of tiny soldiers in our bodies that fight off the evil bad guys,” with “tiny soldiers” being antibodies and “evil bad guys” being viruses and harmful bacteria. What is also helpful is the use of antibiotics. However, the girls were warned to not take too many antibiotics because it is very likely that bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance and the antibiotics would no longer be effective.
After a short break, the girls all returned to play a zombie game in order to demonstrate the exponential spread of a virus. First, a randomly chosen girl would be selected as a zombie, and then the zombie would “infect” or message two other girls. Those girls would then become zombies as well, and they would infect two other girls. For the infected zombies, they would send Kasie a random number from 1-10, and if their number was chosen, they would “pass away.” But don’t worry! This just means they would turn off their camera, and it is to represent, for example, a 20% death rate of a virus like COVID-19. From this game, the girls were able to see how the spread of the virus got continuously faster and faster until everyone was infected. Finally, we went over vaccines and how they are effective in preventing diseases.