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McREL Standards Activity

The Huge World of Tiny Things

Purpose:As a result of this activity students will understand that many materials, objects, and organisms have parts that are too small to be seen without magnification.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 8.Understands the structure and properties of matter
   Level II [Grade 3-5]
   Benchmark 4. Knows that materials may be composed of parts that are too small to be seen without magnification
Student Product:Verbal feedback to teacher
Material & Resources:magnifying glasses;
materials to observe (cloth, rock, velcro, insects, onionskin, pondwater culture, etc);
Microscope diagram:;
Microscope diagram answer sheet:;
Teacher's Note:The number of stations will depend on the amount of equipment, specimens, students, and time that you have.  

You might want to tell the student before beginning that you will allow them a certain number of minutes to view each station.  Then you can call for the students to move to the next station when that time is up.

Before class:  
A large number of photos taken from microscopes can be seen on the site Nanoworld Microscope Photos . These will make great mystery photos to show students, as an example of the even greater detail that can be seen with strong microscopes. Students can make guesses as to what type of object is shown in the photo.

During class:
Explain to the students that there are many things that people cannot see without help. Ask if any parents or grandparents wear glasses, noting that sometimes glasses are used to make the things look bigger. Show students a microscope. Lead a short discussion about their parts and use. (The following website has a printout of a microscope that you can label: Microscope Drawing ). Ask students if they have any ideas about what one might see in a microscope that cannot be seen with the eyes. You might use the example of hairs on a fly, or scales on a butterfly’s wings.  

This leads in to the mystery photos.  Explain that the mystery photos are pictures of things that have been "magnified" (made to look bigger). They are pictures taken through a microscope. Have the students take turns guessing whether each photo is a plant, animal, rock, or other object.  The photos will be more interesting and meaningful if they are of something with which the students are familiar (e.g., an ant, an eyeball, velcro).

To wrap up this lab, discuss what the students observed.  Discuss ways that microscopes and magnifying glasses might be useful, and what types of people might want to use a microscope.