Science 9 – My other class were using the microscopes for yeast budding today. Despite going over how to properly use a microscope again, students still have problems using them. I had a photo of what they should be seeing on our front projector screen, yet most groups ended up focusing on an air bubble and claimed they had found the yeast. At least they got it focused though.
I find microscope activities very taxing. I have to go from group to group non-stop to get them on track and help with focusing. What they really need is one microscope per person and 20 minutes of time to fully use and experiment with it. 45 seconds here and there just doesn’t cut it.
Science 8 – I don’t have any pictures of the kids using microscopes, but the above gives the basic learning objectives on what they did today.
Science 9 – Today I thought I’d have the students try a microscope lab. This is a pretty typical lab that is frequently done across all schools. Students are asked to examine a slide under a microscope and to see if they can recognize cells that are in the various stages of mitosis. I think this lab would be extremely difficult with the above graphic to help. At first, students will just see a few hundred cells that all look the same. It takes a reasonable amount of time before subtle differences are seen. The above slide is more clear than what the students actually see because in order for the students to have this level of magnification the depth of field is much smaller.
One of the hardest things for the students to do is to actually get a slide in focus. I had to spend a lot of time helping with this. My first suggestion was for them to initally focus on a piece of lettering that was on the prepared slide. However, many students would only have their slide in partial focus. I found that very interesting – I don’t know why a person would stop focusing, or keep playing with the focus and see that the sample because sharper and sharper.
One of the things I’ve been emphasizing with my grade 8 students this year is the need for them to keep their curiosity, and to keep observing interesting things. This of course leads nicely into using microscopes. As a learning task, kids were asked to wet mount a piece of paper with small letters and to record what they see. Several students on their own decided to use their phone to take pictures through their eyepieces.
While I am a believer in using technology in education, I also feel that most typical technology uses in school are unnecessary and perhaps even harmful. However, I liked that students took photos. It showed initiative and independent thought.
Today’s grade 8 science classes got to use microscopes. The kids were pretty excited. Part of the activity was to look at some prepared specimens. Some of the students kept coming up to grab a new slide, even though each slide had the same small insect on it. Just the chance to explore was enough reason to keep coming back for more.