Yeast Magic: a Science Outreach Activity to Teach Elementary School Children About Cells

Komal Zahrah, Justyna Resztak, Russell Finley, and Francesca Luca, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Wayne State University, 3127 Scott Hall, 540 East Canfield, Detroit, MI 48201

Inciting excitement and a passion for science begins when children are exposed to interesting science experiments. ‘Silly Science’ is a hands-on science outreach program that has been targeted towards elementary school students in Metro Detroit since 2017. It develops short (30 minutes) hands-on activities that are safe, engaging, and informative. Because of its format, the program in the past mainly focused on chemistry, engineering, or modeling activities. The objective of this project was to develop a new activity that used live organisms to teach students about eukaryotic cells. To this end, I first considered unicellular organisms commonly used in research laboratories to identify those that were attention-grabbing for the children, easy to obtain, and safe to culture in a school environment, in the absence of a biosafety cabinet. I considered several strains of yeast and concluded that baker's yeast fits all these criteria. When designing an experiment for children, I learned that they like to draw art, so I decided that drawing on an agar plate would be appealing to them. I then tested multiple dilution stocks and optimized the yeast concentration that ensured optimal growth over 1 week at room temperature on the Yeast Extract Peptone Dextrose agar plate. When doing the experiments in the school, the children used the liquid yeast culture to draw on the agar plate. After a week of allowing the yeast to grow, the drawing became visible, as expected, based on the optimization experiments. In conclusion, my research established a safe and engaging protocol to introduce elementary school children to eukaryotic cells. My results demonstrated that yeast is a versatile and safe organism for science outreach activities that also allows for direct connections to life experiences, demonstrating to children the importance of science in their everyday life.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Komal Zahrah

Institution: Wayne State University

Type: Oral

Subject: Biology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 9
Date/Time: Wed 12:00pm-1:00pm
Session Number: 904
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