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Caught Dirty-handed - Experiment

When was the last time you washed your hands? Did you use soap? What have you done since you washed? Have you eaten, put your fingers in your mouth or touched someone else?


Observations in public restrooms have revealed that only about 68 percent of Americans wash up before leaving. Y... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - What would happen if you buried a polystyrene peanut and a starch peanut in your yard during the fall and dug up the spot in the spring?

As you probably already guessed, you'd still find the polystyrene peanut intact, although maybe a little more ragged. You wouldn't find any trace of the starch peanut. That's because of the presence of water in the soil and plenty of bacteria eager to break down the starch and use its sugars ... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Are live bacteria necessary for breakdown?

Water dissolves starch, but for starches to be broken down completely, the process depends on the many microbes commonly found in the soil. The microbes make digestive enzymes, like the acids in your stomach, that break down starch into its simple sugar building blocks (a starch is like a long c... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Why does a polystyrene peanut not degrade the same way the starch peanut does?

Polystyrene is the solid form of a clear liquid - styrene - which is a made from petroleum and natural gas by-products. The chemical bonds that make up polystyrene are very strong and stable; they do not break apart easily in water the way that the bonds in starch do. And while many common bacte... Read More

Now You See It... Now You Don't! - Experiment

Maybe you’ve heard the term "biodegradable." It basically means something capable of being broken apart into simpler substances by natural biological processes.


But what are these biological processes that break some things down? Why do some things biodegrade more readily than other... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you changed the temperature?

Most fungi grow best around room temperature. But they can grow at a range of temperatures from cold (like in a refrigerator) to quite warm (body temperature). At temperatures colder or warmer than their favorite temperature, they usually do not grow as rapidly. If the temperature is too cold or... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What would happen if you left the bags in a well-lit place instead of a dark place?

Molds grow best in the dark, so not as much mold would be present on bread slices kept in a well-lit place. Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - What causes the different colors you see?

Many of the colors you see on the moldy bread are due to the spores the fungi have produced. Molds reproduce by making spores at the end of stalks that rises above the surface of the bread, giving molds a fuzzy appearance. Spores are like seeds-they spread molds to new places so that they can... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - Does it matter what kind of bread you use?

Molds grow better on some kinds of breads than others depending on the ingredients used and how the bread was made. Some breads are dry and some are moist. The amount of the sugar in different breads varies; some have sugar, honey or molasses added. Some breads are even acidic, such as sourdough... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - From this activity can you tell what helps mold to grow best?

Unless you used bread that had been sitting out for many days, you probably didn’t get much or any mold growth on the dry bread. Clearly, water is important for the growth of mold. The mold grew best on bread sprinkled with sugar water because the sugar serves as food for the fungi. The more foo... Read More

Bread Bag Nightmares - Experiment

As you know, we keep food in refrigerators so it will last longer. But still, sometimes you open a bag of bread or a jar of spaghetti sauce and what do you find? Mold!!


Ever wonder exactly what mold is? And how did it get there? And why sometimes it’s green and other times black or wh... Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you covered your jars or bottles with different colored plastic wrap?

If the bottles or jars are covered with colored cellophane, different microbes will grow because different ones need different colors of light to thrive. For example, purple sulfur bacteria need red to near infrared light, while green sulfur bacteria need green to red light. And cyanobacteria ne... Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you left a jar/bottle in intense heat?

A jar or bottle kept in intense heat will not show growth, unless the soil you collected came from a hot spring. That's because most living things can't survive temperatures hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degees Celsius). For comparison, your body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What would happen if you kept a jar/bottle in a dark closet?

A jar or bottle kept in the dark will not show any growth of bacteria because light energy is critical to the development of photosynthetic creatures. That does not mean there are no living microbes in the jar, however. Not all microbes need light to grow. Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - Why do some colors appear in one part of a jar/bottle and not another?

The patchiness you see is the result of the formation of microenvironments--that is, different communities of bacteria that live in different specific conditions. Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - What causes the red, orange, green, white and black colors?

Red and orange patches are purple photosynthetic bacteria. Green patches at or near the surface of the mud are cyanobacteria /sigh-an-o-back-tear-e-ah/ and algae. Olive-green patches in the middle or lower part of the jar are green sulfer bacteria. The black patches are iron sulfide, a chemical ... Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - Why are there different colors in the jars/bottles?

The different colors in the soil or mud indicate the presence of different kinds of bacteria. Read More

Biosphere in a Bottle - Experiment

Think about the different places various kinds of plants and animal live. As you know, many, like penguins and cacti, can only live in certain places.


Now think about times you’ve dug a hole in the ground. Did you notice differences in the color of the soil layers? Did you wonder what... Read More

Creepy Critters - Do you happen to know the biological classification scheme used by scientists who study living things?

For many years, scientists who study living things have agreed to an overall classification system of living creatures called the five kingdom system. The five kingdoms are: Monera (cells without nuclei; bacteria and bacteria-like organisms), Protista (includes protozoa and simple algae), Fungi,... Read More

Creepy Critters - Is your way the only way possible to organize the critter cards?

There are many possible groups you could create to organize the critter cards, just as there are many ways you could classify cars to go back to the example mentioned at the start of this activity. The cars could be organized as: cars made in the U.S., then cars made by Ford, all sports cars, al... Read More

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