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Science - Stop the superbug

What it's all about

The tension was palpable: we knew the results of our task could mean the difference between life and death, writes Alessio Bernardelli.

Yet the brief was simple: analyse strains of Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria to calculate whether they will cause a mild case of strep throat or transmit a deadly episode of necrotising fasciitis. But we had only a few hours to discern this critical difference and the clock was ticking for my team of "clinical bacteriologists".

The setting was a three-hour workshop on bacterial evolution at the Royal Institution's Young Scientist Centre, which introduced my 15-year-old pupils to the kind of advanced laboratory work that they cannot experience in the classroom.

The facilities and equipment - including laboratory centrifuges and gel electrophoresis apparatus - helped to make this role play realistic. In fact, it gave my pupils an unprecedented opportunity to imagine themselves in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) career.

But the workshops are also inspiring in terms of what you might do at school. Could you engage learners in similar role plays and transform your classroom into a creative world of scientific careers? Get them to act as forensic scientists investigating the scene of a murder, or mimic a group of environmental scientists doing field work to investigate the effects of global warming in your local area. They could even become astronomers and attempt to spot unknown galaxies with projects such as Galaxy Zoo (

What else?

See the Royal Institution's resources on the TES website. bit.lytesRoyalInstitution

Try raj.nandhra's seven lesson plans for a unit on controlling infectious diseases. bit.lytesDiseaseControl.

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