Did SARS-CoV‑2 come from a lab, a bat, or a pangolin? How is the virus related to dying monkeys?

Radha Gopalan in conversation with Thejaswi Shivanand explores how and why new diseases strike human beings. Do all new diseases have the potential to reach pandemic proportions? Watch: i wonder webinar

I wonder webinar COVID 19 and the tale of the dying monkeys

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people urgently started seeking ways to treat and prevent the infection. However, the pandemic also raised many other questions. Where did this virus come from? Are there other unknown viruses and bacteria lurking somewhere, waiting to infect us? Where are they lurking, and why are they not known to us yet?

Why, and how, do new diseases strike human beings? Do all new diseases have the potential to reach pandemic proportions? These questions are today, of vital interest to everyone — from epidemiologists (who study patterns of disease spread) to the common man.

In this i wonder webinar, streamed live on February 2021, Radha Gopalan is in conversation with Thejaswi Shivanand about his article SARS-CoV‑2 & the incredible tale of the dying monkeys’, from the October 2020 issue of i wonder. They explore when and why microbes jump from one species to another.

Their discussion traverses zoonotic diseases (that have jumped from a non-human animal to humans), viruses, and how school teachers can engage with these topics in a classroom. 

Thejaswi mentions how while writing this article, information about the virus was scarce and rumours were many. It was then that he thought it important to address the issue. 

He considered it as an opportunity to understand the wider phenomenon of viruses that have jumped from animals to humans in the last 30 – 40 years. 

While exploring the different questions, he also highlights how pedagogically, it’s a disservice to the subject and to the children if a textbook and the divisions of the same (in the form of chapters) are used as pedagogical structures by teachers. 

Teachers should use textbooks as a source of information but they should find their examples to connect with their students, says Thejaswi. 

One often wonders whether teachers get bored of teaching the same concepts to a new batch of students, again. He offers a way to handle that as well.

It’s often said that explaining a concept with the help of a story helps students to understand it better. This webinar also addresses questions around exceptions in Biology where explaining a concept through a story may be difficult and even lead to misconceptions.

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Thejaswi Shivanand is part of Centre for Learning, Bengaluru. He teaches Biology, Statistics, and Geography in the senior school. 

He is also closely involved with the school library and nature education at CFL

He can be contacted at dumaketu@​gmail.​com


Radha Gopalan is an environmental scientist with a PhD from IIT Mumbai. 

After 18 years of working as an environmental consultant, Radha taught Environmental Science at Rishi Valley School. 

She is a Visiting Faculty with the School of Development, Azim Premji University, and a member of the Food Sovereignty Alliance, India.

She may be contacted at radha.​gopalan@​azimpremjifoundation.​org