Sunday, October 13, 2019

Questions About Microbes

Friday marked our transition from Chemistry to Microbiology in Science Club. In Montessori terms, this would be finishing up the First Great Lesson and moving on to the Second Great Lesson, the Timeline of Life.

We began our afternoon with a Field Trip to the public library for a science program presented by the Adler Planetarium's Astro Road Trip Program. The topic was "Mission: Moon to Mars." There were several astronomy activities, including viewing rocks from the Moon and Mars under a microscope. It was the perfect transition into our exploration of earliest life on Earth... sparking questions about how, when, where, and why this happened.

I'm going to be passing my students' questions on to a SIU microbiologist who is writing a new picture book for children about how life began on Earth. So the kids were excited to know that there would be an authentic audience for them, and that if we get answers that aren't satisfactory, we can push farther and delve deeper. I invited my 17 year old daughter to contribute questions as well (and I certainly have a few of my own) and if you want to add one, please Post a Comment! I'll pass all of the questions along.

It is amazing to me that somehow we went from hot star stuff cooling off to form our planet, and create the environments for elements to meet in compounds and form chemical reactions to... presto... LIFE and something suddenly somehow waking up! It is quite a thing to sit down and ponder.

After the question brainstorm session, I read a fun book about Microbes.

Do Not Lick This Book

by Idan Ben-Barak

I also suggested (in preparation for our next set of activities) that they go home and look at the ingredients list on the side of the yogurt in their fridge to find the live active cultures list, complete with scientific names of the organisms. And to look around their house for other foods which contain live active cultures! We will be making some of these foods over the next month.

Our Class's Questions About Earliest Life & Death on Earth (So Far)

    What would yogurt look like under an electron microscope?

    If we were the same size as a microbe and we were stuck to a house, what would wood look like?

    Can microbes see? Can they hear? Can they smell?

    Do they have brains?

    Do they have communication?

    Was there a chemical reaction at the beginning of life on earth?

    How did there come to be bacteria?

    Do bacteria breathe air? Do they eat air?

    Did they eat the other bacteria? Did they eat smaller bacteria or smaller molecules or just tiny specks of air?

    How long ago did life start? Was it in the water? How do we know?

    How can a collection of elements suddenly wake up?

    What if the elements evolved into each other?

    What did early life look like?

    What makes something alive or not alive?

    When did sicknesses evolve?

    What volcanic bacteria first evolved?

    What do microbes eat?

    How did bacteria combine to make new elements?

    Did bacteria make every living thing?

    Was there ever a mass extinction of bacteria?

    Why didn't the bacteria die out when the dust covered up the sun and the dinosaurs died? Did the dust cover up all the oxygen?

    How is oxygen made?

    Was there life before the dinosaurs?

    Are trilobites the oldest animal?

    Do you know what the first sea animal was?

    What was the first poisonous animal?

    Gars and dragonflies evolved before the dinosaurs and maybe they were the first living things?

    Why were sponges the first animal?

    How do sponges live? Why are sponges animals?

    Was any bacteria poisonous?

    Did bacteria have a kind of defense?

    How many kinds of microbes are there?

    How many different types of bacteria are there?

    Do microbes always stick to anything you touch?

    How small can a black hole be?

    Are there scientists who don't believe in the Big Bang?

    When life first started did it start with one organism? Or when whatever came before evolved did it evolve into multiple iterations of that organism? Or more than one organism at the same time? Did all organisms evolve from that organism? Did they evolve apart and/or together?

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