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Use of the Microscope

26 Aug

Well, it turns out that very smart students who are motivated to learn aren’t a whole lot better at using the compound microscope than the unmotivated, inner city public school students I am used to teaching.



Today we began our microscope lab in which the students must create wet mounts for a protist (I gave them a choice of live Volvox, Blephorisma, and Diatoms), an animal (Daphnia), a plant (Elodea), bacteria (from yogurt), and then a prepared slide of a fungus.  I scheduled the lab to last for two days (classes are about 50 minutes long), but I’m concerned that this will still not be enough time.

The day before the lab began we took our safety quiz and then discussed how to use the microscope.  We took quick notes on how to handle it (the typical “one hand on the arm, one under the base”, don’t use the coarse adjustment knob when you’re using a high power objective, etc.).  We talked about magnification, resolution, and field of view.  We labeled a picture of the microscope and talked about each part.

Even so, I had to spend quite a bit of time today discussing how to make a wet mount (even though it was in their pre-lab reading that they were to do for homework the night before), how to move the slide around stage to get it centered, and so on.  Often times, the students were simply helpless and seemed to need (or maybe just want) a lot of “hand-holding”.  

Here is a conversation I had with one student:

“Mrs. Teacher, I can’t see anything.”

“Are you on low power still?”


“So you haven’t seen anything on any power yet?”


“Did you move the coarse adjustment knob?”


“Try that first.  No…while looking in the microscope.”

Doing that with about 15 students each class period one-on-one is a little frustrating, but I think I managed to smile through it all.  And it’s always nice to hear, “Oh cool!  I see it.  It’s moving!  Mrs. Teacher, come look!”

Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, or tips on how to make learning the microscope easier/less time consuming/etc.?

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