Winogradsky Columns: Microbial Ecology in the Classroom
This activity instructs students how to build their own Winogradsky columns, which provide visual examples of the diverse modes of metabolism in the microbial world.
A Winogradsky column is a simple device for constructing a stratified microbial ecosystem. In this activity, students set up their own Winogradsky columns using sediments collected in a nearby stream, creek, marsh, pond, bay, ocean beach, or even a backyard puddle. They add to some columns a carbon source (shredded newspaper) and/or a sulfur source (raw egg). They then observe over time the types of organisms that form in different layers based on appearance and color. In this way, students create enrichments of diverse microorganisms from their local environment to illustrate broader biogeochemical processes.
Student Learning Targets
Make observations on an ongoing experiment.
Make inferences based on observations.
anoxia, archaea, bacteria, concentration gradient, cycling of matter, nutrient, oxygen, photosynthesis, sulfur
HS-LS1-7, HS-LS2-3, HS-LS2-5; SEP2, SEP3
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-1.H, ENE-1.K, ENE-1.N, EVO-2.B; SP2, SP3, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
2.8, 2.9, 4.3, B.1
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.4, 1.9
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-1.D, ENG-1.B, SP4, SP5, SP7
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
2.2, 2.3, 2.4
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC4, CC5; DP1, DP3