Winogradsky Column

Compiled by Sarah Bordenstein, Marine Biological Laboratory
The Winogradsky Column is an excellent activity, specifically for grades 5 - 12, to demonstrate the growth of microorganisms. As a result of this activity, students will:
  • learn about the metabolic diversity of prokaryotes, applying terms such as phototroph, chemotroph, autotroph, andheterotroph.
  • observe the cycling of mineral elements in natural environments, particularly sulfur.
  • discover how microbes occupy a highly specific niche depending on environmental tolerance and energy requirements.
Building a Winogradsky Column is both inexpensive and effective, offering students a memorable hands-on experience. To incorporate it into your classroom, you should allow about 3 months to see observable growth patterns. The resources below will help you get started. Have fun in the mud!

Online Resources

Winogradsky Column
Schematic view of a typical Winogradsky Column. Image credit: Jim Deacon, University of Edinburgh

More Information

For more information about Winogradsky Columns, search the Microbial Life collection.

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