Bacteria, Beans, and Biology

What's growing in our house


Biology is the official science of our 2009/2010 school year, and I’m teaching my older and a friend of his a high school-equivalent course while my younger rides along with a separate text. Biology is not my older’s favorite science — quite the opposite. It is my favorite — it’s just so, well, alive. I’m a practicing physician assistant a few days a month, so I suppose this preference makes sense, but it’s always been my science of choice. Anyway, I’m crazy about it while my older and his friend tolerate it. At least they’re learning. 

We’ve left genetics (“At last!” I hear them cry.) and moved to the prokaryotes and, therefore, to more experimenting. Genetics was full of dry labs (dragon genetics, mitosis/meiosis simulations) but they want their hands on real stuff. After some time reviewing prokaryotes and discussing plating techniques, they swabbed several surfaces in the house (keyboard, toilet bowl, litter box, door knob, etc.) and plated their result on agar. A box on its side facing a floor vent serves as incubator, and life is growing. Next week, they’ll count colonies and transfer a few colonies to new dishes, mostly to learn technique but also to use to demonstrate antibiotic action. I considered buying known cultures for this work, but decided the cost was prohibitive. We’ll just have to be surprises at the antibiotic responses (and dispose of our samples after careful bleaching to avoid pathogen spread). 

My younger, using Real Science 4 Kids Biology I, is studying germination and how it’s influenced by light and/or seed position. Not exciting in a day-to-day change way, but he’s maintaining some enthusiasm. He listens in on our weekly class with the older boys, and I’m constantly amazed at how much he picks up. He gave quite a synopsis recently on the ABO blood types, although there was no way we were poking HIS finger in the interest of science. 

The "dark" beans, gradually germinating.


My approach toward science for the boys has been, well, less than scientific. Usually, despite high interest from the kids, it becomes the last on the schedule, the “if we have time” subject. For the elementary years, I think the child-led approach is sufficient and often preferable. My older learned quite a bit of earth science through his facination over the years geography and meteorology. His reading, video-watching, and questioning brought him further than any course I found, and because of his interest, his retention is high. At his request, we dabbled in physics last year, but I didn’t He’s now facinated with chemistry and uses his CHEM3000 kit he requested and received for Christmas daily. Biology never caught his attention, however, thus the formal course. I admit my younger’s proclivity for Biology warms my heart: observing and collecting ants, dissecting the kill of the neighbor’s cat, drawing the slowly germinating beans on our very cold window sill. Down the road, I’ll probably be designing a physical science course for him. Oh my.


One thought on “Bacteria, Beans, and Biology

  1. Sarah, I had no idea you were a physician assistant. That was my dad’s career too. Sounds like you’re a great teacher as well.

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