New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Algae: The Green All-Rounder – An Interdisciplinary Teaching Unit for Middle School Students

Annika Sdunek, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Department of Chemistry Education (Germany)

Thomas Waitz, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry Education, Tammannstrasse 4, D-37077 Göttingen (Germany) (Germany)


The biological and chemical research regarding algae in the last few years indicates their enormous potential as a new green alternative to mineral and fossil raw materials. Different types of algae could therefore be part of the solution for preventing climate change, scarcity of resources as well as the impending food shortage in the light of a rapidly growing population. Besides the algae’s great potential in different areas of our daily life, they additionally offer great didactic potential for interdisciplinary science classes in which students, for instance, have the opportunity to design experiments and evaluate different factors such as ideal living conditions or the application of algae as bioindicators for environmental influences such as nanoscale titanium dioxide.

Alga is a generic term for multiple groups of lower plants with different abilities such as the production of hydrogen or conversion of nutrients into oils. [1] Both of those substances as well as the biomass of algae might be key to solving predicted shortages in energy supply without interfering with the growing demand for agricultural land for the production of food. Furthermore, algae are used in the medical field as bioreactors for vaccines against HIV and hepatitis [2], as well as for the visualization of tumours or metastases by using luciferase-catalysed luminescence out of dinoflagellates [3].

In this article, we will present different options for the utilization of different algae types in interdisciplinary science teaching not limited to the subject biology. The aim is to foster the presence of the modern topic algae within the subjects’ chemistry and physics, subsequently focusing more strongly on an interdisciplinary science approach. For this purpose, we are presenting a context-based, curriculum-conform, interdisciplinary science project enabling students to, for instance, experimentally verify the production of oil in algae. Connections to other scientific subjects such as chemistry can be established by putting an emphasis on activities such as the pH-based detection of the carbon dioxide consumption during photosynthesis. Moreover, the investigation of environmental influences foster interdisciplinary competencies and enable students to learn more about current research efforts and the advantages of utilizing characteristic properties such as bioluminescence for the detection of tumours.

References:[1] Gruber, M. (2012) Phylogenie, Morphologie und Lipide von Algen der Gruppe Rebouxiophyceae, Wien. [2] Groß, M. (2016) Alge statt Ei?, Nachrichten. Chem. 64, 610–612. DOI: 0.1002/nadc.20164046711. [3] Yu, Y. A., Shabahang, S., Timiryasova, T. M., Zhang, Q., Beltz, R., Gentschev, I., Goebel, W., and Szalay, A. A. (2004) Visualization of tumors and metastases in live animals with bacteria and vaccinia virus encoding light-emitting proteins, Nature biotechnology 22, 313–320. DOI: 10.1038/nbt937.



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