Major changes are being made in the way science is taught in pre-college schools. Delivering those changes to thousands of schools is an enormous task. Scientific societies are a key resource; they can organize and train member-volunteers to help teachers bring "real" science to the classroom. The Microscopy Society of America (MSA) became part of the effort with Project MICRO (Microscopy In Curriculum - Research Outreach). MICRO puts MSA members, teaching materials, and microscopes in middle school classrooms nationwide. The idea began in '93, but took a lot of time and effort to implement. MSA's early decision to collaborate with experienced science educators at the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) of the University of California at Berkeley was a wise one; their educational materials have a well-earned national reputation for excellence. The first phase of MICRO was completed in July '98 with the publication of a teacher's manual, Microscopic Explorations, in the LHS GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) series. A description of the collaboration between MSA and the LHS that produced Microscopic Explorations appears in the online journal Cell Biology Education. Its fourth revised reprinting was in 2007; 12.000 copies have been sold since 1998.
MICRO gained an unexpected major benefit from its association with the LHS. The main problem faced by other scientific societies that have outreach programs has been national support of training, both for teachers and volunteers. The LHS/GEMS program was so successful that they soon outgrew their ability to provide enough in-house trainers to meet the demand. So in the period since MICRO's inception, a highly trained category of teacher-trainer, "GEMS Associates" has been developed. There now are hundreds of them, all over the country. GEMS Associates can help MSA's local societies organize programs, and in areas that aren't served by participating local societies, they can invite individual microscopist-volunteers to attend GEMS workshops and then help them find a teacher to work with.
Will you be a MICRO volunteer? It would take far too much space here to provide the reasons that you're needed; the National Academy of Sciences has compiled them all on an excellent website www.nas.edu//rise/chap4.htm; please read it.
When it's possible to get a microscopist-volunteer into the classroom to help present the material, much can be accomplished. The availability of volunteers encourages hesitant teachers to use microscopy. Microscopist-volunteers take the enthusiasm generated by the manual content down many lines of inquiry, to be determined by the needs of the classes and the interests of the volunteers. MSA supports organized volunteer programs through its Local Affiliate Societies. In 2006, the Minnesota Microscopy Society celebrated the tenth year of a very successful outreach. The New England society has programs in the Boston area, Burlington, Vermont and Bar Harbor, Maine. You'll find addresses for these programs elsewhere in this site. Several other programs relied on grant funding that has expired (Arizona, North Carolina) and are inactive. Let's start some new ones!
Where do we go from here? The testing imposed by "No Child Left Behind" places new demands on teachers who still need help in teaching science. Detailed science curricula like 'Microscopic Explorations" have fallen on hard times; in too many elementary and middle schools 'test prep' consumes the time that once was available for science education. MICRO isn't just a manual. MICRO's goal is to bring the excitement of the micro-world to the classroom, and to show children that they can "think like scientists".
Fortunately, there is a very effective, independently published guide, The Private Eye (5X) Looking/Thinking by Analogy, that fits into the constraints given to teachers more easily than Microscopic Explorations in many classrooms; please see the entry in the MICRO booklist, and the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Private_Eye_Project. Two YouTube descriptions of The Private Eye approach have appeared recently; if you're doing or planning any outreach, you'll find them helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-0qC44Og0Q and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swVWmCRCjGA&feature=related. The next few years should be exciting, productive, and rewarding.
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Microscopic Explorations is one of over 70 guides in the GEMS series. The cost of its production was funded by several sources; we thank them for their generous support.
- Chevron Research Employee Fund
- Cornell University Materials Science Center
- Glaxo Wellcome Foundation
- Hertz Foundation for the Advancement of Applied Physical Science
- Hewlett Packard Foundation
- National Science Foundation:
- Education Directorate, Division of Instructional Materials Development
- Biology Directorate, Division of Instrumentation & Instrument Development
- and the Microscopy Society of America itself!
Brady, S., Willard, C. 1998; revised fourth printing, 2007 Microscopic Explorations 165 pp, paperback, 8.5x11", $23.00 plus $4.00 shipping. ISBN 978-0-924886-00-3 Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-5200; 510-642-7771, FAX (510)643-0309. Also available from many school supply catalogs, and web booksellers.
A collaboration between the Microscopy Society of America and the LHS has produced an outstanding Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) guide. It's written in "festival" format, with a dozen explorations that can be presented simultaneously to circulating groups of students. There is a rich assortment of supplemental information on microscopes and how to buy them, curriculum extensions, further reading, and sources of help. The units are more classic than unique; subjects include crystals, color printing, fingerprints, pond water, brine shrimp, etc. Its uniqueness lies in the carefully written "inquiry science" presentation of those topics and the thorough classroom testing of content that a GEMS guide receives. It will work well in any classroom; teachers aren't expected to have special skills. A Spanish translation of the copyable student worksheets is available online (four PDFs) at http://lhsgems.org/GEMmicro.html Grades 4-8.
A complete kit of the materials needed to present Microscopic Explorations is be available from Carolina Biological, as item #11-3251; for about $400; contact them at http://www.carolina.com/GEMS or 800-334-5551. Although the items needed to present any GEMS unit are inexpensive office, supermarket and hardware supplies the list for Microscopic Explorations is long and it takes time to assemble them, so this is a useful option; 8 handheld 30x microscopes and a copy of Microscopic Explorations are included.
RISE (Resources for Involving Scientists in Education) is a project of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. Its website, http://www.nas.edu/rise, asks these questions, and then provides the answers. There's no need to repeat their excellent commentary here; please use the link.
Are you a scientist, engineer, or health care professional, or other technical professional?
Are you concerned about the quality or quantity of science education for K-12 students?
Would you like to make a positive contribution to your community?
If you are a professional or amateur microscopist, you're particularly valuable as a volunteer, because the light microscope is the best "tool of science" with which to introduce the methods, excitement and fascination of science. (Of course we in the Microscopy Society of America are prejudiced, but it's still true!)
