The other day we were learning about ants and insect parts so I got out the microscope. We have a high school/college lab-quality microscope (so worth the money once your kids are teens and even before if you can swing it).
A good quality microscope costs between $120 and $350. Of course, you can pay more, but that price range should get you a great tool for the high school years. Look for a microscope with three levels of magnification, up to 400x should be about right. You also need an adjustable stage (the little platform that your specimen sits on) and two knobs for focusing, a rough focus and a fine focus. You also must have a light below the stage and corded lights will be brighter and more reliable than battery powered.
You will use a microscope mostly for biology when you are looking at blood cells, skin cells, DNA replication, muscle cells, microscopic organisms, plant cells, and so on. But you may also use it in chemistry to look at crystals or fibers or in earth science when looking at rocks or soil particles or micro-meteorites.
Learn to Use A Microscope
Sometimes I just get out the microscope and let the kids explore with it and be fascinated for awhile. Teach them to change the magnification and find the focus. Teach them how to make their own slides. If you aren’t a scientific type and haven’t a clue about microscopes yourself I strongly recommend getting The Ultimate Guide To Your Home Microscope and working through it with your kids.
When using a microscope you can use pre-prepared slides which you purchase or you can make your own slides of something like skin cells from inside of your cheek. Again, Home Science Tools has sets of pre-prepared slides you can purchase. We recommend this basic biology set for starters. The set that Garrett and Harrison are using in the photos above is the Learning Resources Prepared Slide Set.
When To Use Your Microscope
Use your microscope when studying:
- insects (legs, wings, whole insects)
- fibers (cotton, silk, rope
- plants (seeds, leaves, roots, pollen, onion cells)
- human biology (cells, blood, mitosis)
- rocks and minerals
- animals (hair, feathers)
- pond water
Kids even down to kindergarten can benefit from and use a microscope with supervision. For high school science it’s almost indispensable.
Layers of Learning Science
At Layers of Learning, we believe in giving kids real science experiences from a young age. Yes, our 1st graders extract DNA with our high schoolers. And our high schoolers play with the color wheel with our 3rd graders. We explain it and organize it all for you in our curriculum. All ages all at once, one curriculum, for 1st through 12th.