Blast a biofilm: a hands-on activity for school children and members of the public

Victoria L. Marlow, Tristan Maclean, Helen Brown, Taryn B. Kiley, Nicola R. Stanley-Wall

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    Microbial biofilms are very common in nature and have both detrimental and beneficial effects on everyday life. Practical and hands-on activities have been shown to achieve greater learning and engagement with science by young people (1, 4, 5). We describe an interactive activity, developed to introduce microbes and biofilms to school age children and members of the public. Biofilms are common in nature and, as the favored mode of growth for microbes, biofilms affect many parts ofeveryday life. This hands-on activity highlights the key concepts of biofilms by allowing participants to first build, then attempt to ‘blast,’ a biofilm, thus enabling the robust nature of biofilms to become apparent. We developed the blast-a-biofilm activity as part of our two-day Magnificent Microbes event, which took place at the Dundee Science Centre-Sensation in May 2010 (6). This public engagement event was run by scientists from the Division of Molecular Microbiology at the University of Dundee. The purpose of the event was to use fun and interesting activities to make both children and adults think about how fascinating microbes are. Additionally, we aimed to develop interactive resources that could be used in future events and learning environments, of which the blast-a-biofilm activity is one such resource. Scientists and policy makers in the UK believe engaging the public with research ensures that the work of universities and research institutes is relevant to society and wider social concerns and can also help scientists actively contribute to positive social change (2). The activity is aimed at junior school age children (9–11 years) and adults with little or no knowledge of microbiology. The activity is suitable for use at science festivals, science clubs, and also in the classroom, where it can serve as a tool to enrich and enhance the school curriculum.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)252-254
    Number of pages3
    JournalJournal of Microbiology & Biology Education
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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