Don't be casual about volunteering; realize that you're making a commitment that will take time and effort. If you haven't already looked at "Things that you should know before getting involved" on the RISE website, do so now: http://www.nas.edu/rise/chap1.htm
If you live in an area served by one of MSA's 30 local societies, contact them first. Several of them already have outreach programs, and others may have an "outreach chair" who will help you find a teacher to work with. You'll find a list of local society officers here, and a description of operating MICRO programs elsewhere in the MICRO web page.
If your area doesn't have a local society, begin with the national network of teacher-trainers ("Associates" and "Leaders") organized by the Lawrence Hall of Science's GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) program. MSA collaborated with GEMS to produce "Microscopic Explorations" which is one of over 70 GEMS manuals. They will know where you're needed, and can help you get started. If you live near a GEMS regional "Site", contact it first; they're listed at http://www.lhs.berkeley.edu/GEMS/sitescenters.html. If a "Site" can't help you, contact Terry Cort firstname.lastname@example.org to locate an independent GEMS Associate near you.
If none of this structure is close enough, return to the RISE website and explore it in detail. Very good advice is also available at http://www.noao.edu/education/ncmlssg.html
The North Carolina Museum of Life and Science produced an excellent pamphlet Sharing Science with Children — a Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers; it's now available as a PDF at http://www.noao.edu/education/ncmlssg.html ; read it before you contact a teacher independently.
Finally, the Project MICRO Coordinator, Elaine Humphrey, may be able to help.
You're a microscopist; you know your lab and your scientific field. You may even have graduate students. None of that means that you know how to really help a middle school teacher in a classroom. You need to know a bit about the changes that are happening in science education; the new methods are so successful that they're "trickling up" into collegiate education. You need to review the cognitive abilities of young folks. This won't take a lot of your time, but it's important.
The simplest way is to join a MSA local program, or attend a GEMS workshop; you'll find contact information on the preceding "How do I volunteer?" page. One of the "model" programs described on the RISE website www.nas.edu/rise may be located near you, and you can attend their training. If none of this is possible, get advice from RISE, starting with "Working effectively with students and teachers."
The North Carolina Museum of Life and Science produced "Sharing Science with Children" as two excellent pamphlets in the early 90s, and the advice is definitely not out-of-date. Both are available in downloadable form on the web: www.noao.edu/education/ncmlssg.html "Sharing Science with Children — A Survival Guide for Teachers" and "Sharing Science with Children — A Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers".
How Do I Get Microscopes?
How to Buy School Microscopes
There are a lot of inexpensive microscopes available, of widely varying quality; some of the good ones cost no more than some of the nearly useless "toy" models. You don't have to be an optical expert to make a good choice, if you follow the simple evaluation criteria given here. Remember that "experts" don't always agree, and trust your own evaluation skills. The advice that follows is intended for teachers, parents, and school volunteers who are looking for good classroom equipment. An adult amateur will want a somewhat different microscope that can be upgraded with different lenses and accessories as the hobby progresses. Both will benefit from reading one of the several well-written introductory books that are available; Nachtigall, Exploring With the Microscope, for example. Full information on that book and many others can be found in the MICRO booklists, on this website. You'll find another useful discussion of microscope selection at http://www.greatscopes.com/microscope.htm.
What kind of microscope should I buy?
The first choice is between "simple" and "compound" microscopes. A "simple" microscope (Leeuwenhoek used one) has just one lens and a "compound" scope has both an objective and an eyepiece. Don't buy a "simple" design! The working distances between eye and lens and lens and specimen are so small that they are very difficult to use. And a single powerful lens has so much aberration that the student who manages to get an image will be disappointed by its quality. Unfortunately, there are quite a few models offered in school supply catalogs.
All rules have exceptions. A useful "simple" design for a classroom would be the inexpensive "The Private Eye 5x loupes." Classroom suggestions on using these loupes can be found at http://the-private-eye.com/index.html While much can be achieved with a simple loupe, the need for more magnification and image recording leads us to "compound" scopes for general classroom use.
But I only have $50-100 to spend; does that mean no microscopy?
Not at all! Many manufacturers offer a design that looks like a pocket flashlight. They usually magnify 30x, with two AA batteries providing illumination, and they sell for about $10. You'll find them in electronics and "nature" stores, and many catalogs; quality varies, so it's wise to compare. They can be good enough to support extensive curriculum. Buy as many as you can afford; some local dealers may be willing to discount a bulk purchase for school use.
I want to equip my classroom with "real" microscopes; what will that cost?
Approximately $1000 (don't despair; see below). That will get you at least 10 good quality scopes in the $80-150 price range. You can get scopes at that cost that will be durable and easy to use, with lenses that will deliver a sharp, bright image. In general, more expensive models will provide similar images but more convenience, and less expensive ones will have disappointing performance.
Where do I find the $1000?
That may be easier than you think. Local corporations are often a good source of funding at this level. The MSA Local Affiliate Society (LAS) nearest you may be able to help. You'll find a list of LAS at https://www.microscopy.org/communities/local.cfm.
What type should I buy?
Two types, actually, in roughly equal numbers for middle school. Inspection/dissection scopes are used to look at surface details of large, opaque specimens at relatively low (20-30x) power. Illumination is usually from above, and the image is erect, as in the "real world". Compound microscopes are usually used with transmitted light to look through transparent specimens; the useful school magnification range is 10-400x. The image is inverted. It takes a bit of practice to follow a moving subject when it's upside-down.
A useful "simple" design for a classroom would be the inexpensive "The Private Eye 5x loupes." Classroom suggestions on using these loupes can be found at http://the-private-eye.com/index.html.
While much can be achieved with a simple loupe, the need for more magnification and image recording leads us to "compound" scopes.
What features should I look for?
Both types should have metal bodies and metal rack-and-pinion focus, for durability and easy, precise focusing. That immediately eliminates the plastic "toy" scopes. Although a metal body is no guarantee of lens quality, metal focus gearing is more precise than twistable or plastic designs. Both types should have glass rather than plastic lenses and be able to focus on both thin specimens (slides) and the surface of larger objects at least an inch thick. Compound scopes should have a 3-lens turret and a substage diaphragm or series of "field stops" to control brightness. There are some good single-objective compound scopes available, but the three lens design is much more versatile; a student can locate a subject at low power and immediately switch to higher magnifications of the same area.
