MICRORGANISMS IN PRIMARY SCHOOL: A LABORATORY APPROACH TO STUDY MICROBIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGIES
University of Padova (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
Abstract:The present work consists in an experimental research based on the teaching and learning of Biology in primary school. The aims of this research are two. The first is to support the current scientific evidence that underlines the effectiveness of laboratory didactics. The second is to prove that this method makes it possible to deal with several topics which are not currently mentioned in the Italian Guidelines. Nowadays, scientific evidence demonstrates that laboratory didactics has a stronger impact on lifelong learning than traditional didactic approaches, based on frontal lessons only. The epistemological and methodological structure is clear: Science, especially Biology, should not just be taught for their products (concepts, theories, innovations,) but also, and especially, for their processes. Therefore, laboratory activities, conducted through experimental methods, represent one of the best resources in order to develop problem-solving skills, which underline a scientific mind. In the laboratory, every question or curiosity leads to new discoveries. In this way students gradually come to formalize their scientific knowledge. The teacher’s role is to suspend the immediate explanation. He should be able to support spontaneous questions by students and the possibility to make hypothesis based on their naive theories. Starting from children's curiosity, it also makes possible to consider aspects that really intrigue them, but which are usually omitted by school programs, as they are considered too "far" from pupils’ actual cognitive ability. Children, unlike adults, do not tend to take anything for granted and are fascinated and intrigued by everything around them, regardless of their hypothetical complexity. For this reason, teaching Biology in this way means to support students’ intrinsic motivation, giving them not only scientific notions, but also concrete answers with practical implications in their daily lives. In this research, we followed children’s interest for the microscopic world, and we treated microbiology and its biotechnological applications in food industry. We started from bread and yogurt productions, which are very close to students’ reality, in order to introduce the topic of biotechnological applications using yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and bacteria (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus). It was surprising for children to “discover” that the dough of a bakery product and a dairy product are actually a living material. As a matter of fact, the billion cells of living microorganisms, the yeasts and the bacteria, are in fact the protagonists of fermentation processes. In conclusion, considering the outcomes of our research, it is clear that the educational implications of laboratory didactics are very significant and therefore not negligible. Moreover, this work would be an exhortation for teachers to use this method and to become a potential changing agent.
Keywords: Bacteria, life sciences, microbiology, primary school, scientific method, yeasts.