For the last few weeks I’ve been going into a local primary school to do some microbiology with a group of 6-7 year old kids. The first week I took a load of different petri dishes and a huge bag of swabs along. After a quick chat with the kids about good and bad microbes, we set about swabbing. First up was fingers before and, by far the highlight of the day, after picking their noses. We also swabbed the toilets and soil. I wasn’t sure how long the swabbing would keep them occupied so I took in some glowing bacteria which I had used to write letters of the alphabet. I got the kid to sit in a circle and spell out some words and then threw a big black blanket over their heads. The squeals of delight as they saw the glowing words made my day.
A few days ago, I took their (very smelly!) plates back and we had a look at all the bacteria and fungi that had grown. Every child swore they wouldn’t be picking their nose again, having seen what was living there 🙂 They also took lots of pictures of their petri dishes and have told me they are going to make a presentation so they can tell the rest of the school about bacteria.
For those who would like to get more involved in such citizen science, @scicheer has started a really fantastic website called scistarter which allows you to find science projects the general public can get involved in. What are you waiting for?!