Lesson Plans/Experiments for Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth

Incorporate MicrobeWorld’s video podcast series Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth into high school or two-year college curriculum.

Links to lesson planning guides (pdf files) and corresponding video podcasts are below:

The Tree of Life Revisited: Evolution and the World of Microbes icon_pdf

One of the basic requirements of evolution is variation in a population upon which selection can act. One of the sources of variation is mutation in DNA. These changes may or may not be reflected in the ensuing amino acid sequence of a protein. This exercise explores the additive effects of mutation on an amino acid sequence over several generations. The activity is also useful in that it addresses several of the components of Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection.

Oceans of Microbes: Recovering Microorganisms from Your Local Environment icon_pdf

episode5_000We are reminded continually of the presence of microorganisms in our surroundings. News reports of tainted food due to microbial contamination of chicken, beef or spinach are prevalent. Strep throat, acne and various other bacterial infections are common occurrences that are familiar to our students. As consumers, we are enticed to buy facial scrubs, mouthwashes, soaps and cleaners that inhibit bacterial growth. How effective are these products in controlling bacteria? Where do bacteria normally live? What conditions do bacteria require to live and reproduce? These questions can be readily explored in classrooms with this experiment.

Dangerous Friends and Friendly Enemies: What Happens When Our Delicate Relationship with Microbes Changes?icon_pdf

This activity simulates how a pathogen can spread among a population. Students will exchange paper with one another to simulate the epidemiology of tracking an infectious agent. After this activity, the students should have a better understanding of how infectious agents spread from person to person and ways to prevent outbreaks. It can be adapted to a variety of scenarios. For example, the infectious agent could be HIV or another pathogen that is spread by human contact.

Creators of the Future: Discovering Microorganisms and Their Roles icon_pdf

episode3Students will explore how scientists isolate deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, from the strawberry. The activity provides the students with a hands-on approach to DNA isolation. They will learn how cells can be broken open and how the DNA can be separated from the rest of the cellular biological molecules. Although students may recognize DNA as being the genetic material and that it can be used in forensics to identify a killer, most are not exposed to what DNA looks like. This activity brings DNA to life!

These materials were originally presented during the American Society for Microbiology’s symposium, “Discovering Microbes,” at the National Association of Biology Teachers 2006 Professional Development Conference, October 11-14, in Albuquerque, NM.)


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