5 Engaging Ways to Teach Bacterial Cell Structures to Get Students Excited

Anjaney Kothari

Bacteria, whether good or bad, are all around us. They are on our keyboards, in our toilets, in our gut, and even in our food like in yogurt. On the one hand, pathogenic bacteria are responsible for some of the most common human diseases, like typhoid and tuberculosis. On the other hand, commensal bacteria are one of the most crucial links between our gut and brain. 

To understand how bacteria perform these diverse activities, it is imperative that students learn about the fundamental structures that compose the bacterial cell – from cell walls and flagella to cytoplasm and genetic material. But how does one teach about teeny bacteria (and even tinier subcellular structures) when students cannot visually appreciate their complexity? Here, we list five engaging ways to teach bacterial cell structures that can simultaneously keep students excited and informed.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Students tend to learn faster when they can actively interact with the subject matter – bacterial structures in this case. Imagine that you are able to help your students visualize and manipulate every little element of the bacterial cell. Granting this ability can:

  • give the students the freedom to play with bacterial structures, 
  • help them understand even the tiniest of the cell’s physical features 
  • encourage them to realize the consequences of structural manipulations

This not only generates curiosity about the topic but also hones students’ individualistic capabilities. 

Labster’s interactive simulation of bacterial structures, for example, allows the students to emulate researchers and closely interact with the structures. In our simulation, the students identify bacteria in Antarctic ice and determine which bacterial structures are crucial for their survival. The students also interactively assemble bacterial and eukaryotic cells, learning about the differences between the cellular structures in these cells.

Placing the organelle inside the correct cell in a virtual lab.
Discover Labster's Bacterial Cell Structures virtual lab today!

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Learning in conventional ways can become dull for students, particularly when the subject matter is difficult to grasp. Incorporating games and activities in your teaching regimen transports students from the dull ‘learning zone’ to the fun zone. Here, they can learn even the most difficult and tedious science while thoroughly enjoying the process.

For example, you can organize a competitive trivia quiz. Different student groups will have to answer trivia about bacteria and their cell structures. At the end of the quiz, you can give the winners a prize. You can also conduct role-playing group activities, with different students playing different bacterial cell structures. The students will then have to argue why their respective structures are important for the survival of the bacterial cell.

3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

Technology is our friend when it comes to teaching sophisticated biological concepts. From animations to online simulations, channeling the power of technology in your teaching can bring elusive ideas to life for your students. 

For example, Labster’s simulation of bacterial cell structures helps students understand bacterial cell structures in an immersive way. The simulation pulls the students into a virtual world where they perform microbiology experiments while learning about bacterial cell structures.

Microscope to look at bacterial cell structures.

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

One way to inspire students to learn about a topic is to highlight the careers or professions it has created. Students have a greater incentive to learn about bacterial structures if they know they could earn money by doing so.

Tell your students about the illustrious careers of eminent microbiologists who have helped develop antibiotics that treat bacterial diseases. Consider organizing seminars by geneticists who regularly manipulate bacterial cell structures to produce novel proteins in huge amounts. Encourage your students to interact with these scientists, because passion and curiosity can be infectious (pun not intended!).

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Connecting complex scientific topics to real-world applications has the powerful ability to cultivate interest and enthusiasm in students. Bacteria are such ubiquitous parts of our lives that there are plenty real-world applications of studying their cellular structures.

Linking different bacterial structures to disease is one way to help students grasp the real-world significance of this topic. For example, explain to the students that flagella, or hair-like projections that help the bacteria swim, affect bacterial pathogenicity. Make them realize that the presence of this structure can decide whether or not the bacteria can make someone sick. 

You can also explain how bacterial cell walls are easy targets for many life-saving antibiotics that kill bacteria. With such examples, students will appreciate how learning about small bacterial structures can have a sizable impact on human health.

Final thoughts

A little creativity in teaching complex scientific ideas can phenomenally boost your students’ learning prowess. Deploying the interactive methods that we have discussed can make bacterial cell structures fun to teach and easy to understand.

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