Experiments for a Kids' Microscope

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Experiments for a Kids' Microscope
Kids can learn a lot about the world using a microscope. (Milk & Honey Creative/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Microscopes for kids can be relatively expensive but are a good way to help kids learn about the world around them. Familiar objects often look completely different when seen up close. Children's microscopes fall into two main categories. A basic compound light microscope is good for magnification but less effective if you want to look at a single larger object like an insect. Low power stereo microscopes are better with larger objects but less useful if you want to magnify a particular feature.

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Examining Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a familiar pest in many areas but make ideal subjects for investigation under a microscope, particularly if you have a lower-power stereo microscope. Catch a mosquito by spraying it with insect killer and place it on the microscope slide. Examining the insect under the microscope allows you to see all kinds of details too small to notice under the naked eye. One experiment is to try to identify if the insect is male or female. Look at the insect's mouth parts---female mosquitoes have the distinctive needle-like proboscis they use to suck blood from their prey. You can recognise the male mosquito from the blunt shape of its mouth. The antennae of a male mosquito are also much hairier than those of a female.

Examining Blood

Prepare a blood smear by finding a willing blood donor. Sterilise a pin by running it through the flame of a candle, then prick the donor's finger to produce a drop of blood. Cover the prick with a Band-Aid to prevent infection. Drop the blood onto a microscope slide and gently use a coverslip to spread the drop across the slide to produce the blood smear. Under a compound light microscope, blood reveals all its constituent parts. Kids can look for tiny red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients around the body, and white blood cells, which fight infections. When you've finished the examination, carefully dispose of the bloodied slide and the pin. Wrap them in paper and put them straight into a garbage bin where no child or pet can get access to them---there is a very small risk of infection when handling blood, so it's best to be safe.

Examining Pond or River Water

Examining pond or river water can give kids an idea of the world of tiny life living in the environment. Gather a sample from a shallow pond or river using a jar or net. Leave the sample in a jar to rest for at least an hour to let the contents settle---you will probably see a layer of "sludge" gathering at the bottom. Use an eyedropper to transfer a few drops from the sludge to a microscope slide. You should be able to see tiny creatures swimming around in the water. Kids can count how many creatures they can see and record the different types.

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