We have organized an educational series for children in grades K-5 (and their teachers!) by partnering with the Creative Connections Camp. The camp meets three times a year, and a visit to our lab has been built into the regular curriculum. Our visitors experience first-hand how we do research and learn about some of the exciting new science we are discovering. The topic of the most recent visit was: “Virus size matters in how sick we get!”

The campers join us for the following activities:

1) A pipetting activity where our visitors get to work with fluorescent colors, wear gloves and other protective equipment, and get to experience first-hand what working as a scientist in a lab is like. For this they earn a ‘Junior Pipetter Certificate’.

Erin is teaching our visitors how to pipette
The students each take a turn using the micropipette
Flourescence is cool! Students are inspecting their fluorescent solutions under the black light.
Tijana is handing out the Junior Pipetter Certificates

2) The campers get a tour of different kinds of microscopes – dissecting microscopes, a phase-contrast microscope, a home-built total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, and an electron microscope.

Dissecting microscopes
Phase-contrast microscope
After viewing cells under the phase-contrast microscope, students describe and draw what they see. So many creative ideas!
Electron microscope. This is where students actually see what we mean by virus particles come in different shapes and sizes.

Home-built Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscope. A practical application of ‘Lego-building skills’ at a high level.

Students view a movie recording taken on this TIRF microscope showing fluorescent virus particles fusing with membranes. They also receive coloring pages assembled from electron-microscope images of virus particles.

How big is a virus? Scaling down from an electron-microscope image of virus particles that were magnified 100,000 times!