Lesson Plans

Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience – Botanical Superheroes: Investigation the Antibacterial Properties of Plant Extracts

Created by : 
University of Washington

Students learn that bacteria can cause illness, including neurological diseases such as meningitis. In the lab portion, they examine whether some plant extracts are effective at slowing down the growth of bacteria. Students will expose bacteria to penicillin, water, and several different plant extracts (including garlic juice and the essential oils of tea tree and clove) to determine whether plant extracts inhibit bacterial growth. This lesson is part of the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience Series

What’s In the Lesson Plan: 

  • Teacher instruction guide
  • Student handouts
  • Laboratory instructions
  • Extensions and additional resources

Grade Level(s): 


Student Skills Targeted: 

  • Understanding that there are many people with mental and neurological disorders in our society, some of which, like meningitis, are caused by bacteria
  • Understanding that some plant extracts may prevent growth of bacteria-which may reduce the incidence of bacteria-borne illness
  • Understanding that plant extracts may contain chemicals which can treat mental and neurological disorders

Time / Duration: 

  • 1 class period followed by 20-30 minutes the following day; 10-20 minutes of several class periods during the 4-10 day incubation time; and a final class period


  • Copies of student handouts
  • Garlic, mortar and pestle, essential oils, petri dishes, aliquot of M. luteus culture, sterile swabs, filter paper discs, penicillin filter paper discs, plastic pipettes, permanent markers, piece of paper towel, forceps, metric ruler
  • Computer and projector
  • Safety goggles and gloves

Alignment with National Standards: 

  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Common Core Standards: English Language Arts


  • English