I need compound scopes for my class, and I see a lot of features advertised; which ones are worthwhile?
"Magnifies 600-1200 times!" NO. When you see this claim in an advertisement, it's good reason to read no further. The wavelength(s) of visible light and the optical properties of glass lenses used in air (rather than the "immersion oil" used with research microscopes) limit the useful magnification of a compound school microscope to 400x; more is "empty magnification". Magnification can be calculated by multiplying the power of the eyepiece lens by that of the objective lens. For example, using a 10x eyepiece and a 40x objective gives 400x. Higher magnifications are achieved in "toy" microscopes by using an eyepiece of excessive power, which in turn makes the field of view very narrow, while emphasizing all the aberrations of the image produced by the objective lens. It's like enlarging a snapshot from a cheap camera to poster size; it's bigger, but there's no more detail. Most school microscopy needs 10-100x (bacteria require 400x). True 1000x imaging requires a 4th objective (100x) in the turret, a multi-lens focusable condenser, plus the use of immersion oil. It should only be considered for advanced high school classes.
"Zoom magnification!" NO. This is related to the preceding problem. A zoom eyepiece just makes things worse, because cheap zoom optics are full of aberrations. Magnification changes in a compound microscope should be accomplished by changing objective lenses, not by zooming the eyepiece. And that is best accomplished with a lens turret rather than changeable screw-in lenses, which are easy to damage or lose.
Binocular eyepieces. NO. Although the information content of a stereo view will help an older student, two sets of optics cost a lot more, and if rough use knocks them out of line factory service is needed. Younger children's narrower interocular distance often won't fit adult eyepiece spacing. And fully 17% of children (5 or 6 in a class of 30) will have amblyopia, strabismus, or other binocular coordination problems.
Condenser. MAYBE. Although the substage condenser, which focuses illumination on the specimen, is an essential part of a research microscope, it should be avoided in the $100 price range. If one is offered it will be a single lens which can't be focused, fixed in the stage. It will be easy to damage and difficult to clean.
Projection microscopy NO. Even if you can completely darken your room, illumination sufficient to project an image with one of the cheap direct projection scopes will also fry your specimen. Some manufacturers do have good, educationally useful video projection systems, but their cost makes it doubtful that they're "worthwhile" if the budget is limited. A separate digital camera connected to a computer is a better choice. The new digital microscopes that project onto a monitor allow the whole class to see the same thing at the same time. Avoid the "digital microscopes" that incorporate camera electronics into a glass-lens microscope itsef. That electronics will become obsolete rapidly, forcing you to abandon and replace the scope when it's optical and mechanical condition are still good.
Built-in illumination. YES. Scopes with mirrors are no longer sold. If you have some, you can use any kind of table lamp. A short fluorescent tube in the center of the table can illuminate several scopes; they're about $10 at hardware stores. BUT some children may have difficulty setting a mirror properly. If every scope has an electric cord, the floor will look like spilled spaghetti. If you need illumination from above ("incident") for an opaque sample, a below-stage lamp won't provide it. Many built-ins require hard-to-get bulbs. Built-in battery powered illuminators are offered on a few scopes, but they have short battery lives If you do opt for built-in illumination, remember that wet samples can be a shock hazard and equip your electric outlets with ground fault interrupters, which automatically cut the power to a "short circuit". Recently built classrooms may have built-in GFIs. Microscopes with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and rechargable batteries have entered the school market recently, and they're definitely worth considering. No wires, long battery life, no bulbs to replace, inexpensive ($150!).
Made in the U.S.A. NO. Brand names are no guarantee of American manufacture. Almost all American-brand microscopes are imported, and even scopes that are advertised as American-made will have important imported components, such as lenses.
Widefield eyepieces. YES. These provide a large, bright image and are usually the best choice. They let you see more specimen area than a conventional eyepiece of the same power. This also means that more illumination is gathered and transmitted, providing a brighter image. They should be no more than 15x; 10x is preferred. In student scopes, they're often fixed in place, which protects against loss, damage, and internal dirt.
Fine focus. YES. Desirable, but scarce in the low price range.
Focus stop. YES. This will prevent slide or lens breakage. If the scope doesn't have fine focus this is particularly important. If you can't focus on a very thin specimen (paper, or a plastic slide) you may have to put the specimen on top of a glass slide.
Mechanical stage. YES. Offered as an accessory on most compound scopes.
Can I check lens quality?
YES. You can tell a lot without test equipment. The rectangular engraved crosshatching around the portrait heads on U.S. currency is a useful specimen for a crude check of lens quality. Focus up and down and look for several things:
A flat focal plane. You can't expect inexpensive lenses to have a perfectly flat field; so-called "plan" lenses are costly. You will, however, find a lot of variation in quality; try to do a side-by-side comparison if you're choosing between two models. You're looking for an image that's really sharp from the center almost to the edge of the field of view, rather than one that must be refocused for each part of the circular field.
Achromatic lenses are highly desirable. This means that the lenses will focus one wavelength (usually mid-green, where our eyes are most sensitive) well. Uncorrected lenses will show color fringes around specimen detail. Apochromatic lenses, which are corrected for three wavelengths, are too expensive to consider here.
No distortion. The horizontal and vertical engraved lines should be straight.
No astigmatism. As you go thru the focal point (fuzzy-sharp-fuzzy), look for a "linear" image distortion that rotates 90 degrees as you go from above focus to below focus. This can be caused by an objective lens that isn't round or (more common in cheap optics) a lens that is tilted in its mount. Rotate the eyepiece to check for the same problem with that lens.
No internal dirt. Defocus the image and look carefully for lens dirt on both objective and eyepiece. Try removing it with gentle use of lens tissue and small amounts of eyeglass lens cleaner. If it's within a multi-element lens, don't buy the scope.
