Exploring the World of Microbes, The

Invisible ABCs: Exploring the World of Microbes, The

Martínez-Palomo, Adolfo

Rodney P. Andersen. The Invisible ABCs: Exploring the World of Microbes. Washington DC: American Society for Microbiology, zoo6. 64pp. (4-color illustrations throughout) $19.95, hardback. ISBN: 1-55581-386-0.

Journal of Public Health Policy (2.007) 28, 151-151.


According to UNESCO:

In a world where every aspect of life is increasingly dependent upon science & technology and its applications, promoting capacity-building and education in science and technology is indispensable for all nations. This is true not only for achieving sustainable development but also to create a scientifically and technologically literate citizenry in the interests of ensuring true democracy, as in the coming years, an increasing number of political decisions – whether related to the economy, the environment, socio-cultural issues, etc. – will be based on S&T. Consequently, the increasing disaffection of children and youth for science and technology worldwide is a cause of major concern as the children of today will be the citizens and decision makers of tomorrow.

The present UNESCO program in science and technology education focuses upon the means and methods to address these issues, notably through the production and dissemination of innovative and context-specific teaching/learning materials. An excellent example of such a teaching material to attract young children to a specific topic, the microscopic world, is The Invisible ABCs, by Rodney P. Anderson, published in 1006 by the American Society of Microbiology. Each letter of the alphabet is portrayed by a photograph of a microorganism. Some of the microbes actually look like letters of the alphabet; others just happened to look like a letter when the picture was taken.

In a large format, the book’s principal attraction is the colorful layout in which excellent micrographs, many of them colored scanning electron micrographs supplement a text that includes simple explanations of a topic, i.e., “I” is for immunity, and goes on to challenge the child with a number of pertinent questions, such as “Have you ever had the measles?”, or “Would you rather have a shot or be very sick with a preventable disease?”

Many adults, including teachers will find themselves fascinated by the simple, but extraordinarily well thought-out presentation of microbes and their world. This was my case; being a cell biologist specializing in electron microscopy, I was enjoying the book so much that I forgot for some time that I was reading a book designed for children.

Of course, one should ask kids about their thoughts concerning The Invisible ABCs, but from my experience showing pictures and living microbes to young students in my lab, I am sure that the book will stimulate them to learn more about the subject. From time to time I receive the gratitude of a (now) full-grown scientist for having shown them amebas crawling under light microscopes when they (the scientists) were in Primary school.

The Invisible ABCs web site (http://www.theinvisibleabcs.org) allows those who enjoyed the book to further explore the world of microbes. In addition, excellent videos and daily podcasts can be found at this site.

One hopes that other societies will devote as much attention as the American Society for Microbiology does to stimulate in children the interest in scientific matters; and hopefully help to correct the wrong impression that many have concerning science as a boring subject area that has little to do with their lives.


ADOLFO MARTINEZ PALOMO, M.D., SciD is former Director General, Center for Advanced Studies, Mexico City, and currently Coordinator of the Science Advisory Group for the President of Mexico, San Francisco 1616 – depto. 305, Colonia del Valle, 03100 México, D. F., México. +5155 3003-6681; amartine@cinvestav.mx

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