January 18 2010 | Views: 1944
Kent and Medway
Joy Lane Primary School was lucky enough to open its week of activities with a debate by Dr Ajay Sharman (Regional Director, STEMNET) and Dr Gary Robinson (Senior Commercialisation Manager, Kent Innovation & Enterprise, University of Kent).
The scene was set - a courtroom drama. Dr Sharman asked the audience if they thought micro-organisms were good or bad? An overwhelming vote for bad.
The ‘Learned Gentlemen for the Defence’ claimed micro-organisms were good! Consider bread, cheese, yoghurt and chocolate – ‘essentials’ to a balanced diet. Bacteria in the digestive tract allowed the goodness from this delicious repast to be made available; then waste would need to be removed – vegetable peelings could be composted while dirty water could be filtered and cleaned in water treatment plants – all by an army of tiny eco warriors. Counsel asked if we even thought where our water came from. He asked us to think about the last time our doctors prescribed antibiotics for infections. The jury were asked to consider the extraction of metal ores; of landfill sites gradually being broken down. Consider the mantra of ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ to minimise the quantity of waste these Goliaths of the microscopic animal kingdom unceasingly break down to prevent our beautiful Earth becoming a dustbin.
The Counsel for the Prosecution asked the audience to think of sore throats, headaches, fevers, ulcers, abscesses, tonsillitis and the clincher – diarrhoea and vomiting. He showed us photographs of these single celled organisms at high magnification. These inherently beautiful creatures brought with them ugly symptoms - pandemics! He spoke of personal hygiene and prevention rather than cure. Washing hands with soap! Covering mouths when coughing and using tissues when sneezing! Cooking food right the way through. He told us a million of these rapidly multiplying organisms could fit onto a pin head and only one could cause disease in a vulnerable individual.
Judge Sharman wore another hat at this point – reviewing the arguments for both sides he asked the audience to decide on the verdict. Are micro-organisms good or bad?
The verdict – both!