Spotlight on school germs

Students at a Norfolk school are teaming up with scientists to track down nasty germs lurking in their classrooms and corridors.

Lynn Grove High School in Gorleston has been awarded a partnership grant from The Royal Society which will enable pupils to work with scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich on an innovative science project called 'E.coli on the move'.

The idea for the project came from students Elizabeth Clayton, 15, and Rachael Powles, 14 and it will involve about 80 children aged between 11 and 16.

The youngsters will take swabs from classroom door handles, stair rails and keyboards and through the link-up with the John Innes Centre they will be able to use specialised techniques to see what bacteria they have found.

Paul Nicholson, group leader at the John Innes Centre, will be working with Lynn Grove science teacher Sarah Calne on the project.

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He said: 'Our project will bring to life what pupils learn about in the classroom and help them to understand the impact of science and engineering upon their day-to-day activities.'

Dr Nicholson added: 'The students will be looking for bacteria. We have these plates that depending on the bacteria that is grown in there will make a different colour. Ecoli makes a nice purple colour.

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'If you have a plate with 1,000 bacterial colonies and 100 of those have gone purple then about 10pc of your bacteria is E.coli.

'We have done a run through to make sure everything works and the most coliform bacteria (bacteria from the soil) was found in the girls changing room. Not too surprising except that we had expected that most would be found in the boys changing room.'

Ms Calne said she was delighted The Royal Society had awarded the school the grant.

'This partnership will enable pupils across the whole school to carry out a scientific investigation and to understand how techniques involving biology, chemistry and physics can be used to answer questions that are important in everyday life.'

She said the project also aims to educate youngsters about the importance of good hygiene.

'Most E.coli live in your gut, so if you have been to the toilet and not washed your hands you will have E.coli on your hands,' she said.

'If you then touch a door handle or banister you will spread E.coli around the place.

'E.coli is not always harmful. This is not the dreadful E.coli you find in meat – this is a different E.coli.'

The results of the study could pave the way for more handwash stations around the school and it could be widened out to other local primary schools.

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