Wednesday, November 25, 2009
OUTREACH BY COLLEGE STUDENTS FOCUSES ON GERMS
Wagner students travel to St. Christopher’s School
to describe the good side — and bad — of bacteria
By DIANE LORE, Education Columnist
GRYMES HILL — Some youngsters envision germs as microscopic squishy “blobs;” others imagine long squiggly “strings.” Thanks to freshmen biology students from Wagner College, upper-grade students at St. Christopher’s School, Grant City, now know what germs really look like.
The college students visited St. Christopher’s to teach them about fungi, bacteria and germs. The grade-schoolers got to examine what the organisms look like under a microscope and Wagner students then helped them “swab” and “plate” their own specimens.
The outreach was part of Wagner’s first-year program of “small learning communities” (LCs) that pair classroom lessons with community involvement. Students who visited St. Christopher’s are enrolled in an LC titled “Bacteria, Human Health and Survival” taught by biology professors Donald Stearns and Adam Houlihan. Their students made similar presentations to neighboring high-school students at Notre Dame Academy.
“Bacteria are all around us,” Wagner freshman Gina Guricchio explained to the younger students at St. Christopher’s.
She and her classmates explained the difference between “good” and “bad” bacteria. Harmful bacteria are germs that can result in infections and illnesses, while helpful bacteria can be harnessed to produce prescription drugs that fight infections. Good bacteria are also found in the human digestive system; they help break down the food we eat.
After the presentation, the college students helped the elementary school students with a lab experiment.
The younger kids were asked to bring in food items from home. Some came with a slice of bread, while others brought an orange, an apple or grape- fruit. They were given specimen kits with two sterile swabs and two Petri dishes used to culture microorganisms. They swabbed their food item with one, and with the other, swabbed a classroom fixture such as the floor, bookcase, or top of the desk. They had to predict which one would grow bacteria and what kind of bacteria would grow.
Sixth-grader Adam Jaczynski, 11, brought in a cut-up apple that had been left exposed on the kitchen counter. With one swab, he swiped the apple; with the other, he swabbed the classroom floor.
“I think the apple will grow bacteria faster, because it has sugar in it, but I think the floor swab will show the germs growing,” he said.
Fifth-grader Victoria Dib, 10, did something similar, swabbing a sliced grapefruit, as well as a bookshelf in the classroom.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of harmful bacteria growing from the bookshelf, because people touch the books and stuff with dirty hands, and that’s the way bacteria and germs can spread,” she said.
Both were correct.
As part of their visit, Wagner students also delivered a lesson on basic hygiene and good health. They explained how handwashing can effectively fight the spread of germs.
“Now that they have an understanding of what germs are, they’ll have a better understanding of why practicing good health and hygiene is so important,” said freshman Amanda Gavrity, 18, of Huguenot.
Biology LC teaches Island grade schoolersNovember 30, 2009