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Microscope Activities


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Other Details

Age Range:
11 - 14 years
Estimated Course Length:
10 hours
6th - 9th grade
Microscope Basics course or ability to use a child's microscope.
Materials Included:
Course Study Guide, Study Booklet, and Examination.

Product Description

Beginning microscopes are often used as toys, but a good quality student microscope has many applications in science and technology.

This course teaches the student how to use a standard microscope (multiple objectives, coarse and fine adjustment focusing knobs) as a tool in observation and research. The student is taught how to correctly illuminate the microscope, how to focus it and how to maintain it. The student learns several techniques for preparing slides and using stains, and learns to identify general types of freshwater microscopic life. Then he learns about the use of microscopes in several other fields (such as medicine, geology, forensic science, fingerprinting, materials science, archeology, food science, environmental science), and performs experiments and observations in two additional areas.

This course does not need a fully equipped laboratory. It can be done in a home setting as long as all the materials have been acquired.

Materials You Need to Supply: Required texts/references: (If unavailable, the first two references below may be substituted with similar books together with an encyclopedia at the level of The New Book of Knowledge.) The World of the Microscope (ISBN 0-7460-0289-0), Chris Oxlade and Corinne Stockley, Usbourne Publishing, Ltd., or other basic books on microscope use. Pond Life (ISBN #0-307-24017-7), George K. Reed, Golden Press, Western Publishing Company, or another illustrated manual on pond life. Optional text/references: These references are more expensive but are highly recommended for identifying microscopic life: Guide to Microlife (1996) ISBN 0-531-11266-7 (or later edition, if available), by Rainis and Russel, Watts, Franklin, Inc. It shows and identifies a variety of different kinds of microbial life. If used, the laboratory supervisor should tab the book to identify appropriate sections. The WETLANDS EXPLORER CD ROM. This CD shows a variety of bacteria, algae, protozoa and tiny animals that live in streams, ponds and wetlands, with additional data on their locomotion, reproduction, etc. Available from BioMedia Associates on the Internet. If used, a computer is needed. Other materials: Student-grade microscope with at least low and high power objectives, coarse and fine adjustment knobs, and preferably a diaphragm. The microscope should have a mirror or built-in light source. If the light source is separate, a microscope lamp is advised, but a small lamp or other bright light can be used. Flat glass slides; cover slips; lens paper; soft cloth or wipes; optical lens cleaner; India ink; piece of newspaper sheet; 2 different colored hairs; fibers or threads; methylene blue or another stain; droppers; tweezers; disinfecting solution for slides (such as 10% bleach solution [10 parts bleach to 90 parts water]; paper towels; onion layer; flat toothpicks; water samples containing microscopic life; depression slide; water source; (optional) a slowing agent (methylcellulose) to slow down fast-moving microbes. 

Note: Additional materials will be needed for the final practical activities. The student should choose the activities he wants to perform as soon as possible and then coordinate with the supervisor regarding materials needed. These options cover microscopic observations and activities with bacteria, fungi, marine microscopic life, plant cells, insect anatomy, and with rocks, minerals and crystals.