Mini-Beasts Microbiology Activity

20 Jan

This activity was part of the workshops I ran back in October and it was my mini-beastsfavourite practical in the session. During the workshops each activity was related to a university degree course and this one was related to Microbiology. It involves viewing protozoa, nematodes and algae under a microscope and it’s a real crowd pleaser. I had two cultures, one enriched with algae and the other enriched with protozoa.

First we discussed the different types of single-celled organisms and I explained that we had protazoa and algae (plus a few nematodes – not single-celled!), which are a lot larger than bacteria and viruses. The students were given microscopes slides labelled A and B. On the white board/powerpoint there were numbered pictures of organisms that could be seen in either of the samples.  The students had to identify which organisms from the board were in which sample.

A colleague told me about the cultures you can buy from this great company, MP900439410sciento. They’re really reasonably priced but it’s still probably more than most schools would pay for what would only be one or two experiments. This means the chances of the students having seen something similar are quite slim. They look great on most school microscopes but if you are taking this activity into a school, rather than doing it with your own microscopes, ask if you can use their best ones. In one school we used their KS3 (as opposed to KS4) and although they still looked ok, it wasn’t as amazing as when we used KS4 microscopes.

These are the cultures I used in this activity, which allowed me to have two distinct samples for the students could compare:

http://www.sciento.co.uk/catalog/item/7/

If you don’t need two different samples this mixed culture is visible under school microscopes and is a bit cheaper:

http://www.sciento.co.uk/catalog/item/4

The algae are beautiful, colourful in all shapes and sizes. The protozoa really move around a lot, which is great to watch!

I’ve also done other Cell Biology themed workshops at university with these cultures where KS3 students used university microscopes to visualise these as examples of single-celled organisms (the protozoa do have nematodes in though) and compared them to bacteria and their own cheek cells.

Whatever you decide to do with these cultures, they are lovely to use and can really enthuse students about Biology.

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