Schoolzone: Microbiology in Schools Fund

Issue: Mind-altering microbes

10 February 2015 article

MT Feb 2015 schoolzone

One of the many grants the Society offers is the Microbiology in Schools Fund. Launched in 2014, the grant offers school members up to £1,000 for any microbiology-based activity for their pupils. The scope is very broad, anything related to microbiology is considered. So with this much choice, how do you choose what to do?

Some possible ideas:

  • Run a practical workshop for primary schools based around hand washing, the power of yeast to blow up balloons, or building models of microbes. More advanced workshops for secondary schools could include microscopy experiments, culturing microbes from the environment, or creating debate cards to discuss important ethical considerations around microbiology.

  • Set up a microbiology club in your school – using the fund to buy equipment that can be reused with each new school year.

  • Visit a place of interest that is important to the history of microbiology or relates to current research.

  • Invite an external speaker to talk to a group of students and facilitate a discussion on a microbiological topic.

  • A group of pupils could visit a local university or institution to do some practical work, or have a tour of a lab and discuss the research that takes place there.

Some of our funded projects are large in scale. The fund can go towards funding a big event or it can be a small project, working with just one group of pupils. The limit really is your imagination!

Case study:


Petroc College in Devon successfully applied for the Microbiology in Schools Fund to set up a microbiology after-school club, the Microbug Club. The six-week club was attended by 17 pupils; all enthusiastic about learning microbiology. The club had many aims, including understanding the basics of microbiology: how important microbes are to life on Earth, the importance of hand washing and their role in biodegradation. The sessions also had the benefit of allowing the pupils to learn the importance of the scientific method.

A lot of the work aligned with the national curriculum, but, as it was an after-school club, it was intended to be fun, interactive and relevant to the pupils. The sessions were a great mixture of simple experiments, with speakers coming in at the start of each session, and activities such as crosswords and games. The pupils were engaged and enjoyed the hands on activities, and on the feedback forms the only suggestion for improvement was to have even more time for experiments.

Grants of up to £1,000 are available to support microbiology teaching initiatives and events. So long as it is relevant to microbiology, we are interested in hearing from you! The fund is available to School Corporate or School Representative members. For more information or to discuss potential projects and opportunities, please contact either our Education and Outreach Team ([email protected]) or our Grants Team ([email protected]), or look at our Grants page.

"I learned very interesting facts about microbes and we made snot! Microbug Club is amazing!"
Student at Petroc College

Grant deadlines

The Microbiology in Schools Fund supports microbiology-related teaching projects by Schools members.

Closing dates for applications are 15 March and 15 September for activities taking place after 1 May and 1 November, respectively.

Small World Initiative

On European Antibiotic Awareness Day in November 2014, the Society launched the Small World Initiative, which will give the general public, students and educators the opportunity to work with scientists as part of a global initiative to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria.

The Initiative, first organised by Yale University, is an innovative and authentic research project, which uses crowdsourcing to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria. It is now running in higher education institutions across the USA. It is hoped that exposing their undergraduates to research experiences will inspire them to major in a science-based degree. The Society is taking the project further by including school pupils and the general public (citizen science).

Undergraduate and school students will analyse their samples for antimicrobial compounds and investigate any potential compounds that are found. The Small World Initiative will run in undergraduate courses at 10 universities and a further five universities partnered with a school. A series of “pop-up” events will also take place at locations across the UK, giving the public the opportunity to submit their soil samples, which they can then make observations and comment on as they are tracked online through the analysis process.

Both the undergraduate programme and the schools and universities programme are now open for applications. Applications for the PhD studentship will open shortly. If you are interested, please see details on our website or contact our Education and Outreach Team on [email protected] or 0207 685 2682.


Education and Outreach Officer

Image: Schoolchildren learning about yeast while taking part in the balloon experiment. woodleywonderworks..