This study falls into the field research of Life Science didactics. According to the main Italian (Italian Guidelines for the Curriculum in the Primary School - 2012 Edition) and European law documents (Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council, 18 December 2006), and to the scientific research made on the subject, the most effective approach to Live Science teaching seems to be the one that uses laboratory didactics, allowing the student to be active protagonists of their learning.
This work focuses on laboratory didactics and how they, integrated with the traditional teaching methods, could be more valid than the traditional method alone. The subject chosen was Microbiology, in particular microorganisms that interact with food (bacteria that could be beneficial of not for human health and yeasts that could transform food).
In order to try this method, a preliminary investigation was carried out regarding the teaching methods usually adopted by teachers of Natural and Experimental Sciences of the Primary School involved in this research. The obtained results were useful to understand the methods used by the teachers and if the teaching of Microbiology was common. As it turned out, Microbiology and the subject of microorganisms in the alimentation is marginally considered in Primary School and this confirmed the originality of the project.
The project was divided into two teaching phases. The first one regarded the bacteria and the importance of hand-washing before eating, the second one regarded yeasts and how the alcoholic fermentation could lead to processes like the leavening of bread.
In both cases part of the activity was held in the classroom as frontal lesson, and part was in the laboratory, where students (children of the third class of primary school, approximately 8 years old) had the opportunity to work with optical microscopes, culture mediums in Petri’s capsules and with the application of the scientific method. Some simple tests were proposed after each activity, in order to verify and compare the efficacy of the two types of didactics.
The results confirmed the initial hypothesis that, in the teaching-learning of Life Sciences, using laboratory didactics is more effective than a traditional approach. The scientific method, used in the experimentation, was very valid for a meaningful learning, and it produced skills that may also be used in other contexts. The use of scientific instruments, such as optical microscope, and techniques, such as microbial culture, gave value to the application of scientific method and kept the students very motivated and interested in the subject of Microbiology. All these activities can be proposed again to other students of primary and secondary school with some adaptations.