Who told them about algal balls!

Discussion in 'Science Technicians - General Discussion' started by Techitude, May 17, 2019.

  1. Techitude

    Techitude COMMITTEE

    We do AQA here so I've been sat smug that we dont have to do the algal balls for our required practical.

    However...all our science staff went to another school for a biology training session on Wednesday and were shown the lovely and, according to the trainer, super easy photosynthesis practical called algal balls!!

    Now our staff want to try it, one teacher has ever requested it for next week (no chance!)

    Am I just being grumpy that i want to try and dissuade them from doing it?
    stelden, Beaker and Joanne Walsh like this.
  2. I got told at a CPD course I went on you can cheat and use copper sulphate balls instead but I forgot to nick the details of it after the course.
  3. We don't have this as part of our SOW but my Biology teacher saw this on a course and we gave it a go last year, reports were that it worked well. Sadly I failed to keep the algae going over the summer and we didn't repeat it this year. Also I was off with a fractured wrist for quite a while and, as I'm a lone tech, lots of non-required practicals suffered.

    It's on the cards again for next year.

    I liked it. I guess I'm luckier than some though, as it's an additional extra and not a part of our course I didn't feel the pressure of trying to get a tricky practical to work!
  4. Lol, no. I hate this practical. It's a core here so we have to do it en masse :(
    I got algae growing really well, then suddenly there were strands of who knows what in it. I asked another school & they said it goes like that sometimes & the 'infection' (?) kills the algae :mad::( I'd had it going for a month!! I ended up with very little algae but lots of green string! ( like Bridget Jones blue soup :p)
    Had to start again after sterilising everything.
    It's one of those practicals that, if it all grows & goes well, is fun, if not it causes no end of hassle.
    clairelucas, Shannon and AllantheTech like this.
  5. We bought algae instead of growing by ourself. It worked well.
  6. My old biology tech just used to nod her head in agreement and then walk away and not order the stuff ........ wait 4/5 months for the conversation to come up again then rinse and repeat. She got away with it for about 4 years due to the teacher turnover and others just giving up.

    I quite liked the challenge so when I started at my new place I gave it a go. It's ok once you get in the groove of it, and churn it out a few times.
    hails and Helen J like this.
  7. Ok, interesting. Where from? Expensive?
  8. Love it! Can't get away with that with these new 'core' practicals though :(
  9. we bought from Blades. about 7 pounds.
  10. Huh, derrr, didn't think of them! Thanks. They are v quick at delivering so might try them next time.
    Now, if I could just get a company to come in & do the whole darn thing for me...
  11. I do AQA too, I fear the day one of the teachers discovers this prac. I'll keep schtum and my fingers crossed for now!
    Beaker likes this.
  12. It's the dreaded Algae time of year...& mine seems to have died. :(
    Got to start all over again.
    Our Chem tech has made the Nutrient for it, now if only Finance would put through the URGENT order for more Algae that I sent on Wednesday!:mad:
    And if one more teacher asks me for the damn things I will not be responsible ...:confused:
    Anyone else found that the nutrient you buy seems to kill it rather than nourish it??!!
  13. Carol Taylor

    Carol Taylor Footsore

    Mine would be bound to ask at an inappropriate season. Next week I have been asked for 3 hot cross buns!!!!
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  14. I use 'babybio' or hydroponics nutrients - I guess a couple of spatulas of miracle grow in 2L will do.

    I find there are five (six) things you need to get right to a get a result in an average double lesson:

    1. The algae need to be as concentrated and as large a volume as possible - so you have to concentrate them up, it's no good just using the supplied culture - I default to my wine making days and culture the algae in a 5L demijohn on the window ledge (I keep one on the go constantly). After a few weeks of aeration I allow it settle for at least 3 days, then syphon off the excess clear liquid, I then pour the algal soup into a large measuring cylinder and let it settle again for a few days, decant off the clear layer. Make the balls from this.
    2. Use small bijou culture vials (7ml max) - the reduced volume of bicarbonate indicator means the balls have a smaller volume of indicator to change and this speeds up the process.
    3. Make sure the bicarbonate indicator is made up with distilled water and has been aerated for a day or so before - so the concentration of dissolved CO2 is equivalent to the atmospheric CO2 - the colour will be in the mid range of the indicator so it will be easier for the balls to change the colour either way.
    4. Use as many balls in the vials as you can get away with - the more balls the quicker they will work - all you need to see is enough clear liquid at the top to get a colour reading. (don't forget to shake the vials regularly to mix the indicator).
    5. Get a very bright lamp - the brighter the quicker photosynthesis will work - I use a D7S J118 30W LED work lamp (warm white) - equivalent to 300W Halogen. If you use Halogen then you can get up to 400W but need to deal with the heat produced by putting a water barrier between the specimens and the lamp. Avoid looking into the direct light, so have it shinning away from the students if you can.
    6. Another tip to speed things up is to get the students to load their vials just with balls in the previous lesson (as this takes them ages) add a bit of distilled water and leave them by the window. When ready to run the experiment all they have to do is decant off the water and add the bicarbonate indicator.

    Don't forget that you can recycle the algal balls by emptying them through a sieve, washing and storing in distilled water in the fridge - they last for months.

    Happy photosynthesis :)
    Beaker and Janeyd66 like this.
  15. Sounds like a lot of balls to me... :p
    Luckily, I've never done them.... yet...:cool:
    lizfalk likes this.
  16. I love the practical, but my efforts to keep a rolling turnover/constant batch of algae going has resulted in buying fresh algae 3x (from timstar, but sounds like blades is cheaper), possibly contamination, for the 1 or 2 times its been done.. Fun practical. Works. Frustrating for me..
  17. Send them all the relevant paperwork from SAPS and CLEAPSS and tell them to knock themselves out.
  18. Nick Mitchener

    Nick Mitchener COMMITTEE

    I only know of this because the algae is bubbling away on the physics preproom windowsill. (I have the only preproom with a south facing window)
  19. WHYYYYYY do you like this practical?! For me it's up there in my 'most hated' with maggots!
  20. Because:
    1. it can be done any time of the year - not subject to the seasons.
    2. I can keep my algae on the go 24/7 356 days a year and don't have to buy in any plants.
    3. I works every time without fail.
    4. it is very neat practical and impresses/stimulates the students.
    Plus I have a fish tank full of daphnia which I have kept going for 8 months now - fed on just the algae (few drops every few days) - so now we can do several other experiments that stimulate the students.
    Alex Craig, Beaker and clairelucas like this.