Fun with Microbes – Germ Enlarger

I remember watching “The Muppets” as a child. It was one of the few shows we watched as a family. I remember loving Beeker, but I don’t remember this particular segment.  I remember Jim Henson’s death being part of my “Principles of Disease” final exam, but I don’t remember the particular question.

Today marks 22 years since Henson’s death. As I watch this segment again, I find the irony of Henson dying from a streptococci infection tragic. It wasn’t “streptococcus yuckotheorum” that killed Henson, but Streptococcus pyogenes.

This short clip touches on several themes in my microbiology course, including

  • definition of “germs”
  • use of a microscope
  • care of the microscope (“comes out of your pay, Beeker!”)
  • lab safety (“Notice how easy it is now for Beeker to study that germ…and vice versa”)
  • cellular morphology
  • contagious disease

This clip could be used as a way to grab a student’s attention at the beginning of class. By linking the clip to Henson’s death, we can then talk about Streptococcus pyogenes. Henson’s death can be used as a case study.

This video also highlights the conflict of making microbiology “fun” and the cruel reality that microbes kill people. The video is clearly fun, but Henson’s death is tragic. I often tell my nursing students that I’m sick and twisted because I’m more interested in how microbes kill people rather than how to make them better. It’s not entirely true because learning how to prevent infection ultimately prevents tragedy. This juxtaposition between the humour of “The Muppets” and the sad reality of Henson’s death might serve very well as a reminder that although I try to make class fun, the consequences can be very tragic.


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Filed under Active Learning, Fun, Learning Environments

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