Objective alignment. Compound scope three-lens turrets should be reasonably well aligned and the cheaper ones often are not; compare the scopes that you're considering. Focus on a small centerfield object at the lowest magnification, and then rotate the turret to the next higher power. The chosen object should remain close enough to center that you can still see it at the higher magnification, and it shouldn't be completely out-of-focus. Repeat for each objective, in sequence. Don't expect perfection; that is expensive and will only be found in research scopes.
Try to do a scope comparison with two prepared slides. One should be a brightly-stained biological specimen and the other, something that's almost colorless. Use different magnifications and illumination (the "field stops" mentioned above). The better lenses should be obvious.
Where do I find these microscopes?
Major scientific supply catalogs and some of the school supply houses will have them; this web page has a dealer contact list. A microscopes-only dealer may provide both a presale quality-control check and in-house service. Shop carefully; prices may vary by 50% or more.
What about buying a used microscope? I see a lot of great deals on eBay.
If you know enough to evaluate a used scope or repair a faulty one you probably won't be reading this basic advice. Microscopes don't "wear out"; they're often on the market because they aren't working as well as they should. Used research scopes will have extra controls that will be very confusing for both teachers and students.
For further information contact MSA’s Project MICRO Coordinator: Elaine Humphrey.
The first decisions to make are, "what type" and "how many". At Project MICRO's level (middle school), bigger, more powerful, and more expensive isn't necessarily better. A classroom set should include simple, rugged scopes (built of metal, NOT plastic) with decent optical and mechanical performance, with enough of two or three types for small group use. A good choice would be five or more monocular "dissecting" scopes at $70-100 each, some 3-objective monocular compound scopes with LED illuminators, $150 -200 each, and 5-10 30x hand-held scopes (the flashlight sort), $15 each. Total, about $1000. That level of cost is usually relatively easy to get from local donors. If the available funding won't support that, avoid the temptation to purchase "toy" microscopes with plastic bodies and lenses; supply the class with the "flashlight" scopes, and start looking for funding for the rest.
I30x "flashlight" style microscopes are a good choice for low cost school microscopy; they're widely available in the $15 price range from school suppliers and "science" stores.
Monocular Inspection/Dissection Scopes
Ten or more years ago these were easy to find for around $70, but that's no longer so; you may be forced to buy a binocular. See Project MICRO's "Buying microscopes" advice.
3-Objective Monocular Compound Scopes
There is a large selection in this category; follow the advice given in Microscopic Explorations and on this website, and shop for a good combination of price and quality. A microscope specialty store is most likely to offer a good guarantee and in-house service.
Single-Objective Compound Scopes With Sliding-Tube Focus
Although this design has been purchased extensively by schools because of its ruggedness and simplicity, focusing is often difficult for a child. Project MICRO feels that the 3 types described above are a better choice. Examples are:
Project MICRO welcomes your comments. Contact the coordinator, Elaine Humphrey for further information.
Sorry — MSA doesn't have a national fund for school microscope purchases. As detailed on the previous pages, you'll need about $1000 for a school set. That amount can often be obtained from a local corporate source with a minimum of effort; many companies have "employee contribution funds" in addition to corporate grant programs. Local service clubs are another possible source. The MSA local society near you may have a set available for loan, and members of that society may be able to help you find sources. The Project MICRO Coordinator, Elaine Humphrey can help you write text for a grant proposal if that becomes necessary.
Locating a Microscopist-Volunteer
If you are a teacher who has decided to do a "Microscopic Explorations" festival, you may be wondering where to look for a microscopist-volunteer to help you. If you've used other GEMS guides, you may already know the location of your favorite GEMS Leader, Associate, or Site. Ask them first; they may already be working with someone. If you don't know a GEMS person, you should; there are hundreds of them, and they're a great source of information. Visit the GEMS website for the the current Site list.
If your school is within the activity range of one of MSA's local societies, they may have volunteers available, or even an organized local program. Click here for the local society list. This website also has a list of the current local programs.
If none of these approaches work, go to the Ask-a-Microscopist service. Your request for help will be posted on MSA's microscopy listserver, which is read by over 4,000 microscopists worldwide. Please make your request as far in advance of your need as possible.
If none of this works, contact the Project MICRO coordinator, Elaine Humphrey at email@example.com. But her main resources are listed above, so try them first!
This database will help teachers, volunteers, and parents to introduce children to the microworld. An attempt has been made to list (and review!) everything that is available; if readers are aware of other titles, please tell MICRO's coordinator. The "books" category is divided; "curriculum manuals" provide a sequence of classroom units, and "supplemental books" give information on specific topics. An attempt has been made to classify them by grade level; MICRO is a middle school program, but you'll find a few titles here that can be used in the primary grades or in high school. And there are a few books intended to help adult leaders.
Nanotechnology isn't microscopy, but it certainly is part of the microworld. This revised database now includes a section on "Nanotechnology for kids" because nano machines and nanoscale science have an exciting future that will have a major effect on all our lives.
An increasing number of students face the challenge of learning English and science concurrently; you can search this database to find good books in Spanish, and bilingual websites.
It has become difficult to list "real" book prices in these reviews; internet competition has made most publishers' list prices theoretical. Use your favorite search site, particularly if you want a single copy.
Microscopy Education Articles in Microscopy Today
MSA publishes Microscopy and Microanalysis, a leading international research journal, and Microscopy Today, which is a general-interest magazine (free subscriptions to Microscopy Today are available on request). 'Microscopy Education' was added to its list of regular features in 2009; the articles are available at www.microscopy-today.com (select "Archive").
Design and Implementation of a Practical, Hands-On TEM Short Course
A Nicholls and E Schumacher, Microscopy Today 17(5) (2009) 46-50.
Empowering Pre-College Teachers through Investigations of Micro- and Nano-Worlds
VM Serio, Jr., KD Moulton, JL Jamison, G Fletcher, L Flower, and SM Duboiser, Microscopy Today 17(6) (2009) 40-42.
A Chumbley and LS Chumbley, Microscopy Today 18(1) (2010) 42-45.
High School SEM Discussion Group: A Resource for Teachers and Microscopists
M Gill-Linscott, Microscopy Today 18(2) (2010) 42-46.
Virtual SEM (VSEM) — Ongoing Development of Teaching Resources
NHM Caldwell, GC Martin, AL Mitchell, DM Holburn, and BC Breton, Microscopy Today 18(3) (2010) 44-49.
Introducing Students to Research: Electron Microscopy of Bacteriophages
JE Sanchez, EL Jacovetty, B Carragher, CS Potter, and RE Taurog, Microscopy Today 18(4) (2010) 30-33.
Promotion of Inquiry-Based Science Education: One Teacher's Story
JA Kraft, Microscopy Today 18(5) (2010) 40-42.
An AFM Learning Module Employing Diffraction Gratings
T Coffey, I Bryan, Z Bryan, D Wicker, J Drake, N Pope, and DN Leonard, Microscopy Today 18(6) (2010) 42-48.
Bugscope: Online K-12 Microscopy Outreach
S Robinson, C Conway, C Wallace, AM Ray, and U Thakkar, Microscopy Today 19(2) (2011) 46-50.
Augmenting Secondary Education with Advanced Microscopy
C Queenan, A Calabro, and D Becker, Microscopy Today 19(3) (2011) 48-52.
Discovery on Wheels: the Biobus
E Elert, Microscopy Today 19(4) (2011) 38-41.
Project MICRO: Science Excitement in Middle Schools
C Schooley, Microscopy Today 20(3) (2012) 42-44.
Nanotechnology isn't microscopy, but it certainly is part of the microworld. Nano machines and nanoscale science have an exciting future that will have a major effect on all our lives, but we already have the beginnings of nanophobia appearing in the popular press. Fear thrives on misinformation. Caution is reasonable and appropriate, but fear, fueled by ignorance and by science fiction thrillers like Michael Critchon's bestseller "Alien" that feature nanomachines gone wild, is not. Uninformed fear may make the controversies over topics like genetic engineering and stem cell research seem tame by comparison. Facts and understanding are the antidote, so it's important that children's books about the nanoworld have started to appear.
The best answer to the question "how can we explain nanotechnology in the primary grades?" is don't do it! Young children in grades 1-3 must first explore beyond their unaided eyes with magnifying glasses and low-power dissecting scopes, to develop a sense of scale; without that foundation, nano dimensions will make no more sense to them than the mega figures of our federal budget make to us. For more advice, see the other sections of MICRO's website.
Most of these books are useful in the "middle grades", which is a deliberately vague classification. Some of these brief books will work for upper elementary students, and others have enough content for high school. The one high school teacher's manual (by Jones et al.) is a clear winner; it isn't likely to have significant competition soon.
Poems and Quotations About the MicroWorld
Project MICRO, MSA's educational outreach program, asked the subscribers to the MSA "Microscopy" listserver, a worldwide list of over 4,000, to submit their favorite quotations from the great and not-so-great for use in MICRO'S manual, Microscopic Explorations. The response was amazing; there are far too many to use in the manual, and they're much too good to throw away. They are presented here for your enjoyment. They were contributed for nonprofit educational use, from clippings pinned on lab walls all over the world; please don't use them for commercial purposes. We welcome further contributions.
Robert Hooke, in Micrographia ,1665 [the first "microscope book"]:
"For the limits to which our thoughts are confind, are small in respect of the vast extent of Nature itself; some parts of it are too large to be comprehended and some too little to be perceived. And from thence it must follow, that not having a full sensation of the Object, we must be very lame and imperfect in our conceptions about it, and in all the propositions which we build upon it; hence we often take the shadow of things for the subftance, small appearances for good similitudes, similitudes for definitions; and even many of those which we think to be the most solid definitions, are rather expressions of our own misguided apprehensions then of the true nature of the things themselves. ....."
..."The texture of Cells of Cork and of some other frothy Bodies could not be so curious, but that possible, if I could use some further diligence, I might find it to be discernable with a Microscope. ... me thinks, it seems very probable, that Nature has in these passages, as well as in those of Animal bodies, very many appropriated Instruments and contrivances, whereby to bring her designs and end to pass, which not improbable, but that some diligent Observer, if helped by Microscopes, may in time detect. "
"...by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visable World discovered to the understanding
....By this the Earth it self, which lyes so near us, under our feet, shews quite a new thing to us, and in every little particle of its matter, we now behold almost as great a variety of Creatures, as we were able before to reckon up in the Whole Universe it self....
Manfred Von Heimendahl in his introduction to Electron Microscopy of Materials,1980:
"Seeing is Believing".
Henri Poincare [French mathematician; late 1800s] :
"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful."
" It is because simplicity and vastness are bothe beautiful that we seek by preference simple facts and vast facts; that we take delight, now in scrutinizing with a microscope that prodigious smallness which is also a vastness..."
( For more in that vein see: S. Chandrasekhar "Beauty and the quest for beauty in science" Physics Today July, 1979)
Dr. W.W. Mayo, 1930, the founder of the Mayo Clinic and the father of the 'Mayo Brothers' needed a microscope for his medical practice. At a cost of $600 (in the early 1900's) this would mean he and his wife would have to put a mortgage on their house to obtain the microscope. His wife decided the issue by saying that if the microscope would help him to give greater service to his patients, he should have it.
[now the quote:] "The difficulty of securing the microscope and its value as an aid to the practice of medicine gave it unusual value in our eyes, and perhaps for that reason Charles and I, even as children, became expert in its use." 1930.
Alexander Pope, 1733:
Why has not Man a microscopic eye?
For this plain reason, Man is not a Fly.
Say what the use, were finer optics giv'n,
T' inspect a mite, not comprehend the heav'n.
Voltaire in Micromegas:
"One can be fooled by appearances, which happens only too frequently, whether one uses a microscope or not."
