Prepping for a Pandemic



Sarasota Military Academy Prep will soon be hit with an infectious outbreak. The cadets will be responsible for quelling the disease, before it wipes out the school’s population. Fortunately, it is all a part of a simulation happening this Friday on the SMA Prep campus meant to show cadets how epidemics occur. 200 middle school students will implement STEM skills learned in life science and civics classes to identify the disease, combat its spread and hopefully contain the epidemic.

The cadets are separated into six groups: Government, Military, Triage Doctors, Epidemiologists, Media and General Population. The simulation begins with the General Population receiving cards that describe symptoms. The cadets act out the conditions on the cards, while the Triage Doctors diagnose them. Other roles filled by cadets include body team members who collect the deceased cadets and bring them to the morgue. Goggles, gloves and hazmat suits are worn by those playing epidemiologists, as they experiment to find a cure to a disease made up by their teachers. Although it is a simulation, the highest precautions are taken to add to authenticity.

“This is our second year,” says Major Todd Brown, a history teacher at Sarasota Military Academy. “We are changing a couple things. We have got to modify and evolve with growing numbers.”

Last year, 90 of the 170 students involved succumbed to the virus. This year, the school will include more cadets and will feature guests such as cellular biologist Dr. Tamara Robertson, who has appeared on MythBusters and been written into the Marvel Universe, as well as Dr. Pardis Sabeti, Harvard professor and computational geneticist at Sabeti Lab, who was recognized as one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world.

The outbreak simulation gives students the chance to learn about and react to an epidemic, something anyone could benefit from, since diseases such as Zika and Ebola are part of life even here in the United States. “We are totally underprepared for a pandemic as a world and a country,” Brown says. “So the simulation is meant to engulf kids in real life situations that are pertinent.” 

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