What is a Microscope?
A microscope is one of those things homeschool moms dream about purchasing! I know I did for a long time before we finally bit the bullet. It’s an expensive purchase and one you will need to make before your kids get to Freshman Biology. However, if you can afford a microscope, they are so much fun to have before science class dictates the purchase.
Let’s talk about ten fun ways to use a microscope in your homeschool before high school and you will see what I mean.
Purchasing a Microscope for your Homeschool
The two basic things you need to consider when looking at microscopes for your homeschool are magnification and affordability. You can get into details like glass quality and mechanical quality as well, just to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck.
Here are two affordable microscopes.
- Discovery Scope. It’s not a table microscope but it also is not a magnifying glass. With 25X magnification, you can have a lot of fun! I’ve written about how to use this fun portable microscope and how you can take it with you to the pond, hands-on museum, or anywhere you want to find scopable things. Cost is $40.
- OMAX Microscope with camera. (Hint: enter to win this scope at the end of the post.) It has 40X to 3500X magnification and connects to your computer for instant fun. Properly cared for, it will last until your little ones are in college. Cost is $240.
Ten Fun Ways to Use a Microscope in your Homeschool before High School
1. Start simple. Have your kids get a human hair from one of your hair brushes. Or, if they are like my boys, they will just pull one out of their heads. Use this as an introduction to how your microscope works. Help your children zoom in and out and refine the focus to see that hair at 3500X magnification. That will spark some conversation, and probably inspire them to find more stuff to look at in the microscope!
2. Study plant parts. Leaves, stamens, and even pollen can be collected, smashed between two slides, and studied in great detail. Flat items can even be used without slides.
3. Collect samples from your fridge. Find the stuff in the bottom of your produce drawer, or spilled liquids, to place between slides. Get some milk or orange juice on a slide. Or slice onions, cucumbers, radish, turnips, zucchini, and even bananas and take a look.
4. Collect water samples. You can grab water samples from your tap water, filtered water, a local pond, and a running fresh water source such as a stream or creek. If you are near the ocean, collect some salt water too! You could even collect a drop or two of water from your fish tank. Place a drop of each between two slides, and label them as you go so you remember what you are looking at. Study the differences and see what you can find.
5. Grow some mold and take a look. Place a couple pieces of bread in a baggie and place it in a dark area until mold starts to grow. Remove some of the mold and place it between two slides to examine.
6. Compare mucus. Place a drop of mucus from a human mouth or nose (or one of each) between two slides and examine. Bonus points if you have a cold. Also, if you have a pet, collect a mucus sample from your pet and compare. Gross – but very cool.
7. Look for microorganisms in your home. Collect dust samples, cobweb samples, and maybe even collect a sample from your mattress by vacuuming into a clean canister. Gross again, but very revealing too!
8. Study blood cells. A volunteer will need to prick his finger and swipe some blood between two slides. Or you can all take turns if everyone is game.
9. Get some bug parts under the glass. Bugs are so fascinating – and you can find lots of parts to look at! Bugs like to hang out under rocks or flower pots. Spiders, wasps, or bees also make interesting specimens and most of us don’t mind smashing one or two in the name of science.
10. Salt, pepper, and spices. You will be amazed how these simple little specks look different under a microscope.
Don’t forget to take pictures or connect your microscope to your computer so everyone can join in the fun!
Draw what you see. Young students will love drawing what they see in the microscope and then showing it to everyone later. Basic things can become monsters and dragons under the microscope! This is good practice for biology labs later.
Science your Kids will Talk About
What if you could find a science curriculum your kids would talk about during after-school hours? “Mom, shelf mushrooms!” exclaimed on a hike (followed by a long pause in the hike while pictures were taken). “Mom, did you know that dolphins are technically whales?” “Mom, mom, mom, your body functions a lot like a city and your bloodstream is the roads and your brain is the headquarters.”
My kids get this way over Apologia science. I’m amazed at the information they retain weeks, months, and sometimes even years later. My youngest daughter actually came to me last week asking for more science textbooks to read for fun this summer! She is currently reading Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright.