Workshop overview

About the workshop: Taking place in our brand new Invisible Worlds lab, we begin by introducing the concept of food security, the importance of global food crops such as banana, and the cutting edge research taking place at the Eden Project and Exeter University into the control of Panama disease of banana plants. 

Previous research has suggested that intercropping banana plants with species of alliums (garlic, leek, Chinese chive and so on) could reduce the incidence of Panama disease by inhibiting the fungus responsible for the disease (Fusarium oxysporum). This sets the real world context of their practical investigation.

Your students then complete the practical work in order to investigate this relationship for themselves substituting Fusarium oxysporum for baker’s yeast. This investigation involves extracting the active chemicals from the alliums and testing their inhibitory effect on the growth of baker’s yeast using a technique known as well diffusion. The activity draws heavily on apparatus and technique skills as well as having strong links to required practicals.

The students collect and record their results before analysing them and completing activities mapped to working scientifically, mathematical skills and the range of assessment objectives.

Location: This takes place in our new Invisible Worlds lab inside our purpose built education centre.

Practical information

The workshop costs £8.40 per pupil, with a minimum charge of £168 per group (includes VAT). Maximum group size is 25. The cost includes:

  • a facilitated 3-hour workshop with our Education Team in the new Invisble Worlds lab.
  • free access to the Eden site for the day
  • all equipment needed for the workshop
  • a free take-away secondary dataset and associated activities based on the investigation
  • a personal welcome from the Education Team at the entrance
  • a base for your bags in our purpose-built education centre, The Core
  • a space to eat your own lunch 
  • free entry for accompanying adult helpers, whose participation is essential to the success of the day (please note our suggested adult/pupil ratios are as follows: Early Years Foundation Stage, 1:3; Key Stage 1, 1:6; Key Stage 2 and 3, 1:10; Key Stage 4, 1:15; Key Stage 5, 1:20). You’re welcome to bring more helpers if you’d like; for a charge of £14.75 per adult

  • a free preparatory visit to Eden for teachers wanting to plan their school trip, which should be booked in advance

Skills and curriculum links

This workshop enables students to:

  • practise apparatus and techniques skills from the GCSE courses
  • develop their working scientifically and mathematical skills 
  • explore issues about food security and develop knowledge and understanding
  • practise questions linked to all three assessment objectives
  • apply concepts to novel situations and in doing so equip themselves to tackle the requirements of Assessment Objective 2 (AO2)*

*Ofqual 2015 issued GCSE Subject Level Guidance for Combined Science within which they highlighted, to meet the requirements of assessment objective 2, students should be asked to apply knowledge and understanding to a given context. This means the examiner is required to go beyond the core practicals and should use novel situations that are not clearly indicated in the specification and develop material further than what is covered in the specification.

The famous ‘carrot-gate’ question from the AQA Biology paper, 15 May 2018 starkly highlights how questions such as these can trip students up and the problems of simply ‘teaching to the syllabus’. Therefore, this investigation acts to square that circle, requiring pupils to step beyond the specification whilst still being firmly anchored to it, helping them to connect the dots and apply key scientific concepts to new contexts.

In addition it is important to remember that 40% of the exam papers is dedicated to Assessment Objective 2 (AO2) and 15% of the marks in the exam paper draw on knowledge and understanding gained by carrying out practical activities. Therefore, investigations such as this have an important role to play in terms of raising attainment. 

We've designed the workshop to help teachers cover the following aspects of the GCSE science curriculum:

Working Scientifically: WS 1.1, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.7 and 4.1. 

Mathematical requirements: 2b - Find arithmetic means, 2g - Use a scatter diagram to identify a correlation between two variables, 4a - Translate information between graphical and numeric form, 4c - Plot two variables from experimental or other data 

Apparatus and techniques (Biology) 

AT 1 Use of appropriate apparatus to make and record a range of measurements accurately, including length, area, mass, time, temperature, volume of liquids and gases, and pH (links to A-level AT a). 

AT 2 Safe use of appropriate heating devices and techniques including use of a Bunsen burner and a water bath or electric heater (links to A-level AT a). 

AT 3 Use of appropriate apparatus and techniques for the observation and measurement of biological changes and/or processes. 

AT 4 Safe and ethical use of living organisms (plants or animals) to measure physiological functions and responses to the environment (links to A-level AT h). 

AQA GCSE Biology: 4.1.1.6 Culturing microorganisms, 4.3.1.4 Fungal diseases, 4.3.3.1 Detection and identification of plant diseases, 4.7.5.1 Factors affecting food security 

RPA 8.2.2 Required practical activity 2 (biology only): Investigate the effect of antiseptics or antibiotics on bacterial growth using agar plates and measuring zones of inhibition. This investigation employs the same techniques as this stipulated practical but set within a different context. 

RPA 8.2.3 Required practical activity 3: Investigate the effect of a range of concentrations of salt or sugar solutions on the mass of plant tissue. This investigation requires students to create a range of concentrations and test their biological impact. 

EDEXCEL GCSE Biology: 5.4 Fungi as pathogens, 5.9B, 5.10B, 5.11B Detection and identification of plant diseases, 5.16 Inhibition of microbial growth, 5.17B Aseptic techniques, 5.19B Calculate cross-sectional areas of zones of inhibition using πr2, 9.11B Food Security, 1.16 Investigate osmosis in potatoes, 5.18B Investigate the effects of antiseptics, antibiotics or plant extracts on microbial cultures 

OCR Gateway GCSE Biology: B6.2a, b Feeding the Human Race, B6.3h, i Detection and identification of plant defences, B6.3p Aseptic techniques, PAG 7 Microbiological techniques 

OCR 21st Century Science GCSE Biology

B2.1.2, 3, 5 Describe plant diseases, B2.2.6 Describe chemical plant defence responses, including antimicrobial substances, B2.3.1 How can we prevent the spread of infections? B2.4.2, 3 Describe and explain the aseptic techniques used in culturing. Calculate cross-sectional areas of bacterial cultures and of clear zones around antibiotic discs on agar jelly using πr2 organisms, B2.6.2 How can we treat disease? B6.4.3 Food Security, PAG 7 Microbiological techniques.

Photo: Scott Webb


This workshop is accredited under the British Science Association’s CREST Awards scheme and goes towards a Discovery Award. In order to gain the award it is also necessary for the students to have completed the research element.

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