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COVID-19 Vaccines in the Cook Islands

These resources are designed to support the development of scientific and health literacy using the context of COVID-19 vaccinations. Schools have an important role in facilitating learning that promotes conversations about vaccinations. These conversations can promote capability development and empower young people to take on the role of science communicator in their families.

COVID-19 Vaccination banner CIv2-01

The 3-Step Strategy promotes discussions and scaffolds the development of students’ and families’ questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Students’ learning should be shared with the community. This could take the form of a presentation to parents; a radio, TV or social media bulletin presented by students; or a youth-led community presentation.

Learning linking to the context of COVID-19 vaccinations is relevant during the period of initial vaccinations (2021-2022) and in 2023 and beyond as societies examine the long-term effects of the pandemic.

Exploring COVID-19 Vaccinations: A 3-Step Strategy

3-stage process

The strategy facilitates learning that supports students to explore a socioscientific issue:

  1. Exploring students' knowledge: finding out what students know and what they would like to know.
  2. Asking questions and exploring evidence through intentional activities in the classroom.
  3. Taking student-led discussions into homes and the community. 

The process of exploration and the development of understanding should be continuous throughout the learning journey.  


The Issue: COVID-19 Vaccinations

CI Vaccination

Big Learning Idea:

Develop and communicate evidence-based understanding of the COVID-19 vaccination process and its impacts.

Explore how vaccination programmes will impact health, social and economic wellbeing.

The questions asked and the depth at which they are explored will depend on the age of the students and the aims of the learning.

Possible themes to explore:

  • What are vaccines, how do they work, why are they needed?
  • How is a vaccine developed? 
  • What is herd immunity?
  • Will COVID-19 ever go away?
  • Why do some people not want to take part in the vaccination programmes around the world?
  • How will the vaccination programmes around the world impact on health, social and economic wellbeing in our community? Now? In the future?



Promoting student engagement

Exploring Images

Introducing the learning
Image examples: Click to download

1.  Present a series of images to the class to stimulate a conversation.

  • What do the images represent? or What is this all about?
  • What do we know about these images?

2. Share the BIG IDEA that will be the focus of the learning  | Use age and level-appropriate language

3.  Class discussion (negotiating the terms of learning with the class)

  • What will we focus on? 
  • What do you know? What would you like to find out about?
  • How will we organise our learning? 
  • How will we identify that we have accomplished our learning successfully? 


Global Issues Continuum

global health xs

Students explore the relative importance of COVID-19 compared to other issues. Teachers should determine whether they want the focus to be global, local or both. 

There are multiple ways of doing this. A simple strategy is to give out cards with issues that name an issue - e.g. COVID-19; diabetes epidemic; climate change; plastic waste; etc. Decide whether you want the issues to be a mix of socioscientific issues (e.g. inclusive of environment, technology, health, social justice) or whether you want to focus on health-related issues only. 

Working in small groups, students have to rank the issues and explain why they have selected this ranking. This is a good way of getting students to think about the relative impact of an issue. 


  • Small Group Activity | Set group roles: Leader; recorder; timer, report back
  • Set ground rules. -e.g. everyone listens, everyone can contribute, all ideas are recorded
  • Display the focus question or questions  - e.g.
    • "What do we know about COVID-19 vaccinations?" 
    • "How has COVID-19 impacted our community?" 
  • Once the time limit is up, get each group to report back to the class. 
  • Record ideas using post-it notes or similar. 
  • Students should record a list of things they think they need to find out more about.

Asking questions and exploring evidence


Mapping what we know

  1. Resource: Word cards - up to 10 words related to COVID-19
  2. Working in small groups students arrange the cards on a sheet of paper and draw and explain connections between the words.
  3. When they are happy with their responses, ask students to glue the cards in place and display them on the classroom wall.
  4. Groups move around the classroom and look at others’ responses.
  5. Discuss – what questions do we have? What more do we need to know?

True-False-Don't Know?

Activating prior knowledge and asking questions

The purpose of this activity is not to expect students to arrive at the correct answer, but to discuss what they might know and to ask questions.

Explain that the True/False statements are complex and that there might be reasons for both a ‘True’ answer as well as a ‘False’ answer.

  1. Present and read the statements to students
  2. Students move into pairs or small groups:
    • Talk about the statement in their group/pair and record their response
    • If they are sure of the response - they need to talk about why
    • If they are uncertain - they need to record ideas about questions that they would like answered to help them make a decision
  3. Groups contribute ideas to a class discussion  / Alternatively - get two groups or three pairs to combine and compare responses
  4. Groups have a chance to rethink their response before sharing with the whole class

 Use this as an opportunity to record questions that need further inquiry.


Possible questions:

  • Everyone in the Cook Islands will have a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Some people are unable to have the COVID-19 vaccine 
  • If a person is vaccinated, they will not get sick if they get COVID-19
  • If a person is vaccinated they can still pass on COVID-19 to others




Using the Cook Islands COVID-19 Pamphlet for schools

COVID-19 Pamphlet cover

The Cook Islands COVID-19 Vaccinations pamphlet for schools is available in Cook Islands Maori, Aitutaki Dialect, and English.

Designed by educators, scientists and health professionals, it is designed to stimulate conversations in the classroom.

It is relevant for use during and in the years after the initial vaccination programme in the Cook Islands. 

Readability and language has been assessed as age-appropriate for upper primary and junior secondary (10-13 years old) and above.

  • The pamphlet is a learning and teaching resource. It is not a patient information sheet. 
  • The pamphlet content is aligned to vaccine information provided by Te Marae Ora.
  • Print copies for all schools in the Cook Islands are available - please contact the Ministry of Education.
  • For more details please click on this link.



Pamphlet Mark up

Traffic Lights - a strategy to engage students in exploring the brochure

Working in small groups:

  • Read the pamphlet to each other - one section at a time
  • After reading a section, use highlighters to identify
    • GREEN - things we understand
    • RED - things we don't understand
    • ORANGE - things we would like to find out more about

Students can highlight the same portion of text with two different colours. For example, students might highlight the text below in GREEN because they understand it but underline in ORANGE because they want to understand more about WHY we should take action to protect ourselves.


Taking conversations into the home and community

Strategies to support students to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine with family and community members

Community elders and family members will have valuable knowledge about COVID-19 and the vaccine. They will also have questions and will want to know more.

Taking the pamphlet home creates an opportunity for students to extend family/ community knowledge by becoming science communicators.

Students in Rarotonga have reported to the PSHLP team that they take their learning about health and social issues from school into their family conversations.

They also reported to us that they appreciate having a pamphlet or similar to share with their family. 

The pamphlet is available in both Cook Islands Maori and English. This provides an opportunity for language learning and for better communication with elders.



Ideas to promote family and community engagement

Homework tasks:

  • Read the brochure with one or more family member.
  • Interview an older member of the family, sports club, church community, village and find out:
    • whether they have ever experienced a pandemic or health situation where they had to be isolated?
    • what questions they have about COVID-19
    • what they know about vaccines
  •  Students can add this information to their Know/Want to know chart and bring it back to school

Health and Safety

Teachers should be aware of the potential for exploration of COVID-19 or related events to trigger emotional responses from students. 

Teachers should be aware of how to access appropriate support structures for students in their care.

Teachers should be aware of potential socio-cultural variance within their learning community and take steps to ensure the safety of all students.

The potential for bullying should be considered and appropriate steps taken to ensure student safety when discussing socioscientific and health-related issues.