Find out how a Year 7/8 teacher, Sue, used the Science Learning Hub resources on microorganisms as a starting point for a unit of work.
She chose microorganisms as the topic for this unit because it was topical and relevant. The unit included 12 lessons involving experiments growing bacteria and fungi. (When planning activities such as this, it is important to refer to Safety and science: A guidance manual for New Zealand schools, published by Learning Media for the Ministry of Education in 2000.)
Classroom visits from scientists
The Science Learning Hub material was used as a starting point. Sue believed classroom visits from scientists added another dimension to the unit. For example, one of the student’s parents was a scientist at the Ruakura Research Centre. The scientist visited the classroom with a colleague to conduct experiments with a variety of scientific equipment including Petri dishes.
Sue also arranged for scientists to visit the classroom with equipment for the students to experiment with. For example, the students were able to view slides of maggots and nits through microscopes
Learning intentions for the microorganisms unit
Sue and her students identified the following learning intentions for the microorganisms unit:
- Students will understand the differences between bacteria, viruses and fungi and the effects they can have on us – good and bad.
- Students will learn to grow (culture) bacteria and fungi safely under teacher supervision.
- Students will investigate the rate of growth under a range of conditions such as different temperatures, moisture levels and access to oxygen.
- Students will make predictions, observe and collect data, reach conclusions and report on the results of experiments involving growth of bacteria and fungi.
- Students will research and report information, using scientific vocabulary, about the topic in their science books.
Teaching and learning activities
The teaching and learning activities focused on bacteria, fungi and viruses. Students had to research facts about bacteria and explore the role of good and bad bacteria in yoghurt and cheese. In addition, the students had to identify and label different shapes of bacteria.
For one experiment, students had to label prepared agar plates and place a fingerprint of an unwashed finger on one side of an agar plate. The students then washed their hands with soap and water and repeated the exercise. The results of the experiment showed the washed fingers had more bacteria than the unwashed fingers. This was an unexpected result, which led to discussion about the effectiveness of different techniques for washing hands.
For another experiment, students grew fungus using the activity idea Grow your own fungus. The activity included four different experiments to see what conditions fungi like to grow in (cool temperatures, no oxygen, moisture and control). For the purposes of this experiment, students grew fungi on bread. The teacher and students considered this experiment unsuccessful because students quickly lost interest. This was attributed to the amount of time it took before the students could see visible results. A suggestion discussed with the teacher was that she could have taken a series of photographs of the bread and used them to review with the class what happened in each condition.
The teacher’s assessment for the unit included students recording an experiment and a summative assessment test. She assessed whether the students had a suitable title, aim, hypothesis, methods and results. They also had to list of all of the equipment, use correct scientific terms and make sure their diagrams were drawn to scale using pencil and were correctly labelled.
Ministry of Education (2000). Safety and science: A guidance manual for New Zealand schools. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.