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Budding researchers learn about bacteria

Budding researchers learn about bacteria

Kristyn Comino

24 July 2014: Kids might usually think 'ew, gross!' at the thought of looking at bacteria from their teacher's nose, but a group of school students took it in their stride when the University of Canberra visited to teach them about microbiology.

Using samples gathered from their teacher's ears and nose and their own finger tips – Year 6 Kaleen Primary School students spent a week learning about the science behind bacteria.  

The class of 24 budding researchers also examined bacteria from around their school from things that are frequently touched, such as computer key boards, door knobs and telephone receivers.

Michael Frese and students

UC's Michael Frese helps Kaleen Primary School students investigate bacterial growth using agar plates and microscopes. Photo supplied

Led by assistant professor in biomedical sciences at the University, Michael Frese, the students used agar plates, an incubator and microscopes to see how bacteria grow and how germs look under the microscope.

"Students learned how to prepare agar plates, collect samples, grow bacterial colonies and use a microscope. They also learned about the consequences of exponential growth, the importance of control experiments and the value of writing reports," Dr Frese said.  

"Some of the students' protocols were so detailed, they could have been written by a University student!" he joked.

Dr Frese visited the school with University of Canberra PhD student Nadya Urakova and Australian National University PhD student Fui Jiun. He said the researchers, teachers and students enjoyed the project and they hope to repeat it next year.