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Fun with Your Microscopes

By Brian Kloepfer
Manager, Education Resource

Fun with Your Microscope

Grade level(s): K-8

Subject: Life sciences

Topic: Using a microscope in the classroom

Estimated class time: 60 minutes

Objective

To help students improve their skills in making slides and using a microscope.

Materials (basic, 25-30 students)

Materials (comprehensive, 25-30 students)

Preclass preparation (teacher)

  • Review the fundamental parts of a microscope and basic microscope operation.
  • Demonstrate slide-making techniques for students to view and use as examples of proper technique.

Lesson outline

  1. Question and review
    1. Request that students identify the fundamental parts of a microscope.
    2. Compare compound and dissecting microscopes for your class.
    3. Determine how much students already know about microscope operation and slide preparation.
  2. Introduction of background information
    1. Instruct students in proper microscope care and operation.
    2. Clarify the difference in uses for compound and dissecting microscopes.
    3. Explain the special techniques for preparing specimens and creating slides for microscopic study.
    4. Advise students about pertinent lab safety issues for slide preparation and microscopy.
  3. Guided practice
    1. Lead students through hands-on preparation of different types of microscope slides.
    2. Direct students as they view the prepared slides. Have them record their observations in writing and sketches.
  4. Independent practice/homework
    1. Assign students specimen collection as homework, literally. Suggest collecting dust samples from different areas of their houses, along with hair samples or fingerprints, and then bringing them to school for study.
  5. Wrap-up
    1. Ask your students what they learned and how different techniques have practical applications, e.g., in forensics or medical research.

Assessment

Students will:

  • Write about and sketch what they observed. Note: If some students had difficulty viewing their specimens, ask them to explain what they think went wrong and how they can correct it the next time.
  • Describe procedures for preparing samples of other items they may wish to view under the microscope.

Cooperative learning ideas

Students will:

  • Compare and contrast their findings with those of their classmates.
  • Work together so they can explain findings and improve technique.

Cross-curriculum ideas

  • Math: Young students count the number of specimens viewed on a slide, calculate magnification power, and learn about the metric system (e.g., the millimeter and micron). Older students use the microscope’s mechanical stage to estimate the area of the viewing field at different magnifications and estimate the size of organisms viewed.
  • Language: Students write a paragraph describing what they observed with the microscope.
  • Art: Students sketch what they observed with the microscope.
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