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Wow! Mold Becomes Picture Under Microscope:“Little Scientists” Exploring Micro-world at HZAU

Little participants learning how to use telescopes with the help of volunteers

“Little Scientists’ Journey of Discovery” to Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU) was sponsored by Wuhan Evening News on the afternoon of November, 5. Forty pupils, accompanied by their parents, first entered the microbiology laboratory to observe the microorganisms, and then visited the museum to explore the plant and animal world through a large number of specimens.

Wisdom in Popular Science Lectures

“How does a piece of tofu become fermented tofu?” “How small a thing can be seen by the naked eye?” “Why do people have to be vaccinated in the early age?” A couple of questions raised by Chen Dasong, an associate professor from College of Life Science and Technology aroused the little fellows’ interest.

When asked “Why should we eat yogurt?” one kid answered immediately, “Because a cup of yogurt a day keeps the nightmare away!” setting the parents laughing aloud. Beginning with small details and real examples in daily life, Prof. Chen explained the mysteries of the microorganism to the children. He said that products like wine, fermented tofu and yogurt were all made because of the magic of microorganisms, but sometimes microorganisms will multiply rapidly in foods and make them putrid. Watching the picture of moldy steam bread, the little fellows wondered “What shall we do then?” “So, usually foods should either be dried or salted or frozen to keep for long,” answered Prof. Chen.

At the end of the lecture, Prof. Chen told the kids, “Microorganisms are vital yet dangerous, so we need the beneficial ones to keep us healthy. And we should form good sanitary and eating habits to prevent infectious diseases.”

Findings from Experiments

After the lecture, those little participants were divided into two groups entering the lab where they would do three little experiments on microorganisms with the help of the volunteers: Observing the protozoa and algae in the pond, and the mold on the steam bread. Seeing rows of microscopes and culture dishes, they screamed with excitement. Under the guidance of the teachers and volunteers, they gradually got to know how to use the microscopes.

“Why do algae under the microscope look so green?” Lie Duoyun from Shenyanglu Primary School was a bit confused seeing the algae in the pond. Prof. Chen answered, “It’s the chloroplast through which algae conduct photosynthesis to get nutrients.” Cai Yuyang from Yikang Primary School was depicting the mold specimen observed from the microscope, “It’s so beautiful as if it was a wonderful picture with some twigs here and some flowers there.”

“Use a smaller aperture, softer light and proper focus”, shuttling their way among the kids, the volunteers instructed them patiently. “I got a microscope in my home, and I’d like to observe animal wings and the mosquito mouth, but with the electron microscope here I can see things clearer,” said Chen Yuanrui who is a third grader of Yucai Primary School.

Joys in Specimens

After walking out of the lab, those little fellows stepped into the museum of HZAU to enjoy a visual feast of scientific knowledge. At the exhibition area of mineral called “Nature’s Magic”, they got attracted by a wing-shape stalactite, and shocked to know that it takes hundreds of thousands of years to form the stalactites. Calcite, nephrite and jadeite... every gorgeous piece of ore stands for a legend of the earth. In the exhibition hall for plant specimens on the other side, hundreds of flowers specimens including winter plum, peony and azalea and so on, even the artworks made of dry leaves were on the display.    

Li Sichen from Wuluolu Primary School was surprised at the skeleton of a racehorse upon entering the exhibition hall of animals, “Why can horses still run so fast with such big bones?” After knowing that horse’s bones are thin and soft, he nodded with sudden understanding. Then they learned about the Hubei Lean Pig developed by Xiong Yuanzhu, an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Wuchang Fish named by Mr. Yi Bolu and the treasure of the museum— Chinese sturgeons (specimen) as well as the fantastic animal world built with specimens of African lions, the Siberian tiger and other rare animals.

Translated by Tang Liming

Proofread by Zeng Wenhua

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