active learning, Biology, coding, DNA, education, microbiology, outreach, science, teaching, University of Sussex

Short Burst Activities in Lectures Part 2. viral genomes code for the information required to make a virus

Short Burst Activities – part 2.

My teaching philosophy is that the most effective teaching fosters an active participation in learning and in my roles as a University professor and as a leader of outreach activities I consider myself primarily as a learning facilitator.

A worked example makes it easier for others to understand how readily this can be achieved and so I am compiling a series of ‘how to’ guides for ‘Short Burst Activities’ within lecture theatre teaching teaching of Bio-Sciences. Some are very specific but others could be readily adapted to other topics. I would be grateful for feedback and if you would like me to add your activities to the blog, or add a link to them please contact me.

Part 2. Viral genomes code for the information required to make a virus

LO: to illustrate that the important component of a virus is its genome. 


In advance bring balloons with a s strip of paper with either a genome printed (NCBI genome database) or a sentance   e.g. ‘information required to make Herpes Simplex virus’. Inflate the balloons a tie the end

  • Release the balloons into the class and let them bounce them around (1 minute)
  • Ask them to stop and hold a balloon if it is near them.
  • Ask one person to burst the balloon (nails or a pen should work) and ask them to call out what is inside (2 minutes)

Discuss the balloon being the delivery mechanism for viruses to get from one cell (or organism) to the next and the viral genome being the instructions to make a new virus.


Different colour and shape balloons (with different information on the paper slips) can be used to illustrate the variety of viruses.


Screenshot 2017-05-14 16.54.01.png


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