Magical "Growing" Microbes


A few years ago I read the fascinating book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, and ever since then I’ve been totally in awe of (and, let’s face it, totally weirded out by) microorganisms. That’s why I was thrilled to find Nicola Davies’s book, and even more thrilled to discover that IT IS AMAZING!!

So much of these tiny lives seems like magic to me, so I decided to pair the book with this magical microbe-growing art project.

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • Clear plastic page protector

  • Two sheets of white paper

  • Permanent marker

  • Colored pencils (or crayons, or paint…)



  1. Draw your “petri” dishes on one sheet of paper. I used a glass to trace my circles.


2. Color your microbes! This part was definitely the most fun. Microbes can look like just about anything…. squiggles, dots, blobs…. look through Emily Sutton’s illustrations for inspiration!


3. Outline your petri dishes in permanent marker.

4. Slip your drawing into the page protector and trace your petri dishes in permanent marker, this time on top of the plastic.


5. Now for some magic! Sip the second (plain) white sheet of paper in the page protector as well, on top of your drawing. Your microbes should look like they’re disappearing! Now slip that top sheet out and they’re growing!


You might want to have a stack of page protectors ready to go, because (fair warning) this is an addictive project. It’s hard to stop growing microbes once you start!

Anna Harpe