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Cell Lab

Activity Benches

1. Cheek Cells

This activity offers a very basic introduction to cells and cellular biology. Examine a small sample of your cheek cells under a microscope. Though this procedure is simple and easy to learn, cell staining and viewing are an important and routine part of the work done in professional laboratories. Look for the large nucleus, cell membrane, and bacteria normally found in your mouth.

Cheek Cells at a Glance

Goal: Stain and examine your own cheek cells
Level: Introductory
Age: 8 and above
Time: 10-15 minutes

2. DNA Extraction

DNA is the thread of life. Encoded in its genetic sequence is the information that makes each of us unique. This activity allows you to see long, stringy strands of DNA extracted from wheat germ. Extracting DNA from raw wheat germ may sound difficult, but this experiment can be performed with materials found in your local grocery or hardware stores. This is a simplified version of the same technique routinely used by research scientists to isolate DNA.

DNA Extraction at a Glance

Goal: Isolate DNA from raw wheat germ
Level: Introductory
Age: 8 and above
Time: 10-15 minutes

3. Testing Antimicrobials

Many common household cleaners are antimicrobials. Test the effectiveness of several of these agents, such as bleach, hand soap, and hand gel on a common strain of bacteria, Bacillus megaterium. Engage in the scientific process by first proposing a hypothesis, then testing the hypothesis with positive and negative controls, and finally interpreting the results.

Testing Antimicrobials at a Glance

Goal: Use fluorescent test to measure the effectiveness of common antimicrobial agent
Level: Introductory
Age: 8 and above
Time: 15-20 minutes

4. Mystery Microbes

Bacteria are an essential part of our life. We rely on bacteria to keep us healthy. At this activity bench you will stain, test, and identify one of four unknown strains of bacteria that are commonly found in and on the human body. This bench uses equipment and materials typically found in a clinical bacteriology lab. Learn techniques of microbiology, while also practicing the detective work of using the techniques to identify unknown substances.

Mystery Microbes at a Glance

Goal: To identify bacteria using stains and chemical tests
Level: Intermediate
Age: 12 and above
Time: 20-30 minutes

5. Enzymes in Saliva

Digestion of food begins in the mouth when saliva is secreted to break down starchy substances. This activity bench allows you to analyze a sample of your own saliva and the role of enzymes in digesting starch. Several different levels of testing the enzyme, amylase, are provided. Examples of these tests include timing how long it takes the enzyme to convert starch to simple sugars and testing substances other than starch that the enzyme does not break down.

Enzymes in Saliva at a Glance

Goal: To identify amylase enzymes in saliva
Level: Intermediate
Age: 12 and above
Time: 15-20 minutes

6. Giant Chromosomes

Many of the genetic sequences found in the fruit fly genome are similar to those found in humans. This activity bench allows you to stain DNA from fruit fly salivary glands and examine the DNA in tightly packed chromosomes under a microscope. This activity involves a longer time commitment and is recommended if you have completed the other benches and would like an extra challenge.

Giant Chromosomes at a Glance

Goal: To identify chromosomes from fruit flies
Level: Advanced
Age: 14 and above
Time: 20-30 minutes

7. Blood Bench

Blood is more than a red liquid; it is a mixture of plasma and cells. At this experiment bench, explore the properties of blood through up to three different procedures. Look at real sheep's blood through a microscope, measure the proportion of red blood cells, and determine the blood type of a sample using simulated blood.

Blood Bench at a Glance

Goal: To realize the complexity of blood
Level: Intermediate
Age: 10 and above
Time: 10-20 minutes