Developing an outreach program with c elegans worms



“My favorite part of science is telling people how cool neurons are”

– Kristin Webster, neuroscientist and science communicator

At the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, Kristin Webster and Denise Walker use C. elegans to answer exciting research questions. At the same time, they recognized that they missed doing public outreach and started thinking about how they could bring it back into their lives. First, they realized that there were no publically available resources on C. elegans for kids. As scientists at the location where C. elegans were developed into a model organism, this gave them an obvious angle, and they ran with it.

They developed activities for kids with complementary workbooks and posterboards with more information for parents and are currently working on building the website necessary to make it freely available. Their most popular activity asks the kids to wear a worm costume while they navigate a gameboard looking for candy. In this activity the kids learn about how we (and worms) use our senses to find food. And, because of the way the game is set up, they also learn about randomness and probability of dice rolls.

This outreach project is a great example of a well organized and well thought out program that combines information about a model organism with broader concepts that kids are learning in school. Kristin and Denise hope their program will be widely used to introduce kids to neuroscience, and stay tuned for the website launch!

Torrey Truszkowski
Annual Meeting Blogger
Twitter: @TorreyTruszko