James Thurber in "University Days", a chapter in in My Life and Hard Times:
"We'll try it," the professor said to me, grimly, ' with every adjustment of the microscope known to man. As God is my witness, I'll arrange this glass so that you see cells through it or I'll give up teaching. In twenty-two years of botany, I -' He cut off abruptly for he was beginning to quiver all over, like Lionel Barrymore, and he genuinely wished to hold onto his temper; his scenes with me had taken a great deal out of him.
So we tried it with every adjustment of the microscope known to man. With only one of them did I see anything but blackness or the familiar lacteal opacity, and that time I saw, to my pleasure and amazement, a variegated constellation of flecks, specks, and dots. These I hastily drew. The instructor, noting my activity, came back from an adjoining desk, a smile on his lips and his eyebrows high in hope. He looked at my cell drawing. "What's that?" he demanded, with a hint of a squeal in his voice. "That's what I saw, " I said. "You didn't, you didn't, you didn't!," he screamed, losing control of his temper instantly, and he bent over and squinted into the microscope. His head snapped up. "That's your eye!" he shouted. "You've fixed the lens so that it reflects! You've drawn your eye!"
Henry Baker, Chapter 15,"Cautions in viewing Objects" of The Microscope Made Easy, 1742 [A popular book in its time]:
"Beware of determining and declaring your opinion suddenly on any object; for imagination often gets the start of judgment, and makes people believe they see things, which better observations will convince them could not possibly be seen; therefore assert nothing till after repeated experiments and examinations in all lights and in all positions.
When you employ the microscope, shake off all prejudice, nor harbor any favorite opinions; for, if you do, 'tis not unlikely fancy will betray you into error, and make you see what you wish to see.
Remember that truth alone is the matter that you are in search after; and if you have been mistaken, let not vanity seduce you to persist in your mistake.
Pass no judgment upon things over-extended by force, or contracted by dryness, or in any manner out of their natural state, without making suitable allowances.
There is no advantage in examining any object with a greater magnifier than what shows the same distinctly..."
Glenn Richards, University of Minnesota, microscopy instructor [circa 1980]:
"There are many microscopes, but few microscopists."
Charles Shillaber [Author of the "classic" LM text, circa 1950]:
"The microscope with its accessories is by far the least understood, the most inefficiently operated, and the most abused of all laboratory instruments"
Victor Hugo, Book 3 Chap. 3 of Les Miserables:
"Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?
And in another chapter of Les Mis:
"Philosophy is the microscope of thought."
Adrianus Pijper, South African Journal of Science 26:58-72 (1939):(The microscope is) "man's noblest, supreme, and most far-reaching tool." [Just BEFORE electron microscopy.]
E. M. Chamot, J. Appl. Microscopy 2: 502 (1899):
"It is rather remarkable how slow American chemists have been in realizing the importance of the microscope as an adjunct to every chemical laboratory.... (The microscope is) as much a necessity in every analytical laboratory as is the balance." [Note the date; still true.]
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) Poems, Second Series ca 1880:
Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen to see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency.
K'ang Yu-wei (1858-1927) Ta T'ung Shu: The One-world Philosophy of K'ang Yu-wei transl. L.G. Thompson,1958:
"In the age of One World, the power of the microscope will be one doesn't know how many times greater that that of [the instrument of] today.
[Viewed through the instrument of today] an ant looks like an elephant.
[Viewed through the instrument of the future], the size of a microbe will be like that of the great, skyborne p'eng bird."
Theodore Roszak Where the Wasteland Ends (1972) :
"Nature composes some of her loveliest music for the microscope and telescope."
Peter Sewell ((president of an electron emitter company),1984. (Personal conversation on the event of the writer being hired for a position in Peter's electron microscopy lab. The only marginally relevant experience he had at the time was at an astrophysical observatory.)
"A microscope is the same as a telescope - you just point a microscope down."
Woody Allen, quoted at the beginning of B.A. Palevitz et al. Protoplasma 109:23-55 (1981):
"...can the human soul be glimpsed through a microscope? Maybe, but you'd definitely need one of those very good ones with two eyepieces."
Lawrence (Yogi) Berra, as quoted in Sports Illustrated 60(14):94, 2 April 1984 , quoted at the beginning of B.A. Palevitz and P.K. Hepler Planta 164:473-479 (1985)
"You can observe a lot by watching."
Maxine Kumin, The Microscope [the full text of Kumin's 1963 children's book with the same title]:
"Anton Leeuwenhoek was Dutch
He sold pincushions, cloth, and such.
The waiting townsfolk fumed and fussed
As Anton's drygoods gathered dust.
He worked, instead of tending store,
At grinding special lenses for
A microscope. Some of the things
He looked at were:
the hairs of sheep, the legs of lice,
the skin of people, dogs, and mice;
ox eyes, spiders' spinning gear,
fishes' scales, a little smear
of his own blood,
and best of all,
the unknown, busy, very small
bugs that swim and bump and hop
inside a simple water drop.
Impossible! Most Dutchmen said.
This Anton's crazy in the head.
We ought to ship him off to Spain.
He says he's seen a housefly's brain.
He says the water that we drink
is full of bugs. He's mad, we think!
They called him dumkopf, which means dope.
That's how we got the microscope."
William Shakespeare [Out of context, of course]
A Midsummer Night's Dream:
"And as imagination bodies forth
the forms of things unknown,
the...pen turns them to shapes,
and gives to airy nothing
a local habitation, and a name."
"I have the not, and yet I see thee still,
Art thou not sensible to feeling as to sight?
Or art thou but...a false creation?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
as this which now I draw.
Thou marshal'st me on the way that I was going,
and such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools of the other senses,
or else worth all the rest."
"To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour."
In days of old, those far off times
of high romance and magic,
A toad was an enchanted prince,
A transformation tragic.
Today the toad is studied as
A scientific topic
No prince is found, although we look
With vision microscopic.
And yet, the prince is there - he's there
As clearly as can be.
