The Variety and Roles of Microbes

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In this activity, learners use sets of cards to assign microorganisms to different groups. They will learn that microbes can be members of several different major groups: bacteria, fungi, protists or viruses. In addition, learners will investigate the roles of microorganisms in the natural world and how they are used by humans for food protection and other processes. This lesson guide includes background information, extensions, cards and answer key.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 12 sheets of cardstock (to prepare cards)
  • 6 resealable plastic bags
  • Set of 4 Microbe Groups cards and 20 Microbe Examples cards
  • Group concept map (ongoing, if available)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
      • Classification
    • Ecology
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Immune System
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Moreno, Nancy P. ; Tharp, Barbara Z. ; Erdmann, Deanne B. ; Clayton, Sonia Rahmati ; Denk, James P.


  • All rights reserved, Baylor College of Medicine, 2008

Funding Source:

  • Science Education Partnership Award, 5R25 RR018605