American History II Classes learn about the Spanish Flu

October 5, 2012

A little known fact about World War I was the disease that emerged towards the beginning of 1918.  The pandemic was known as the Spanish Flu and historians believe that it killed anywhere from 20-30 million people from 1918 to 1920.   In the United States, 500,00 people died, while 118,000 died in actual fighting during the war.

Mr. Carnes's American History classes conducted an experiment that demonstrated how fast the disease spread during and after WWI.  Each student was given a cup of distilled water while one student was given a cup of distilled water mixed with Sodium Hydroxide Solution.  The students had name tags that identified them as either a soldier for the Central Powers or the Allies.  The United States along with Great Britain and France were Allies while Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire comprised the Central Powers. 

The students were then directed to identify themselves to other students and pour half of their liquid into the other student's glass.  The student that they partnered with then poured half of the fluid back into their cups.  They completed this interaction with three other students.   At the end of the activity Mr. Carnes dropped an indicator called Phenolphthalein into the students cups.  If the student's fluid turned purple then they were "sick," with the Spanish Flu.  In Carnes' fourth period class, eight out of twelve students were infected with Spanish Flu.   This demonstrated to the students how fast a disease can spread. 

"I had heard of the Spanish Flu before this activity but this really brought it to life," said junior Logan Farrell.  "I like hands-on activities, I'm a visual learner."