Oh microscope, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!
Microscopes have to be one of the coolest inventions ever (the actual inventor is up for debate, but many vote for Zacharias Jansen, and later refined by Anton van Leeuwenhoek).
To be able to manipulate a small amount of light enough to bend it, and then for the light and lens to actually make a tiny object seem so large, amplified, and… discovered!
It’s pretty profound to inspire kids to look more closely at an object so they can take note in the fact that there are worlds within worlds. I’ve never met a child not interested in seeing something up close, even if it follows up with an ewwwww! and then most often whoooaaaa!
There are so many different ways you can use a microscope, including learning how to be a biologist or chemist, showing kids the truth of bacteria existence (see kids, this is why we ask you to wash your hands!), and to understand the physics behind light refraction and reflection.
It’s truly fascinating stuff. And the child will more than likely catch on to your excitement. This post will show you our adventures with a neat Magiscope microscope we were able to borrow from our local library. Beaufort is lucky to have a scientifically-minded youth services that won a grant to purchase science education materials for the children’s section. We immediately took advantage of it!
The microscope journal used in the second part of this post can be inexpensively purchased in my shop. It’s used extensively in the classroom and by homeschoolers. It also includes a section to learn about and label the parts of a microscope, a how-to guide, and lots of pages for you to fill with microscope sketches and descriptions.
Cool Fact: you can take a photograph of your specimen through the eyepiece of your microscope! Many of the pictures on this post are from the student and myself hovering the camera lens above the microscope’s eyepiece lens and taking a photo.
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1. light microscope, Magiscope, or something similar
2. objects to observe
3. blank or prepared microscope slides (this post uses blank slides)
4. Microscope journal
5. pencil and colored pencils for sketches
This example shows a dried orchid flower from one of the many orchids plants lining the porch. This is also a great follow-up for The Parts of a Flower I, II, and III lessons. Gently take a single petal and place it on the blank slide. Since it’s fairly bulky we decided not to put a cover on the petal.
Place the microscope slide onto the base of the microscope, making sure the petal is directly under the objective lens. Use the vocabulary for the parts of a microscope so that it becomes second language to the child. For most microscopes, a metal clip can slide onto the edge of the microscope slide so that it doesn’t move around while looking through the lens. This Magicscope has rubber bands.
Have the child peer through the eyepiece and focus the microscope by gently sliding the lens up or down until it is focused. On most light microscopes, there will be a focusing knob to turn back and forth. The teacher most often needs to role model a few times or at least help with the focusing. Once it’s in focus, the child (and the adult) will know it!
Here’s your chance to ooh and ahh at the beauty and mystery of the object magnified.
If you have a sketchbook, now is a good time to really observe the markings and shape of the object under the viewer and sketch it out.
Here are some other neat objects we viewed.
The metal band of a pencil.
The lip of an orchid.
The bark of a twig colored pencil, which turned out to be in the shape of a heart!
A section of a Tiger’s Eye stone.
Lichen! Another great addition to a lesson on Kingdom Fungi.
It happened that day that a student lost her tooth! We cleaned it, then stuck it onto a piece of clay to help it stay in place on the microscope slide. This one was a hit.
Then it left a pretty cool impression in the clay. This was a keeper.
See Fun With Microscopes II to learn how to attach an insect stand to the base and use The Indigo Teacher’s Microscope Journal.