Registered users receive a variety of benefits including the ability to customize email alerts, create favorite journals list, and save searches.
Please note that a BioOne web account does not automatically grant access to full-text content. An institutional or society member subscription is required to view non-Open Access content.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Inquiry, discovery, and technology are key pillars in improving science education. We present an inquiry-based lab project using the worldwide symbiosis between the bacterium Wolbachia and invertebrates. This endeavor, called “Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project,” has the following goals: (1) involve students in grade 7 through college in a nationwide effort to collect new genetic information on Wolbachia; (2) provide curriculum, protocols, and training to enhance teachers' ability to lead students through the project; and (3) increase students' understanding of biodiversity, evolution, symbiosis, cell biology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics.
I describe a 5-day basic microbiology enrichment course for high school students. In this course, students learn microbiological techniques such as preparation of agar plates, isolation of bacteria from food, serial dilution, and plating. Additionally, they experience the steps involved in the identification of an unknown bacterium and learn about the modes of action of common antibiotics against different types of bacteria. Feedback indicates that this course provided invaluable lessons and experiences for students who had no prior hands-on experience with microorganisms.
We present a laboratory-based exercise that is used to teach basic lab skills (e.g., aseptic technique and enumeration) using naturally occurring microbial communities in a real biological context. Students examine the colonization by microbial communities of leaves that fall into streams. Leaf decomposition reflects enzymatic activity by microorganisms such as aquatic fungi and bacteria and maceration by invertebrate shredders. The microorganisms help facilitate the cycling of nutrients and energy in the stream's ecosystem. This exercise effectively teaches students to use lab skills to quantify microorganisms found in nature, investigates groups of microorganisms involved in leaf degradation in streams, and stimulates interest in both microbiology and ecology.
Basic microscopy is frequently taught using prepared specimens and monocultures of ciliates. I suggest that using “fish poop” to teach microscopy not only accomplishes the same goals as traditional methods but is also advantageous because (1) students become excited about finding novel organisms, (2) it offers many links to other material covered in the course (e.g., ecosystems, niches, and phylogenetics), (3) it is adaptable to student skill level, and (4) it is free. Once the basic procedure is established, a biology teacher can easily modify the microscopy lab to meet their specific needs.
Many biology students are drawn to medically oriented topics. This lab activity engages students with medical interests in botany. I find that students are interested in how plants can have medical applications, for example in pharmaceuticals. Several volatile oils of plants, such as thyme, oregano, tea tree, and black pepper oils, have been found to have antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral properties. To further their interest in the plant kingdom, teachers can have students test a variety of essential oils for effectiveness as antibiotics. This activity requires only minimal microbiology technique and is appropriate for high school through introductory college biology and botany courses.
Paramecia have many benefits in a biology classroom. They provide educational opportunities for students to learn about protists. Viewing paramecia allows students to observe organelles such as contractile vacuoles, food vacuoles, oral grooves, trichocysts, and macronuclei. The organism can be cultured easily and inexpensively using a plastic food container, wheat seeds, brewer's yeast, a standard aquarium, and a tank heater. An individual culture can typically last 2 to 3 weeks, and sometimes up to a month. Using this simple culturing method, a constant, on-demand supply of paramecia can be available in any biology classroom. This, coupled with the ability to concentrate paramecia, opens the door to a wide variety of laboratory applications.
Tannins are plant chemicals that humans find useful in products as diverse as tea and leather. Why do plants produce these compounds? One possible answer is defense against pathogens and herbivores. In this series of laboratory exercises, student inquiry begins with a simple question: What happens to the multitude of leaves that drop each autumn? This inquiry brings students from the outdoors to the laboratory, where they observe differences in leaf decomposition rates and the natural abundance of bacteria and tannin concentrations in leaf tissues of red oak, white oak, and tulip poplar. In the process, students increase their understanding of plant chemistry, bacterial culture, graphing, and natural history, while experiencing the iterative nature of scientific inquiry.