New teaching resource launched to explain the microbiome as the Guardians of the Gut go online

14 July 2020

A new online classroom activity pack for teachers has been launched to introduce schoolchildren to the marvels of the microbiome.

Guardians of the Gut is a web-based resource that helps children learn about the microbes in our gut and how they help keep us healthy. Known collectively as the microbiome, these microbes are important for health from birth throughout life. As science learns more about its role, it becomes more important to ensure that everyone has the chance to learn about the microbiome and how best to look after it.

Developed by Dr Lindsay Hall and her team at the Quadram Institute on the Norwich Research Park, Guardians of the Gut allows schools to access for free a series of activities, videos and quizzes. Divided into three sections, children can learn about the human body, the microbes that live in it, and how looking after these microbes keeps us in top condition too.

The Guardians of the Gut website and classroom pack were developed as part of a larger public engagement programme, the centrepiece of which was a giant interactive walkthrough model of the gut that allows you to immerse yourself in the microbiome and see how lifestyle changes affect its composition. This was debuted at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition in 2018, and two years later Lindsay has been invited to contribute to the online 2020 Exhibition, where the new school resources are being launched.

Funding for the Guardians of the Gut programme came from the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UKRI. Dr Hall also received a ‘Microbiology in Society Award’ from the Microbiology Society which was used to develop a series of classroom activities, with the help of the SAW Trust, a science, art and writing initiative that breaks down traditional barriers between the arts and sciences.

The scientists took these activities into a range of local primary schools. Buoyed by their reception, and with funding from a BBSRC Impact Accelerator Award from Quadram Institute Bioscience, the team worked with web designers A Fine Studio and developmental psychologist Dr Georgia Panagiotaki from the University of East Anglia to turn these hands-on activities into online teaching resource for schools across the UK.

“We’re really excited to launch the next stage of our Guardians of the Gut project – this time we’re bringing the amazing world of the microbiome to life for primary school aged children through easy to download interactive games, videos and quizzes” said Dr Lindsay Hall.

“We’re hoping the classroom pack will be a fun and useful resources for teachers, parents and children alike and encourage the next generation of budding microbiologists that want to explore how the microbes that live on and inside us help us stay healthy.”

https://guardiansofthegut.org/ is free to use and designed so that classes can take part together. It is aimed at primary schools, for children in Key Stage 2, to compliment the national curriculum, and can be used either as a complete lesson or in bite-sized chunks to suit the timetable.

Once schools have signed up, teachers can access activity packs and online resources which include ‘ready to go’ presentations for the whiteboard, with embedded videos of Dr Hall that take the children through the activities. Fun quizzes before and after each section allow learning to be assessed. Every class that completes the course and quizzes gets a certificate to download and entry into a prize draw for scientific goodies.