Inquiry-based instruction in the sciences has been demonstrated as a successful educational strategy to use for both high school and college science classrooms. As participants in the NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program, we were tasked with creating novel inquiry-based activities for high school classrooms. As a way to introduce microbiology, molecular biology, ecology, and human health to students, we created a laboratory activity involving formation of biofilms composed of environmental bacteria from pond water and investigation into the resistance of these biofilms to antimicrobial agents. Two high schools participated in this study in different ways. Pike High School biology and advanced environmental science classrooms obtained pond water samples and grew biofilms from the bacteria in the pond water on plastic plates. They also observed killing of these biofilms by common household antimicrobial agents. As a senior capstone project, students at Arsenal Technical High School built on these research findings by isolating two different bacterial strains from the pond water and demonstrating the stimulatory effect of ethanol on biofilms formed by isolated bacterial strains. These activities were successful at introducing complex biological topics to high school students in a unique and exciting way. The students scored significantly higher on postactivity surveys compared with preactivity surveys that measured microbiology knowledge and experimental design knowledge. Furthermore, these projects seemed to elicit an excitement for science in the students who participated.
- Experimental design
- Pond water