Storytelling in Science: The Cell as Your Favorite Restaurant Part I

Many say storytelling in science is a great way to describe complex material in an understandable way for the masses. In this post, I will try to use an analogy to illustrate the complexity of a typical motile bacterial cell.

Microbial Physiology through Storytelling

If there is anything Americans know, it’s food. We are a nation obsessed with food and frequent restaurants on a regular basis.

Imagine your favorite restaurant as one huge bacterial cell.

When I travel to another city, I can’t rely on habit to guide me to a restaurant for dinner. I have to search for it while driving down the road. In order to know when I have found the restaurant I am searching for, I must rely on signs telling everyone what the restaurant is. The sign is a way to recognize and identify the building as i) a restaurant and ii) the specific type of restaurant. Bacteria do the same. They have ‘signs’ (proteins and other molecules) attached to the outside of the cell that lets other cells around identify what the cell is. I go into the restaurant through a door that allows patrons to move in and out of the building like bacteria have gates or channels that allow molecules to move in and out of the cell. Almost always, patrons are different leaving than they were when entering the restaurant; filled with yummy food they consumed and perhaps stopping to make a deposit in the waste room before leaving. Many molecules that leave a cell are different than those that enter. The workers of the restaurant have to keep track of the number of patrons entering and leaving the building to efficiently serve the patrons. Each employee has a specific job to do for very specific patrons. The employees have to identify their patrons and serve them as described by the bosses. Bacteria have an array of workers (proteins and protein complexes) that have very specific job descriptions depending on the patrons (substrates and product molecules) present in the cell. The restaurant survives by serving as many patrons as possible efficiently and correctly just as a cell must survive by responding correctly and quickly to everything in its environment.

10 thoughts on “Storytelling in Science: The Cell as Your Favorite Restaurant Part I”

  1. Great! Stories are the fabric of our lives! I have adapted stories for children and made ballet stories form them. Imagine teaching the habits of the Spadefoot toad and onomatapia at the same time through an entertaining dance story! The kids ghetto be a part of the storyas it is told as well! fun!

  2. I love your science storytelling and your “About Me” blurb. I am a believer in making the wonders of science accessible to every child and what adult doesn’t like a good story!

  3. Excellent discussion! I am part of a STEM-C (STEM and character education) company that produces books for K-5 students to initiate them to the value of both STEM and character education while they learn language literacy. We would love to have a sponsor for a biological title where our signature characters, The EnteleTrons, help children understand the complexity of a bacteria cell. Contact me for more information.

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