Giant Microbes - Science through plush toys

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by Patricia Guerrero knight

Published on August 24, 2010

  • While not an exhibit, I feel the people behind giantmicrobes.com are brilliant. I discovered them while at ASTC 2007 in Los Angeles. I brought Soar Throat (Streptococcus) and Common Cold (Rhinovirus) home for my daughters, then 5 and 3.

    That fall, when they ‘caught colds’ or had ‘soar, achy throats,’ I was able to explain in an age-appropriate but not condescending way what was the cause. To this day “Strepto” and “Rhiny” sit on their beds along with Kermit and a couple American Girl dolls. Each time I attend ASTC they ask my to ‘bring home another germ, Mama!’

    Last year I brought home e-Coli and the House Fly. Bella liked e-Coli but thought the Fly should live ‘under the bed because it’s gross.’ :) They have helped my kids to remember to wash their hands. They also understand why I don’t like anti-bacterial gels, as well as the difference between good and bad bacteria, and to not worry about a few germs or freak out when they’re sick.

    We don’t carry them at my museum – although I wish we did. Just curious if anyone else has had a good experience in their store with this product…

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An example of plush critters in museum programming

by Geoff Nunn - November 29, 2010

While I don’t have any stories to these particular plush toys, I do have an example of plush critters being utilized to excellent effect in museum interpretation.

The Pacific Science Center in Seattle has a “Carpet Science” activity targeted to children in early grade school. The activity uses plush sea creatures to introduce kids to marine food webs and related ideas like bioaccumulation.

In the food web activity, kids connect different plush creatures using ribbons based on predator prey relationships. When the web is complete, the interpreter asks them to pick up one of the creatures to see which other animals would be affected if they went away.

The bioaccumulation activity uses little bits of red felt to represent pollution. kids drop some of the felt on the low end of the food chain. They then begin to work their way up having fish eat krill, only to be eaten by bigger fish etc. As they progress to apex predators, they see the felt pollution pile up on the higher level predators.

From my experience running the program, using plushes provides an excellent hook to draw kids attention, as well as a strong visual and tactile experience when dealing with challenging material.

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