MSPES Activity Developer Page


Children's Museum of Houston:


1. My Pet Virus - Kids make a model viral genome from a “library” of gene options. The genome is limited in size and each of the gene options are different sizes (potentially some could be combined and others couldn’t). What genes should they select? Why? What is the purpose of the virus? They can then also create a capsid and insert the genome to create their own custom virus. Viruses could be shared on social media along with their purpose. [Note: we could also theme it as Yeast or E. Coli]

2. Café De-Extinction – interview-style video(s) akin to Space Elevator or Invisibility Cloaks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4DtlWYfews). Kids/families will be asked questions around whether or not we should bring back animals that have gone extinct (assuming we have the ability). Some potential question(s) (we will work on final phrasing to make them kid-friendly):
  • What animal would you bring back from extinction?
  • What are the ramifications to bringing back something that is extinct (what will they eat, where will they live, how do we keep it from going extinct again)?
  • Should we bring back any animal or certain ones?
  • What if someone wants to do it for profit (aka Mammoth Burgers and Dodo Wings)?
We would also develop a hands-on activity tie-in, maybe a polling activity asking visitors at the other museums the same or similar questions so they can add their own thoughts.
[Comment from Larry B: I'm really more interested in having visitors and scientists/educators discussing this question at each site then having them just watch a few people talk about this in the video. So the video appeals to me as a conversation starter. It wold be great if it tied in quite directly to a discussion that sought visitors choices and their reasons. I'm not sure exactly how to facilitate this so it will be most effective, but I see the video as a great tool to launch the conversation. We've got this exhibit in our Hall of Human Life that we call Provocative Questions, and it is based on the research that when people make decisions, or arguments in favor of one decision or another, they frequently use three kinds of "warrants" to support their arguments--personal experience, social values, and scientific data. For your topic, I could see the "scientific data" being a few bullets that are descriptive of the extinct animal under consideration. The possible personal experiences could include things like fond memories of a favorite pet, being afraid of or injured by an animal, eating and liking game meats, etc. The social values issues related to this kind of thing might include things like "shouldn't do anything that risky", or "overall the benefits of science outweigh the risks", "the government needs to regulate anything like this", "we shouldn't place barriers to scientific progress", "we need to stay ahead of folks in other countries who will do this", or "not if my taxes have to pay for it." What I am saying is that rather than only asking people the open-ended question with no structure, having some choices to think about in therms of personal experience, scientific evidence, or social values can provide a useful way of helping people think about what drives their thinking about issues like this. (I'm not saying that you should do this, I am just brainstorming ideas related to your topic.)]

3. Bacterial Photography – Visitors use genetically modified bacteria to grow “photographs.” Bacterial photographs are taken with E. coli which have been genetically engineered to sense red light and respond by producing indigo, the same dye used in blue jeans. When a culture of these E. coli are cast into molten agar and exposed to a red image, they develop a replica of the image, creating a “bacterial photograph” which lasts indefinitely. (www.taborlab.rice.edu/education)