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Life Size: What's in a microbe?

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Life Size: What's in a microbe?

In this activity on page 3 of the PDF, learners visualize the relative size and structural differences between microbes that have the potential to cause disease. Learners work in groups and use simple materials to build scale models of different types of viruses. This activity can be preceded by "Line 'em up!", the first activity in this resource, located on page 1 of the PDF.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • rulers and meter sticks
  • scissors
  • construction paper
  • balloons
  • glue and tape
  • tooth picks
  • clay
  • chenille craft sticks
  • other misc. disposable objects that students can use to construct a model


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Classification
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Medicine
      • Immune System
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
      • Circles
    • Problem Solving
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Yu, Julie


  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2006

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610238
  • National Science Foundation, 0925383


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