Bring the Magic of the Microbiome to Your Classroom

Oct. 5, 2016

Having students investigate the human microbiome is a great way to engage them in active learning and course-based research. Many students become captivated by learning about the trillions of microbes living on and in their bodies. The American Society for Microbiology has four active learning experiences from our open access Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education to help you bring the magic of the microbiome to your classroom. 

Do You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth? An Authentic Large-Scale Undergraduate Research Experience In Mapping The Human Oral Microbiome

J.T.H. Wang et al.; Level: Undergraduate

This inquiry-based activity is an Authentic Large-Scale Undergraduate Research Experience (ALURE) that engages students in conducting culture-dependent and -independent methods of microbial identification using samples of their own oral microbiomes. Learning objectives include aseptic technique, accurately preparing solutions and reaction mixes, designing experimental approaches, communicating experimental results, and critically evaluating scientific findings.

Crowdsourced Data Indicate Widespread Multidrug Resistance In Skin Flora Of Healthy Young Adults

S. Freeman et al.; Level: Undergraduate

This inquiry-based activity engages students in testing for antibiotic resistance amongst their own skin microbiomes. Students learn how to estimate the frequency of antibiotic-resistant cells in natural populations of bacteria, analyze large datasets, and create and test their own hypothesis about patterns of antibiotic resistance. Complete Student and Teaching Assistant Laboratory Manuals, along with other teaching resources, are provided in the article.

Modeling The Dynamic Digestive System Microbiome

A.M. Estes; Level: Grades 9-12; undergraduate

This hands-on exercise enables students to model the microbial ecosystem in the human gut using dried pasta and beans. This may sound simple, but students use the technique to investigate concepts such as niche availability, disturbance events, and microbial recolonization. They also explore the role of diet, environment, and antibiotic use in forming and maintaining individual human microbiomes.

Microbe Motels: An Interactive Method To Introduce The Human Microbiome

S. Robertson-Albertyn et al. Level: Grades K-8

This hands-on activity introduces the concept of the microbiome to broader and/or younger audiences and is good for the elementary classroom or science festival. Participants are introduced to the four main types (phyla) of bacteria inhabiting the human gut and learn that that a balance between these types is required for digestive health. Finally, they create a model of the contents of the gut using flour, paint, cereal, and water and discuss the ideal balance of these ‘ingredients’. 

Author: Bethany Adamec

Bethany Adamec
Bethany Adamec is a Science Education Specialist at ASM, where she communicates about ASM’s work in student and faculty professional development, supports the ASM Education Board, and works with colleagues to promote evidence-based education reform.