Developing a Microbiology Curriculum for Elementary Students

By Wise, Eileen Shea | Montessori Life, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Developing a Microbiology Curriculum for Elementary Students


Wise, Eileen Shea, Montessori Life


Why would anyone try to teach the science of microbiology to students in elementary school? Isn't it too abstract and too technical for them to grasp? Wouldn't it be best to wait until middle school or even high school to introduce this subject?

Most teachers and parents would say, "Yes, these children are not ready for high-tech science yet." But wait a minute...aren't they being introduced to the solar system, its stars, planets, and such esoteric concepts as "black holes" in the Montessori curriculum already?

Maria Montessori observed that elementary students have the need to classify the world into categories. This type of classification work is extremely appealing to 6- to 12-year-olds; and these students are fascinated to learn the oldest fossil, the highest mountain, and the biggest state. At the other end of the scale, they also want to know the youngest child in a class, the deepest spot in the ocean, and the smallest creature.

There is nothing inherently high-tech about the study of the smallest of living creatures-any more than there is anything "high-tech" about the study of the universe. Even the tools of these two disciplines-the microscope for microbiology and the telescope for astronomy-are readily available and usable for and by elementary students.

In some ways, the study of the world of the very small makes even more sense than the study of astronomy for these children. Anyone who has ever watched elementary students engaged in free play out of doors knows that they are already highly attuned to the world of the small. These students can point out patterns and differences in the many insects that attract their attention. Many are already engaged in making collections of rocks, insects, leaves, flowers, and seeds.

It is not such a huge leap for them to imagine a world that is even smaller than their eyes can see. (After all, they already know that they can see much smaller things with more detail than many middle-aged adults.) What is difficult for them to grasp is how much smaller some microorganisms are than the eye can see. But this quantitative aspect is not essential to a basic understanding of the subject.

In addition to the inherent attraction that elementary students have to small things, there is another motivation for them to learn about microbiology. They are also quite familiar with being sick. And they have heard their parents, grandparents, teachers, and older siblings talking about bacteria and viruses. But, in general, these are just words to them. They have no way to classify or categorize them except that, "They make me sick."

One of my goals in designing a curriculum in microbiology for the late elementary students in my class several years ago at the Center for Education in Bradenton, FL, was to help them gain control over their lives. If they knew how a bacteria or virus could make them sick, they could also come to understand what they have the power to do for themselves to keep themselves well.

Finally, as a late elementary Montessori teacher (who also had a PhD in Microbiology), I was attracted to the challenge of creating a curriculum in microbiology that would be scientifically accurate while developmentally appropriate, engaging, and fun for the 9- to 12-year-olds in my charge.

My plan was to tie all the lessons into the overall goal of the curriculum. That goal was something very practical and useful to these students, and something that I felt the students could bring to their families to help reinforce an important public health concept that many nonmedical personnel don't fully grasp.

The Take-Home Message

The take-home message of my microbiology curriculum was that:

1. The mechanisms of disease production by bacteria and by viruses are fundamentally different.

2. Antibiotics only work against bacteria.

3. There is no antibiotic that can cure a viral disease.

(In fact, taking antibiotics when they are not needed can result in a larger problem for the individual and for all of human society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Developing a Microbiology Curriculum for Elementary Students
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.