Mathematics and Science Division

mMTH Resource Use Survey

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Investigating the Microscopic World: Designing authentic experiments using microscopy

(HS with extended period or two days) Students to learn not only about microscopy and the microscopic world, but about the nature of science and experimental design. Students observe several microscopic organisms with a hand lens, dissecting microscope and/or compound microscope, pose a question, propose a hypothesis, design and conduct an experiment, collect and interpret data. Materials available: Supplies list and directions. Students must keep notes of their experiment.



(El) Students use a hand lens and dissecting microscope or Magiscope to examine and draw samples of sands taken from the Chesapeake Bay, as well as several other locations around the world. They look at grain size, shape, and color and compare them to the sand found close to home (Chesapeake Bay). Some sands will contain fossils, gems, and/or other minerals. Students can relate this to a study of world geography by marking on a small map where each type of sand originated.


Microscopes!: An introduction to microscopes and cells, including where the cell got its name

Students are introduced to magnification tools and the microscopic world. Depending on the age group, these can include a hand lens, magiscope, dissecting microscope, and compound microscope. Students examine items such as a slice of cork, the material in which cells were first discovered, plant parts, and/or very small organisms. Depending on the age-group, students draw what they observe, calculate and record the magnification of their image, and compare the images they can see with the different magnifiers. This lesson can be extended to include many different types of materials.


Plant Parts: Roots, stems, leaves, and flowers – how are they different?

(El/MS) This activity can be tailored to the level of the students. Students can use hand lenses, dissecting microscopes, and/or compound microscopes to examine and draw leaves, stems, and roots (flowers, if available). Materials available: Supplies list and directions, student worksheet for pre- or early readers, student worksheet for middle to late elementary school.


Snail Eggs & Embryology

(HS) Students use compound microscopes to examine mystery eggs in different developmental stages, place them in the correct order, and determine the type of organism. As a wrap up, students watch a microscope video of this organism from single cell to a fully developed aquarium snail. Materials available: Student worksheet.


Snail Eggs: Tracking the development of a snail embryo from ball of cells to beating heart

(El) Students use hand lenses, dissecting microscopes, and compound microscopes to examine developing snail eggs. Students may see eggs in early development and/or in late developmental stages. For older students, some basic anatomy can be discussed, including the snail’s beating heart. Materials available: Supplies list and directions, student worksheet for in-class activity.


Small Organisms: Using microscopes to learn about small organisms

(El/MS) This is an organism du jour activity that depends on what is available for students to examine on the day of the activity. Students use a hand lens, dissecting microscope and possibly a compound microscope (depending on the age of the students and what is available that day for organisms) to examine and draw at least one organism then identify it as plant, animal, or something else and explain why they think it is that type of organism. Students then share their organisms with the class through a microscope with digital video camera attachment.