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Project Ideas
Looking for more ways to get students? minds teeming with bacteria?Here are eight ideas that you can turn into individual or classroom projects.

  1. Charmed, I?m Sure.
    Between the 1200s and 1700s, the bubonic plague regularly struck the cities of Europe and killed an estimated 20 percent of the population. Because no one knew what caused the plague?or more importantly, how to prevent or cure it?people relied on potions and magic charms. Pretend a mysterious illness has hit your school. Decide what its symptoms are, and give it a name. Then, keeping the disease?s symptoms in mind, design a magic charm that people can wear for protection.
  2. Beneficial Bacteria Scrapbook.
    We often hear about disease-causing bacteria and their effects. Yet, a significant number of bacteria are helpful to humans and the environment. Make a scrapbook about good bacteria. Collect articles and ads from newspapers or magazines. Include photos (or draw pictures) and add information about where the bacteria can be found?in the environment, lab, food, or human body.
  3. Microbe Math.
    Bacteria make more of themselves using a fast and simple process called binary fission. First the cell makes a copy of its DNA molecule. Then it stretches into an elongated shape, narrows in the middle, and finally splits in half. Some bacteria repeat this process several times an hour. Suppose a bacteria cell divides every 15 minutes. How many cells would be created from just one starter cell in a 24-hour day?
  4. Defend!
    To harm us, a pathogenic bacterium has to get inside a body first. Then it must outmaneuver the immune system. Most bacterial invasions end quickly, thanks to the body?s natural defenses. But it?s best not to undergo a bacterial invasion at all. Cuts are one way a pathogenic bacterium can enter. Research other possible methods of entry, and make a drawing of at least one.
  5. Plan Ahead.
    Most places in the world have outbreaks of bacterial illnesses. Most illnesses vary, depending on location. In recent years, cholera (Vibrio cholerae) has cropped up in some parts of South America and Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) has plagued parts of North America. Both continents have also had outbreaks of food poisoning (Escherichia coli). Investigate these three illnesses, and create information sheets that explain how they can be avoided.
  6. I Just Can?t Resist.
    Most antibiotics are broad-spectrum, meaning they knock out many different types of bacteria. This also means that they can?t tell good bacteria from bad. We?ve had antibiotic medicines for a little over half a century, but in that time some bacteria have developed resistance to just about every antibiotic invented. The overuse of antibiotics in recent years is also causing problems. Investigate antibiotic resistance, and then create a public-health campaign for your school that includes recommendations for fighting this threat.
  7. Dine on a Bacterial Culture.
    Many of the yogurt brands on the market today contain living bacteria?the good kind. (Look for the words ?live yogurt culture,? ?acidophilus,? or ?lactobacillus? on the label.) Grow your own container of yogurt with 8 ounces of milk and a teaspoon of starter yogurt. Here?s how: Once the milk has reached room temperature, stir in a teaspoon of living-bacteria yogurt. Pour the mixture into a clean plastic or paper cup, and put it in a shoebox that?s lined with a sheet of rubber foam or a few handfuls of polystyrene foam pellets. Put the shoebox cover on, drape a clean dishtowel over the box, and place it in a sunny window or near a radiator. Wait at least 24 hours. Then grab a spoon and dig in!
  8. Lunch Time.
    Outdoor meals are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. If food is not handled carefully, food poisoning can result. Research Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella enteriditis, and shigella, three types of bacteria responsible for food poisoning. Then plan an outdoor class picnic when the weather is warm. What should you serve? How should the food be prepared and kept to avoid food poisoning?