Students Teaching Students

Peer Collaboration Rocks At MSHS Microbiology Class

Bacon Fifth Graders Learn about Microscopes from MSHS Microbiology Class

A peer collaboration happened this past week. Students in Elsan Machotka's second block Microbiology class hosted Ryan Hudson's fifth graders from R.M. Bacon School at the high school in Millville, NJ on Thursday and Friday. It all started because Ryan received a grant to purchase an electronic microscope for his students to use in science class. His class needed some training in the use of microscopes and Elsan decided to jump in and offer her class's services! The Microbiology class demonstrated to the fifth graders how to make slides, fire them, stain them, and prepare them for observation through the microscope. The fifth graders had mini lessons in collecting bacteria and organisms and focusing the microscope. They learned how to handle the electronic microscope with care. They were able to make their own slides and observe the results. The two day peer collaboration was successful. The fifth graders recorded what they saw when they used the microscope to look at bacteria from their own mouths, bacteria in yogurt, and even small living organisms from Corson pond water. The Microbiology students were able to model the steps to create and stain a slide and teach their younger counterparts about being careful scientists in the search for answers. The students were empowered!

The Outcome

Watching the MSHS Microbiology class spend two days working closely with the Bacon School fifth graders, prompted this observer to ask the class how they felt about the lesson, what they believe the fifth graders took away from spending time in the high school, and if the experience changed them (the high schoolers) in any way. Here are their answers:

"It was very inspiring to see how interested the kids were," Danielle said. "If I was one of them, I would have been very excited to come here, too." The experience has not made Danielle want to be a teacher "at least not to little kids."

Billy was looking forward to the fifth graders coming to the high school and being able to work with them. "I remember when I was in third or fourth grade, we had older kids visit us at our school," Billy said. These fifth graders will remember this part of their schooling, as well. When asked what he thought the Bacon School students took away from the experience, Billy said, "They have an idea of what high school knowledge is about and what they can expect at the high school level."

Ashley loved working with the younger kids when she was questioned during the lesson on Thursday. She liked being able to organize the fifth graders and work them through the lesson step by step. While Ashley was being interviewed her two fifth graders, Joya and Alyssa, were working on making a slide of their own, placing it on the microscope, focusing it, and observing the organisms they found in pond water.


Donnel thought the project was "Awesome!" and "Fun!" while his partner, Brandon stated the project was "Great". When he was asked why he felt it was a great assignment Brandon revealed that "It's hands-on stuff". Donnell reported that the stain that was put on the slides "makes you see it more easier-the germs in your mouth-the bacteria." All in all the Bacon School fifth graders listened, created, observed, and recorded thanks to their talented high school student teachers.

Want More?


Ms. Machotka and Mr. Hudson watched as the organisms in the pond water made a big splash with the fifth graders. They decided to hold a contest for the coolest pond organism found using the microscope. When Ms. Machotka started to discuss the contest with the class, she said, "I want to tell you something new," which prompted fifth grader Joya to shout, "Please don't say it's time to leave!"

After listening to the contest rules, teams got to work to discover the creepiest, coolest, strangest looking organism. There were lots of creatures that caused major excitement. Joya and Alyssa found an organism with eggs attached to it. Donnell and Brandon learned that one organism they discovered may make its own food. The high school students used a product called Detain on the organisms to slow their movement down.

When time was called pictures were taken with a portable microscope and a tablet. The fifth grade teams will vote on the coolest organisms as soon as they get back to class, debrief, and begin their scientific journey using their microscope, all thanks to peer collaboration.