Hurricane Matthew: The Science of Cleanup: Lesson Plan

The cleanup after Hurricane Matthew means a race against mold and bacteria, both of which can grow in a damp environment and can cause disease.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.L.1.1 — Summarize the basic characteristics of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites relating to the spread, treatment and prevention of disease.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will describe the circumstances under which mold grows most quickly. 
  • Students will summarize the basic characteristics of bacteria and fungi relating to the spread of diseases.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Bacteria
  • Mold
  • Contamination
  • Fungus
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Infection
  • E. Coli
  • Fecal Coliform
  • Aspergillosis
  • Vibrio
  • Strachybotris
  • Chaetomium


Students will view the NC Science Now video Hurricane Matthew: The Science of Cleanup.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What kind of environment is conducive to the growth of mold and bacteria? 
  2. What types of infections can mold cause, and who is especially susceptible to them? 
  3. What are the dangers of floodwaters in connection with bacterial disease? 
  4. Describe the test Dr. Noble is developing. How does it differ from existing tests issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?


Students will perform the lab activity Mold Growth.

Lead the class in a discussion based on questions in the lab activity. 

Then ask the class to connect the growth of mold to the situation found in areas of North Carolina impacted by Hurricane Matthew.


We do not know as of yet what types of infections might occur in the wake of Hurricane Matthew as efforts increase to protect North Carolinians from possible disease. But studies showing the wave of infections that followed Hurricane Katrina, which hit the United States Gulf Coast in August 2005, can give some guidance to what types of dangers can arise. Students will read the resources (see below) that describe the infectious agents that arose in the wake of Katrina, and fill out the chart below:

Infectious Agents Chart



Students interested in the ways in which Hurricane Matthew can impact the potential spread of the Zika virus can read the following resources:


The key to preventing diseases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew—or of any natural disaster—is to clean up as quickly and thoroughly as possible once the storm is over, and also to leave contaminated areas until they have been disinfected. Students can convert what they have learned about post-storm safety precautions to a public service poster, brochure or video announcement. 

Additional online resources for students to use include: