Week Fifty-Three: Microbes!

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February 3, 2016 by libraryheather

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Program Title: Microbes!

Target Age Range: 1st-3rd Grade

Program Length: 60 minutes

Brief Description:
Explore the world of microbes by understanding what they are, how they work, and what they do.

Supplies:
Bacteria Growing Kit
-Printouts of this activity sheet (1 per participant)
-Crayons (~1 box per table)
-8oz bottle of Glo Germ
6″ battery-powered blacklight (preferably you could get a bigger/more powerful blacklight)
-Piece of construction paper
-Scissors
-Scotch tape
-Black sharpie
-4 AA batteries
-Hand sanitizer (just in case!)
-Hand soap
-Access to a sink (preferably multiple sinks)
-Pencils (1 per participant)
Bacteria in the Library Prediction and Observation Sheet (1 per participant)
-Paper towels
-Laptop connected to a projector with sound and internet access
“Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes” – Nicola Davies

Cost: $$ 50-100 (closer to $50)

Advance Preparation:
-At least 1 week in advance, sample areas around the library and grow cultures with the Bacteria Growing Kit. It’s helpful to keep them in a single layer, upside-down, in a box. We covered ours with old t-shirts and foam to help keep it a bit warmer in our generally cool library. If you have a warm area of the library in which to grow them undisturbed, you won’t need a full week of growth time. If they get overgrown, you can store them in a refrigerator. Please note: Since petri dishes open very easily, you will want to tape all around the edges so that you/children do not accidentally open them and plunge your finger into the bacterial colonies!

-Take photos of each petri dish every day to chart the growth progress.

-Make a PowerPoint to show the growth progress for each dish. Here is the PowerPoint we made (in PDF format) as an example.

-Use construction paper, scotch tape, and a sharpie to make a cover for the bottle of Glo Germ. We called ours “Super Important Science Experiment Lotion,” so that they wouldn’t see the name “Glo Germ.”

Program Outline:
1. Settling in, welcome, introductions: 5 minutes.

2. Science discussion, reading “Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes” – Nicola Davies: 10 minutes.

3. Glo Germ Experiment: 15 minutes.

4. Library Germs!: 10 minutes.

5. Microbe Memory Game: ~5 minutes.

6. Prepare to Skype with Microbiologist / think of questions to ask: 5 minutes.

7. Skype session with Microbiologist: 10 minutes.

Handouts:
This activity sheet
Bacteria in the Library Prediction and Observation Sheet

Special Instructions and Procedures:
Science Discussion:
We found the explanations and cool facts on Microbe World extremely helpful for discussing what microbes are. From there, we used the site Microbe Magic to help explain the differences between bacteria and viruses (emphasizing all the good attributes of bacteria). You can also find helpful information on bacteria and viruses at Ducksters. We also talked about times the kids had been sick (strep throat, throwing up, a cold, etc) and talked about whether it might’ve been a bacteria or virus. Then, we talked about how bacteria and viruses spread from place to place. We made sure to emphasize that washing your hands is the best way to stay healthy, but that bacteria is literally everywhere in the world and yet we are not sick most of the time–even though we are constantly touching things and breathing the same air as other people.

Glo Germ Experiment:
1. Distribute Glo Germ to each child, saying it’s super important science experiment lotion. Tell them to rub it all over their hands very well.

2. Have them do something like the Microbe Activity Sheet or Microbe Coloring Sheet for a couple minutes. Tell them to wash their hands.

3. Say that you’re going to use your super important science-y x-ray vision (the blacklight) to see how much of the super important science experiment lotion is left. Be sure to look at the tables/paper/crayons, too!

4. Have them wash their hands again, telling them the importance of washing for at least 20 seconds and being sure to scrub under the nails and in other noticed trouble areas. You can teach them this song (under “lesson 4,” to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat–we took out “Clean Gene will show you how” and used “we will show you how” instead).

5. If there’s time, look at hands under the black light again.

6. Discuss: In this experiment, the lotion represents microbes—the good, the bad, and the ugly. What did you notice under the black light? Did the lotion residue get *everywhere* even though you couldn’t see it? That’s what it’s like with microbes. You don’t know they’re there, but they are there. It’s fine to have the good microbes on your hands, but do you want the bad stuff that might make you sick on your hands? No, of course not. So, this experiment was to show you the importance of handwashing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. A quick wash of your hands won’t get rid of bad germs.

Library Germs!:
The plan was to begin by discussing how we cannot usually see bacteria without a powerful microscope, but that scientists can grow millions and millions of bacteria into a colony that we can see with the naked eye. Explain how we sampled items in the library and grew bacterial colonies to see which things had the most bacteria on them. Pass out the Bacteria in the Library Prediction and Observation Sheets and ask them to rank which objects in the library they think had the most -> least bacteria on them. Set the petri dishes on each table and have participants rotate through to make observations about the amount of bacteria on each dish, the colors, shapes, etc. After everyone has a chance to see all the plates, reconvene for a brief discussion about what they thought would have the most bacterial growth and what actually did, what they noticed, etc.

We also had our Bacteria in the Library slideshow to use at the beginning and end of this session–the beginning showed us taking samples around the library, and the end showed each plate’s growth over the course of 6 days. Sadly, all of the above is hypothetical, because we ran out of time before our Skype session! We briefly showed them the plates (which they LOVED), but that was it.

Microbe Memory Game:
We created two Microbe Memory Game PowerPoints as a little time filler, just in case everything went really fast (which it didn’t!). We used the excellent downloadable Memory Game PPT template from Mrs. Baia’s Classroom, along with images of the adorable Giant Microbes (and the name of what they are, e.g. flu, sore throat, yogurt, etc, superimposed over the image). We did not get to this activity.

Skype with a Microbiologist:
This is, of course, totally dependent upon finding a Microbiologist who is willing to Skype with you about bacteria. We just happened to know one! The kids had plenty of questions for our Microbiologist, but we prepared this list of questions just in case they needed prompting.

Resources Used:
“Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes” – Nicola Davies

Microbe World: What is a Microbe?

Microbe World: Meet the Microbes

Microbe Magic: The Good Bacteria

Microbe Magic: How Viruses Work

Giant Microbes

Science Bob: Bacteria Growing Kit

Professor Gregory Richards – UW-Parkside

Guide to Anaerobic Bacteria

MyPersonalHygiene.com: K-5 Hand Hygiene Lesson Plans and Worksheets

ILoveBacteria.com: Meet the Microbes

Easy Science for Kids: Bacteria: Good Guy or Bad Guy?

Ducksters: Bacteria

ScienceNetLinks: Microbes 1: What’s Bugging You?

Science & Health Education Partnership: Understanding Germs (Bacteria, Viruses and Fungi)

Lesson Plans Page: Bacteria: Friend or Foe by, Katie Kaufman

Science Buddies: Interpreting Plates

Germs On Your Hands hand washing song (note: we said “we will show you how” instead of “Clean Gene will show you how.”)

Mrs. Baia’s Classroom: Simple Powerpoint Memory Game

Additional Resources:
No A? Walk Away: Hand Washing 

No A? Walk Away: How Germs Spread on Hands Activity


Penn State Materials Research Institute: Nano-Activities for Kids: Pathogen Modeling

Penn State Materials Research Institute: Nano-Activities for Kids: Wash Your Hands!

Penn State Materials Research Institute: Nano-Activities for Kids: Antibiotic Resistance

The Amoeba Sisters: Handouts and Videos (Bacteria, Viruses)

BBC: Microorganisms (game)

NeoK12.com: Microorganisms (videos)

Science Kids: Microorganisms (game)

Discovery Education: Who’s the Source of the Infection?

UMSL.edu: Microbes in Action: Classroom Activities

TED Ed: You Are Your Microbes (animated video, note: shows a drunk microbe throwing up…so we did not show this to our 1st-3rd graders!)

STEMMom.org: Giant Menacing Microbes

ASM Society: Classroom and Outreach Activities

What we would do differently:
This program did not go as planned. The Glo Germ experiment took up far more time than we ever would have anticipated. It took 15 minutes for 24 kids to wash their hands–very unexpected! This is probably because we only have 1 sink in our program room. If we did this activity in the future, we might split the participants into 2 groups, with some going to the bathrooms to wash their hands, and some washing their hands in the program room. After the hand washing, we discovered that our black light was not very powerful. As such, we had to go to each child individually and hold the light very close to their hands (and the tables, crayons, etc) to see the Glo Germ residue. This was a very slow process. Because this activity took so much longer than expected, we did not get to a) re-wash our hands and discuss much of what we were seeing under the black light, b) make formal observations about the bacteria growing in the petri dishes, and c) we definitely did not get to play the Microbe Memory Game.

If you don’t have a Skype session with a Microbiologist, you should have ample time to talk about how you grew the bacteria, why the kids don’t have to worry about bacteria growing like that “in the real world,” etc. They would also have time to describe the characteristics of the bacteria in each dish (round, fuzzy, smooth, red, white, yellow, etc), and talk about which place/dish had the most/least bacteria and why that might be. We also made a PowerPoint that had photos of each dish’s progress as the bacteria grew, which they likely would’ve really enjoyed seeing–but we didn’t have time! Bummer.

In order to play the Microbe Memory Game, we would suggest altering the Glo Germ game by splitting a larger group into two, so that more than 1 sink can be used for hand washing.

Adaptation for older/younger audience:
If you do a microbiology program for PreK-K participants, we would suggest focusing mainly on generalities (germs are everywhere, you get them by touching stuff, sometimes they make you sick, etc) and using the time to teach proper handwashing technique. For an older group, we think that Glo Germ and the Library Germs activities would still be fun, but there are other options. The American Society for Microbiology has many K-12 lesson plans on their website, but we are drawn to “Outbreaks! Investigating Epidemics” and “Taste Test: Can Microbes Tell the Difference?” We also love using this Name That Germ activity (but with photos instead of the actual plush dolls)–especially for tweens.

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One thought on “Week Fifty-Three: Microbes!

  1. Ardierdyn says:

    Hi there, I am Mrs. Baia. Thanks for the shout out! And so glad to help you out. 🙂

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