Young Scientists: Using a Microscope

Playful Learning: Using a Microscope

I will never forget the first time I looked into a microscope… A whole new world opened up for me that day as I realized firsthand that there is always more to life than there seems. It forever changed the way I saw the world. Rebecca from Sweet Hot Mess is with us today to share some great tips on using microscopes with children.

Years ago, a good friend gave me the following advice…

“Make sure to create an environment that is as friendly to math and science as it is to reading and writing.”

I know that I tend to lean towards the artsy-fartsy-book-worm side of the spectrum, and this advice was able to help me realize that we needed to have just as many math manipulatives and science tools as we have of chapter books, pots of paint, and stacks of writing pads.

In that vein, we decided that we are now going to institute “Microscope Monday” around our house. And while the request for microscopes from the kids was enough to fill me with trepidation, in that I haven’t touched one in over a decade, I did realized that this could be a valuable adventure for our family to go on.

First things first…

Playful Learning: Using a MicrscopeSo as to limit the drama, we bought two microscopes, one for each kid, from Amazon. Go here and here to see the microscope and slide kit that we bought. We went for a really basic beginner set and it will last as long as we need it to in these early years of science. And as a side note – do not be taken aback by the suggested age limits on the boxes. If supervised, kids will catch on very quickly to how this works and I think it’s good for them to start to become familiar with science equipment and terminology as early as possible.

Playful Learning: Using a MicrscopeWhile, Charlie might only be grasping some of these rudimentary concepts, she was able to jump in and participate just as much as my son was.

Playful Learning: Using a MicrscopeOur basic process was to observe and to record these observations. Of course, I did my best to utilize the few rusty science brain cells I have left by asking lots of leading questions and really trying to get them to understand that every organism is made up of cells—even onion skins and grasshopper wings (some random slides came with the kits).

To further the skills of observing and recording for the kids, I made a simple worksheet for them to fill out. Once this is complete and interest is starting wane (if ever), it might be a good time to move on to the next level of microscope play—exploring the environment around us.

The kids decided to run next door and collect cat hair from Gramma’s porch. The kids found Pumba’s hair very exciting to look at and there was much hand washing afterwards.

Playful Learning: Using a MicrscopeAnd the upside of all of this science stuff going on in our house, I found myself getting into it. Before they knew it, their mom was dragging them around making them collect samples of every bit of standing water on our property. Our favorite was looking at slide of two different water puddles, each with a bit of moss in them—and a few amoebas a piece. SO EXCITING (well, Charlie was a bit grossed out by it and started looking at water differently after that)!

By this point in the day, Luke is preening and strutting and making laboratory signs and calling himself a scientist. And because they argued that “Microscope Mondays” was a pretty open invitation—our laboratories stayed open until after bedtime…

Playful Learning: Using a MicrscopeP.S. The kids are already collecting samples for next Monday – from lacewings to butterflies and spider webs. Is it weird that I’m almost as excited as them?!