Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Bacteria Safety and the Classroom
Name: Sara
Status: Educator
Grade:  6-8
Location: NE
Country: United States
Date: February 2008

Are there any dangers associated with growing bacteria in a petri dish in the classroom? I taped the petri dishes up but the condensed water was leaking out a bit. We were super careful and used hand sanitized etc. One of my students who was set on finding out what hers was researched with her mom and they thought we had grown mrsa. Is this possible? I am a little nervous but I can't find any warnings anywhere on the internet or with the supplies I used to make the petri dishes. Should I be concerned? What can I do differently to decreas any potential risk? Can I cut down on the condensation? If the dishes are never turned upside down so that the water actually touches the bacteria is it still potentially harmful? Any info. you could give me or lead me to would be very helpful.

Sara, NEWTON BBS does not recommend growing bacteria at home or in the classroom. Our statement when we receive inquiries about growing bacteria is as follows:

NEWTON BBS does not recommend growing/culturing bacteria without an expert microbiologist and a properly equipped microbiology laboratory. Safety is our main concern for growing dangerous bacteria unknowingly is a real possibility and serious illness may occur without proper handling. Furthermore, without proper disposal such as an autoclave can guarantee, there is a danger to anyone who comes in contact after disposal.

All of our experts support this statement. The following is a high school microbiology teacher who has a fully equipped microbiology lab in her school. I will send it as an example of the responses to your inquiry.

Steve Sample

What was the actual question being investigated? If bacteria are being collected from people (ie. skin swabs, mouth swabs) it is difficult to know what is being cultured when a person has little experience with microbiology. It certainly might be possible to culture MRSA if random cultures are being taken. Once plates are made, if they are left at room temperature, upside down for a few days, this should cut down on condensation. I would be very careful about having inexperienced students/parents trying to grow bacteria at home, not under laboratory supervision.


Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory