The Haiku of Microbes: Served up on petri dishes

May 2, 2016
Microbiology Haiku

Kathleen Sandman has always used innovative approaches to teaching microbiology to undergraduates, both majors and non-majors.

One of the courses she teaches is the introductory microbiology course for majors. Classes vary in size from more than 100 in fall semester to the 55 in her class this spring. This is the third semester she has had these students create haiku.

“I don't know what inspired me, but I was looking for a way to have students be creative. I remember hearing on NPR that April is National Poetry Month, and I decided to give this a try.”  

Bloom's taxonomy is one of the tools Sandman, microbiology assistant professor and program specialist, has used to make learning effective and enjoyable. “It is very well known among educators — Google it and you'll see lots of images — the idea, as I understand it, has to do with mastery of the material,” Sandman said.  

Bloom's level refers to an educational classification of assignments that provides a logical, easy-to-navigate stairway to higher levels of knowledge and their ultimate applications — starting at level 1, "Remember," moving up to "Understand," "Apply" and ultimately to "Create."

“At the lowest level is remembering,” Sandman explained. “For example, I just told you that cocci are round bacteria and bacilli are rod-shaped. If you can remember those words, you can apply the information to a next context, such as, ‘Here's a picture of some bacteria — what word would you use to describe this?’ Once you have mastered the concepts you can use them to be creative.

“Students have a variety of responses. Some are eager to accept a challenge and are very creative with interpretations. Others go through the motions and write a sentence that matches the form; still others don't participate.  

“Interestingly, I also teach micro 4140, a senior-level course, and several other students wanted to contribute as well — and these are much more sophisticated!

“Some of the students take inspiration from facts of microbiology, and others from the practice as they learn it in lab.”

Sandman, who is leaving Ohio State at the end of the semester, wanted to share the "best of the haiku" from three semesters. Some are microbiology jokes, others are carefully designed to communicate an image.

“Incidentally, they're mounted in empty petri dishes — another microbiology theme in the works!”

The haiku can be viewed until the end of May in the third floor hallway of the Biological Sciences Building just opposite the elevator.   

Artilce originally posted on the College of Arts and Sciences News page.