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Microscope discovery

How you can help at home: Using a microscope can help your child build observation skills, a necessary tool in science.

By Dr. Fred Stein, Consulting Educator

This activity reinforces the skills of observation and prediction, and it uses a tool (in this case an inexpensive microscope) to extend the senses.

Our science consultant Fred Stein explains: "At this grade level, students are able to extend their powers of observation by using tools such as microscopes. They are able to find patterns and make predictions based on patterns they have seen before."

What You'll Need:

  • An illuminated microscope (These are available for about $10.00 from Radio Shack (Catalog #: 63-1133) or Edmund Scientific (Cat # 3035001)
  • Dark or black cardstock or construction paper
  • Clear package tape and/or glue
  • Assorted household and natural objects

Here's How to Do It

A 30x-60x microscope can make everyday objects appear mysterious. Your third grader can try to predict what objects look like when magnified and can make a series of microscope cards she can use to try to stump her friends.

These illuminated microscopes are sturdy and easy to use.

You focus them by placing the microscopes directly on an object. Under them, fabrics appear like netted rope; salt and sugar look like blocks; and boulders, feathers and dandelion fluff appear spiky, not soft.

Explore various objects with your microscopes. Before your child looks through the scope, ask her to observe the object closely and try to predict what it will look like magnified. To make magnification cards, attach objects to a piece of card stock with tape or glue. Your child can look at them through the microscope and try to guess what they are.

Dr. Fred Stein is a science educator at the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, a national science-education-reform project based in San Francisco.

Comments from readers

"Parents for Student Success; teaches parents how to create habits of intellectual and academic success for their children despite their reality of trauma and poverty. Many are homeless or have chronically unstable living situations. What activities to promote science can recommend for families who are transient (K-6) thank you. "