The International Microbiology Literacy Initiative

The International Microbiology Literacy Initiative

The initiative aims to provide new materials for the teaching of microbiology in schools in order to create a society that is literate in key aspects of microbiology that are important for knowledge-based everyday family decisions, as well and regional, national and global policy decisions affecting everyone and the planet. For this reason, the microbiology-relevant topics will be presented in the context of sustainability (SDGs) and Grand Challenges. The aim is not to create microbiologists, and will not attempt to follow classical university microbiology curricula, but rather to capture the imagination of children, by dealing with child-centric and -relevant topics, such as food, animals, holidays, etc.

The core of the teaching materials consists of Topic Frameworks: stand-alone (so teachers do not need to follow a set sequence, and can pick and choose according to their interests and those of the children) texts that briefly identify the key elements in easily understandable language (so can also be understood by adults participating in lifelong education, or seeking knowledge outside of a formal coursework). There will be 200-250 TFs (we have close to 100 in hand at the moment and expect to be done by June), organised in 10 sections:

  1. Why society needs to be microbiology literate
  2. Introductory topics
  3. Human wellbeing
  4. Planet Earth and biogeochemistry
  5. Water
  6. Plants and food crop farming
  7. Animals
  8. Nutrition, food and beverages
  9. Biotechnology
  10. Microbes and their roles in civilisations and cultures

The TFs will be supported by TF-specific class experiments, TF-specific multimedia teaching aids (MTAs; videos, cartoons, comics, games, etc), and suggestions for class excursions, as well as a number of other materials. All materials will be freely available. The Initiative is international and significant effort is being made to translate its materials into the major languages of the world. Find more class excursions here, as well as here.

EBNet thanks Professor Kenneth Timmis, Institute of Microbiology, Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany for this article on his endeavours.