Forget your microscope, my friend,
And use your eyes to see!"
e. e. cummings:
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim(death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness
- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns in its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born - pity poor flesh
and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
a hopeless case if - listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go"
Daniel Mazia, U.C.Berkeley cell biologist, shortly before his death in 1996:
"The gifts of microscopes to our understanding of cells and organisms is so profound that one has to ask: What are the gifts of the microscopist? Here is my opinion. The gift of the great microscopist is the ability to THINK WITH THE EYES AND SEE WITH THE BRAIN. Deep revelations into the nature of living things continue to travel on beams of light."
Ned Yeomans, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School:
"An Ultrastructural Sonnet
In sombre beauty in her room she broods;
Tis night-and all her pumps are deathly still,
And thus she slumbers peacefully, until
The morn, when unkind amperes end this interlude.
With steady beat her motors wheeze and keen,
Industrious vapours drain the inner core,
That Bohr's electrons shortly will explore,
In headlong torrent downward to her screen.
What truths does she uncover with her beam?
How much is artefact produced by man,
And how much really fits into the plan
Of nature? That believed is easily seen!
But even if she may promote confusion,
It is at least an elegant illusion."
Iain Probert to his sister, Elaine Humphrey (after some of her micrographs had been used on the TV show X-Files), 1997:
"A Christmas Ode for the Scientifically Minded
Twas the night before Christmas
And deep in the lab
Something came crawling
From under a slab
it crawled to the agar
To take a peek
At all the bacteria
it slithered through the jelly
(as icky things do)
And gobbets of goo
Moving on to the 'scope'
With a single aim
To spell out a message
Addressed to Elaine
Dear Human' it wrote
With some ink from a gland
'Forgot your card,
Having studied your kind
And obtained my degree
On a theses titled
'Humans and their relations with me'
I find that you pry
Into all that we do
We need privacy too!
You took photos
of each of my chums
All of my aunties
Each of my sons
You sold these photos to some t.v. show
Keeping the money
Isn't that so ?
If you use our photos, to give others a fright
You really don't know us
For it is simply not right !
Now that we've informed you
Please make amends
Or we'll consult our lawyers
Messrs S Bends
We'll put an end to your scary sights
By wearing bright colours
And thick woolly tights
Viruses and bacteria
Will aim to be cute
And all of your ventures
Will go down the chute
But heck, as it's Christmas
We'll give you a break
Here is one scary picture
And it isn't a fake !
Out of pouch, it took with a sigh,
Its favourite photo
Of Elaine's right eye!"
Hilaire Belloc, in More Beasts for Worse Children:
The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all,
But many sanguine people hope
To see him down a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen -
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us they must be so ...
Oh! Let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.
Which has been anonymously corrupted to:
Great fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so ad infinitum."
These are the words of the judge in an English court case (involving the classification of coal) in which expert microscopist testimony was called upon. The Lord President, Torbanehill Case, 1853, quoted recently in the McCrone journal, The Microscope:
"....but one general remark may be made on the microscopic testimony, and it is, that there are those who see a thing, and also those who do not see it -- those who do see it, cannot see it unless it is there, and those who cannot see it do not see it at all. But very skillful persons looking for a thing and not seeing it, creates a strong presumption that it is not there. But when other persons do find it, it goes far to displace the notion it is not there."
Found in a fortune cookie:
"If I hadn't believed it, I never would have seen it."
Nestor J. Zaluzec:
Electron Beams, Ion Beams, Photons on the Way...
Dashing down the column
traveling at hundreds of K.
Through the sample they go
scattering along the way.
Mag and Beam up high
making screens glow bright
Oh what fun it is to see - atoms- day or night.
Electron Beams, Ion Beams, Photons on the Way!
Oh what fun it is to be, in the E-M-C to-day
T-E-M's, S-E-M's, Op-ti-cal scopes too!
Scru-ti-nizing matter is what we love to do.
E-D-S., E-L-S., Auger spectra too!
Analyzing data it's all in store for you.
Macrographs, Micrographs, computed pictures too!
Far too many pixels - to know with, what to do!
Electron Beams, Ion Beams, Photons on the Way!
Oh what fun it is to see - atoms- day or night.
Electron Beams, Ion Beams, Photons on the Way!
Merry Christmas from all of Us - and a Happy New Year too."
Charles Kingley in Glaucus or the Wonders of the Shore, 1855
Do not despise the creatures
because they are minute...
doubt not that in these tiny
creatures are mysteries more
than we can ever fathom.
Edwin Hubble, American astronomer
"Equipped with our five senses - along with telescopes and microscopes and mass spectrometers and seismographs and magnetometers and particle accelerators and detectors sensitive to the entire electromagnetic spectrum - we explore the universe around us and call the adventure science."
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, 1930:
"With every tool, man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning...by means of the microscope he overcomes the limits of visibility set by the structure of his retina."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland:
"All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera glass."
Herman Melville, Inscription Epistolary to W.C.R.:
"He is an optician, daily having to deal with the microscope, telescope, and other inventions for sharpening our natural sight, thus enabling us mortals (as I once heard an eccentric put it) liberally to enlarge the field of our essential ignorance."
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860):
"It is only in the microscope that our life looks so big."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):
"Whether he sleeps or wakes, - whether he runs or walks, whether he uses a microscope or a telescope, or his naked eye, - a man never discovers anything, never overtakes anything, or leaves anything behind, but himself."
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1701:
"People who look for the first time through a microscope say now I see this and then I see that and even a skilled observer can be fooled. On these observations I have spent more time than many will believe, but I have done them with joy".
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Wilheim Meister's Travels (1829):
"Microscopes and telescopes really confuse our minds."
Kahil Gibran, A Handful of Sand on the Shore:
"The eye of a human being is a microscope, which makes the world seem bigger than it really is."
Lelio Orci & Michael Pepper, Microscopy and Art? In Nature Reviews, Feb. 2002:
"As long as there is a hunger for knowledge and a deep desire to uncover the truth, microscopy will continue to unveil Mother Nature's deepest and most beautiful secrets."
Larry Millett, writing as John H. Watson, M.D. in Sherlock Holmes and The Red Demon (1996):
"I saw nothing," I said.
