The Microbes for All initiative to popularize microbiology to high school students (12-17 years old) is being developed by a group from Laval University and was presented at the Association pour l'enseignement de la science et de la technologie au Québec (AESTQ) conference on October 21.
Professor Steve Charrette of Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bioinformatics of Laval Universitywho initiated the Microbes for All project. He has been joined by others in the department since the project began.
"Microbiology is one of the sciences that has advanced the most in the last 15 years; it is what allowed the development of RNA vaccines at the heart of the pandemic and there is currently a multiplication of microbiological possibilities," said Professor Charrette during his lecture. He reminds us that microbes are present and active in all aspects of our lives. "While they are perceived as a problem, they have a role to play in the existence of life. There are good microbes...and not so good ones."
Reaching out to teens
In fact, it all started with a few activities to popularize microbiology on the campus of Laval University in Quebec City. The Microbes and You course (MCB-1909) is accessible to all students of the institution. Given the growing popularity of the course, Professor Charrette wanted to reach a wider audience. He chose to focus on teenagers first.
"The idea is to offer them information that is interesting, relevant, reliable and popularized. In French, because there is little information available on the subject to date in this language. On social networks, young people have access to all sorts of scientific publications that are more or less reliable. We want to counterbalance this by giving teachers tools that will allow them to transmit valid information," explained the professor.
He admits that he is not "an expert on teenagers". In order to better reach them and serve their teachers, he has established a collaboration with the École en réseau (ÉER) to hold a community of practice. About 15 teachers took part last year. The community of practice helped to establish priorities in terms of content development and themes. The teachers want turnkey protocols that touch on the areas of food, health and that highlight the diversity of microbes.
A website under development
A first version of the website Microbes for all is now online. It includes presentation cards of certain microbes (about 60 records should be added soon), of texts of popularization and videos (e.g. the role of cold in fighting microbes, probiotics), as well as laboratory protocols (e.g., food preservation, simulation of an outbreak, effects of disinfection). A network of experts who could answer questions from youth and facilitate classroom activities is also being developed.
"This is a volunteer and group project. We didn't want to wait until it was perfect to launch something. We are now in listening mode to gather feedback from teachers and continue to develop the content to meet their needs as much as possible," concluded Steve Charrette.
A presentation of the Microbes for All initiative was also made at the most recent ERA conference. It is possible to review the recording.