Did you know that fungi, bacteria, and viruses make up a rich ecosystem inside of our bodies? Explore this microscopic ecosystem that inhabits all of us, and learn how we can treat a gut microbiome gone awry.
Grade level: 6-10
Length: 3.25 minutes
Next Generation Science Standards: MS-LS2.A, MS-LS2.C
Video Discussion Questions:
- What is your ‘gut microbiome’?
- Why is the gut microbiome sometimes referred to as the ‘ecosystem inside you’?
- How does our gut microbiome benefit us?
- Where does our microbiome come from?
- Why might a person get a fecal transplant? What is its purpose?
Wondering how to teach your students about the gut microbiome? Check out our activity ideas below that you can use in conjunction with this video!
Hand out one post-it note to each student. Ask them to write down a one-sentence answer to the question: What is a microbe? Have students stick their post-its on the board or a large piece of paper and, as a class, group them into categories (e.g., definitions that highlight microbes as bad or disease-causing, etc.).
As a class, discuss the definitions. Ask students follow-up questions about microbes, such as:
- Where do microbes live?
- Where don't microbes live?
- Can you name some different kinds of microbes?
Activity adapted from the American Society for Microbiology
Show students the video: What's Up With Your Gut Microbiome? Ask students to talk with a partner about what they learned and to consider the following questions:
- Did the video change your definition of what a microbe is?
- Are all microbes harmful or bad?
- How can some microbes benefit us?
Photo credit: Frank DeLeo, NIAID
After watching the video What's Up With Your Gut Microbiome, conduct the following thought experiment with your students:
We can't see microbes with the naked eye. So how did we figure out that our bodies are teeming with them?
Have students work in small groups to brainstorm a list of investigations that could be done to show that there are microbes living on and/or in our bodies. If you have the resources and time, you can provide your students with poster board or butcher paper for them to draw their ideas out on. Then, each group can share out their ideas, or students can do a gallery walk around the classroom.
Photo credit: CDC
While individual microbes are too small to see without a microscope, we can directly view bacterial colonies—clumps of many individual clones of one original bacteria cell—by growing them in petri dishes.
What can we learn by cultivating the bacteria living on our skin?
In this activity, adapted from the FDA, your students can cultivate the bacteria residing on their own skin. This Student Handout explains how to grow bacteria on a petri dish and prompts students to think critically about what they are investigating and why. In order to make this investigation more student-centered, present the above question to your students, and have them come up with their own research question that they can answer by growing bacteria swabbed from their skin in petri dishes. Different groups can come up with different questions, or you can decide as a class on the same research question and combine each group's data into a class dataset that can be analyzed. Here are some examples of research questions:
- Is the bacteria living on the palms of our hands different from the bacteria living on the backs of our hands?
- Does the diversity of bacteria living on our skin vary from person to person?
Before students begin their experiments, ask them to figure out what kinds of observations they will need to make to answer their research question (tables of bacterial colony counts, sketches, written observations, etc.).
Photo credit: Alpha Tauri
While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.
Disciplinary Core Ideas (Grades 6-8)
MS-LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
MS-LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts (Grades 6-8)
Systems and System Models
Stability and Change
To feed our growing world, we need innovative solutions. In this unit, we'll explore environmental issues related to the food we grow and eat. We'll review topics from food waste to urban farming, and learn how simple choices we make impact our planet. This unit introduces students to the process of design thinking, and culminates in a design thinking challenge related to food systems issues.
Browse all materials:
- Activity: Food for Thought
- Activity: Exploring the Impacts of Feeding the World
- Activity: Rapid Brainstorming: Improving Our Global Food System
- Activity: Sustainable Food Solutions: Weighing the Pros and Cons
- Activity: Our Hungry Planet: Design Thinking Challenge
- Supplemental video: What's Up With Your Gut Microbiome? [you are here]
- Supplemental video: Why Protect Pollinators?
NIH Human Microbiome Project
The National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project's purpose is to try to characterize microbial communities on the human body and to learn how changes in these microbial communities can influence human health.
TED: How microbes define, shape—and might even heal us
Learn more about the connections between our gut microbiomes and our health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Public Health Image Library
Browse an extensive collection of public domain images of bacteria, mites, and much more!
Five Things I Learned When I Got Swabbed For Science
See what the co-host of WNYC's Only Human learned about her microbiome after she got swabbed for Science!