"That is because, my friend, you were too busy looking at the scenery," said Holmes, who was putting his walking stick to good use, stabbing the ground at almost every step. "You take pleasure in the big picture, the grand view, the distant prospect. You are a tourist, Watson, whereas I am more interested in the small and particular, for the world is never more revealing than when it is studied in intimate detail."
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836-37: Pickwick's servant, Sam, testifying in his master's breach-of-promise trial (chapter 34):
"Yes, I have a pair of eyes," replied Sam, "and that's just it. If they wos a pair o' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power, p'raps I might be able to see through a flight o' stairs and a deal door; but bein' only eyes, you may see my wision's limited."
Local Affiliate Society Outreach Programs
Several of MSA's local societies and one university now have outreach programs; they are all a bit different. If you want advice on how to organize a workshop, contact the Burlington, Vermont program; New England has been very successful at fundraising, Minnesota has an outstanding website, and Cornell has used grad students as volunteers effectively. If you want to join one of the programs, or if you want to learn more about what they're doing, please contact the program chairs.
Cornell University Materials Research Center
No local society is associated with this university-sponsored program. Grad students function as classroom volunteers, and students and teachers visit the Center. In the first four years, 80 teachers and 2400 students visited.
Educational Programs Office
Center for Materials Research
firstname.lastname@example.org Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
The oldest, largest LAS Project MICRO program. Circulating workshop kits, classroom volunteers, and a partnership worth a local science museum are all supported.
3M Center, Building 260-6A-23
St. Paul, MN 55144-1100
The NESM program began by assembling five complete kits of microscopes and supplies for presenting workshops. One kit is used by a volunteer at the University of Vermont Medical School and another by a volunteer at Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor, Maine. Three kits circulate to schools in the Boston area.
New York/New Jersey
The New York Microscopy Society is a long-established independent society that has recently become a MSA affiliate. They have an ongoing children's (and adult) educational program at their headquarters in Montclair, NJ.
6 Chittenden Road
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Phone: (201) 797-8849
The Oklahoma Microscopy Society's educational outreach effort has completed their 18th annual Ugly Bug contest (2014-15 school year), which continues to attract around 100 entries per year from elementary schools across the state. Prizes for the contest include high quality Leica stereo microscopes along with a visit from working microscopists for a day of fun and learning. OMS regularly awards ~10 (or more) stereoscopes to schools each year. The Society, through its contest website regularly receives inquiries regarding classroom visits, image use, and microscopy questions from the general public. OMS would not be able to provide this level of educational outreach without generous grant assistance from Phillips 66. We also thank Hitachi for assisting us in bringing tabletop SEMs to schools and to an annual Kid's Night, held in association with our Spring Workshop. We also take our tabletop SEM to the corners of the state as part of our award ceremonies. We calculate (conservatively) that our outreach programs have been a part of the educational experience of around 60,000 Oklahoma school children over the last eighteen years.
9810 N. 136 E. Ave.
Owasso, OK 74055
Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) is a leading resource for the advancement of activity-based science and mathematics nationally and worldwide. GEMS activities are originated at the Lawrence Hall of Science, the public science and curriculum development center of the University of California at Berkeley, and thoroughly tested by teachers nationwide before publication. GEMS units use accessible everyday materials and are designed for successful presentation by teachers who may or may not have special background in math or science. Featuring the "guided discovery" inquiry-based approach, GEMS units can stand alone as stimulating ways to involve all students in science and math, or can be combined to construct creative and effective year-long curricula. Among the many facets of the LHS GEMS program are:
- an acclaimed series of more than 70 teacher' guides and handbooks, including the MSA/GEMS guide, Microscopic Explorations
- specialized teacher's workshops offered locally and nationally
- a growing national and international network of GEMS Sites and Centers
- thousands of trained GEMS Leaders and GEMS Associates
- a widely read national newsletter: The GEMS Network News
Microscopic Explorations Exercises
The LHS/MSA guide, 'Microscopic Explorations' provides a basic set of tested, reliable exercises, presented in an "inquiry science" context. Its ten topics, however, are only an introduction to the microworld. Look at the Project MICRO's two bibliographies for many other possibilities (don't miss the listings for 'Private Eye' and 'Nanoscale Science'). The website list that ends the 'Microscopy' booklist even lists several laboratories that provide remote-access scanning electron microscopy for K-12 classes.
If you don't find the lesson that you want, you may be tempted to write your own. To quote Project RISE of the National Academy of Science, "Unlike the other roles for scientists, ... a role in developing instructional materials for K-12 science education is suitable only for a few individuals. Many of those involved in improving science education advise scientists who are interested in developing materials, 'DON'T DO IT!'." You'll find good reasons presented in the RISE website.
The Beanie Baby Mystery
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. MICRO features here material that provides a direct extension of the content of 'Microscopic Explorations'. Our first activity, 'The Beanie Baby Mystery', written by microscopist-volunteer Joe Nielley of Abbott Labs, is a good example; it's a direct extension of the 'Kitchen Powders' unit of Microscopic Explorations. Read it at https://www.microscopy.org/education/projectmicro/beaniebaby.cfm
Project MICRO Sand Box
The Project MICRO Sand Box is an outgrowth of Activity 8 of Microscopic Explorations. You can request free samples for classroom use - please contribute your own sand to keep this service going.
Tool for Hand Sectioning Fresh Tissue
A detailed PDF about hand sectioning fresh tissue can be requested from Rosemary.White@csiro.au How to make a hand microtome from a thread spool is described at http://www.microscope-microscope.org/activities/school/microtome.htm. You'll find a wealth of similar useful advice in Oxlade & Stockley's "The World of the Microscope". See the MICRO Microscopy booklist for details.
Molecular Expressions, the excellent Florida State University microscopy site offers K-12 lessons at http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/resources/k12.html
American Society for Microbiology
Many detailed lesson plans on microscopy, lenses, cell structure, and DNA are available from the American Society for Microbiology at https://www.asm.org/index.php/educators/k-12-classroom-activities.
Microscope Lab Journal
A PDF for a microscopy lab notebook data page is available here http://www.greatscopes.com/journal.htm; teachers can make copies for class use.