Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Deeper Nature Study: Winogradsky Columns

In the great gold room there were some teenagers

and some gritty sand

and some jars full of sand

and two little boys who didn't use chairs

and some jars and a ghost

and some sprouts, but no toast!

But really, we were winding down from our Winogradsky project.  Yes, you at home can grow lovely pet bacteria in your own jar.  It's easy--so easy that when the teens finished, and the younger kids were totally interested in setting up their own columns.

Winogradsky column (with very watery top) day 1.

We started out at the beach, collecting some samples:  Shells for calcium, water for--well--water, muck for bacteria (we hope!), red sandstone for iron, and some sand for substrate.  Back at the house, Alice had boiled an egg for sulfur...but we were not quite ready to go home yet...

Oh, can't quite see the Storm Trooper.
As we were driving back from the beach, we passed a farm-stand that was closed, and a field that reeked of unharvested Brussel sprouts rotting on the stalk.  Luckily, the ever-stealthy Mr P. had his Storm Trooper Hoodie with him.  He zipped it up so no one would notice him, and stole into the field with his colorfully-dressed friends, plucking a small rotten sprout and a leaf for our nefarious purposes (will it be a better source of sulfur than an egg?).

 Back in Alice's Test Kitchen, we sorted our samples, and added a few ingredients:  Sea salt (coarse), cloves (will they inhibit growth?), fresh water, a magnet to attract magneto-bacteria, and foil for those who want to see samples grown in the dark.

The procedure is simple:

Layer all ingredients in the jar, with an ample supply of cellulose (we used the cardboard from an empty 18-egg box, torn into bits by industrious children).  We started with gravel and sand, added cellulose, egg or Brussel sprout, egg shell or sea shell (crushed), muck from the low tide zone (any black muck or topsoil will do), and odds and ends...a pocket of sea salt, a pocket of pepper, a pocket of ground cloves (anything you can think of!).  And we s-l-o-w-l-y added water, fresh or salt.  Some left lids loose, some tightened their lids.  Some covered the columns with foil for darkness, while some left them in full or dim light.

Since I was busy with the teens doing the project, most of the photos are taken with a younger bacteriologist modeling the process.  Here's Miss C's work:

Note aforementioned ghost.

Isn't it amazing how everything looks delicious in Alice's Test Kitchen, even the muck?

Mr. N and his Winogradsky column--he added a pocket of sea salt in hopes of growing a pink halophile colony.

Youngest boy found the banana a more interesting subject.

 What happens next?  We wait and see what grows.  Check back, and see!


Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

That looks like fun!

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