Microbial Box 2: What’s in your Petri?

Microbiologists have found that microbes can live just about everywhere, even on us! We have trillions of microbes inside and outside of our bodies. Run your tongue over your teeth—you are licking thousands of microbes that normally live on your teeth. Millions of them live on your tongue, too. A large part of the mass of your body is actually something else: bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
 
In this activity, your team will sample, grow, and investigate the microorganisms around us. If your team completes the introductory part 1 of this activity, “A Microbial Box”, your team will research and study different types of microbes and discuss which ones are in space.
 
Mission Question
Can I observe life around me that cannot be seen?
 
Skills
Bacteria, Scientific Method, Classifying, Sampling
Learning Objectives:
  • formulate and prepare an inquiry-based investigation
  • grow and study microbial life
  • categorize microbes based on different properties
  • think critically
  • investigate the relationship of everyday products to microorganisms
  • examine the impact of microorganisms on daily life
  • discover that microorganisms have the greatest diversity of all living organisms
  • explain how microorganisms are beneficial to humans and the environment
  • connect healthy living habits from living in space to their schools and homes
Equipment
  • Per class:
    • Clear adhesive tape
    • Thermometer
    • Small desk lamp or light (15–60 watt)
    • Small container (such as medicine cup or cough syrup container)
    • Anti-bacterial soap
    • Incubator, using a hard-sided cooler OR a 10-gallon glass aquarium with heavy weight plastic (laminating plastic) and packing tape (See how to make a classroom incubator and determine other needed materials in Part 2’s pre-lesson instructions section and in Appendix B)
  • Per group (4 students per group):
    • 2 plastic cups
    • ½-cup distilled water
    • 2 permanent markers
    • ½-cup weak bleach
    • solution
    • One 1-gallon zipper seal bag (to use at 48-hour observation period)
    • Color pencils
  • Per student:
    • 1 Petri dish (with nutrient agar)
    • 1 hand lens
    • 1 cotton swab
    • Eye protection
    • Hand protection
    • Copy of What’s in your Petri? Student Section
Time
2 class days

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