Biodiversity and Evolution Week Two

Lesson Objectives: • • Understand the diversity of microbial life Understand how organisms get the energy to survive and reproduce

Materials/Supplies: • • • • Agar plates with bacteria cultures from last time 8-10 Dixie cups Saltine Crackers Iodine solution and dropper

Introduction/Examination of Bacteria Cultures (15 min.)
Tell the students that you will get to look at the bacteria cultures from last time, and then learn about how organisms get the energy they need to survive. Ask everyone to get in their groups from last time. Before you hand out the Petri dishes, tell them not to open the lids because the bacteria smell really bad and can make us sick. Hand back the plates, and have them examine the bacteria colonies. They should try to answer the following: 1. Can you see different types of bacteria growing on the plate? How can you tell? 2. Why can we see the bacteria on the plate but we can’t see it on the surfaces we swabbed? Tell them to show the plates to their neighbors, and see if they can come up with an answer to their hypothesis from last time (what part of the classroom has the most bacteria?). Is there a reason for why one hypothesis is correct?

Lesson (15 min.)
Ask the students if anyone remembers how scientists define life (something capable of metabolism, reproduction, and evolution). Have them recall what evolution means and make sure no one has any questions before telling them that today's lesson will focus on metabolism.

Metabolism is the process of taking energy from the environment and turning it into a form of energy that the organism can use. Brainstorm a list of things organisms need energy for. The students will probably come up with things in their own life that require energy, but make sure you also

remind them that because organisms are very diverse, different organisms use energy for different things. However, at a fundamental level all organisms are trying to achieve the goal of reproducing and passing on their genes to the next generation.

Ask what sorts of things give us energy. They will probably mention food, and explain to them that much of the energy we get from food comes in the form of carbohydrates such as starch. However, our body can't use starch directly for energy, so it has to convert it into sugars which then get used to create the energy that powers our body (the exact details are not important at this level). To carry out this task, our body has developed enzymes that help break down starch into sugar. An enzyme is a protein catalyst and makes different chemical reactions go faster. One enzyme that helps to break down starch into sugar can be found in our saliva (if they are curious, it is called amylase). If you chew bread or crackers long enough, eventually they will start to taste sweet because some of the starch is being converted into sugar. Tell the students that you will be testing this with an experiment.

Iodine Starch Test (20 min.)
Explain that iodine can be used to test for starch. When iodine comes into contact with starch, it turns a blue/black color. Ask if anyone can think of how we can use iodine to test if our saliva breaks down the starch in the crackers. If they have trouble, you can suggest first testing a cracker for starch with iodine, then chewing on a cracker until it tastes sweet (a sign that the starch has been decomposed), and then testing that chewed cracker to see if there is any starch left. Have the students get into groups of 4 (for a total of 8-10 groups). Hand out a Dixie cup and two crackers to each group, and have them develop a hypothesis of what will happen. The tutors should then go around to each group, and ask them what their hypothesis is before you do the experiment. Put a few drops of iodine on one of the crackers to make sure it contains starch (it should turn bluish/black). Then have one of the students chew on a cracker for a while until they start to taste sweetness, and have them spit it into the Dixie cup (it is good if there is lots of saliva). Add a few drops of iodine to the sample in the cup, and have them note any observations. Did the iodine turn a blue/black color? What does that signify?

NOTE: Iodine stains clothing and skin, so be careful when handling it not to get it on anything.

Conclusion/Discussion (10 min.)
Once all of the groups have finished the experiment, bring the class back together and ask them what they observed. Did our saliva break down the starch? How do they know this? Talk about how there are a series of reactions like this one that take place in our body to break down food and turn it into energy. If there is time, ask what the difference between metabolism for heterotrophs (organisms like ourselves that consume other things to get energy) and autotrophs (organisms such as plants that make their own energy). Plants use photosynthesis (the process of converting sunlight into energy) to power their activities. This is another example of the diversity of life on earth, which has evolved to fill different niches. If every organism got their food from exactly the same source, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. Hence, some organisms have evolved to eat different things (or to use photosynthesis). If you still have time left, answer questions the students have about the lesson or about science in general.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful