Children getting into science: understand coronavirus at home

Keep children entertained during the lock-up at home, with a chance to practice science: A hands-on activity to find out about the coronavirus and build a model of its structure.

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It is difficult that the youngest at home are not victims of discouragement and boredom at some point during the confinement we are experiencing. They are continuously listening to news about the Covid-19 disease: infected, asymptomatic, confinement, research, vaccines, deaths, etc. However, they know little about this coronavirus so special for them.

The experience that I proposed to my 9 years old daughter helped us to better understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus through its structure. To know about its "physical appearance" would help us better understand how it acts.

The proposed activity was carried out collaboratively in the family. First, I introduced her to the virus world with the Spanish translation of Arthur Kornberg’s tale Germ Stories1,2. Afterwards, we did an internet search for images of the new virus, choosing reliable pages. Once we found what its “appearance” was, we set down to work. For this, we used a hollow plastic ball (which had contained a gift inside), modelling clay of different colors, brushes and fixing varnish.

The wrapping of the virus is done by surrounding the two halves of the ball with modelling clay. With modelling clay of other colors, the spikes and the rest of the envelope proteins were formed. All of them were glued on the envelope. For the genetic material, the single-stranded RNA, a thin cylinder of modelling clay was used, to which balls of modelling clay were attached representing the nucleocapsid proteins. Finally, all the structures were varnished. When they were dry, the RNA was placed inside and the two halves were joined.

1. Cuentos de microbios. Arthur Kornberg. Editorial Reverté. Barcelona. 2012.

2. Germ Stories. Arthur Kornberg. University Science Books. Mill Valley. 2007.

 

Authors: Candela Morales-Bajo and Ana M. Bajo

Ana M Bajo

Associate professor, University of Alcalá

2 Comments

Go to the profile of Angel Herráez
Angel Herráez 5 months ago

A remarkable job!

Bravo, Ana and Candela!

Go to the profile of José C. Diez
José C. Diez 5 months ago

Great to interest children in Biochemistry!.

Well done!