How to Teach Microscopes to Upper Elementary Kids

Wondering how to teach microscopes to your upper elementary students? Start with parts and functions. Then try a few simple labs. Your kids will love it!

Ms. Sneed Teaches Microscope Parts and Functions

Our favorite fourth grade teacher looked over her new set of microscopes. “I love hand-me-downs,” she said to her teaching partner. “We need to remind the high school to send us more used science equipment.”

“Now that we have these microscopes,” Mr. Frank said, “what will we do with them?”

“Thanks for asking.” She picked up a folder and sat down at the side table. Then she pulled out a packet of papers.

“I found this set of activities online. In my humble opinion, they’re perfect for our kids.”

Learning the Parts of a Microscope

“First,” Ms. Sneed continued, ” I plan to stand in front of the class with a microscope in my hands. I’ll point to each part, name it, and tell its function.”

Mr. Frank snickered. “Smart thinking. You need to explain before you let them have the microscopes.”

“Exactly. As soon as they get their hands on a fascinating piece of equipment like this, they will not listen.

“When I’m done explaining, I’ll give each group a microscope and a labeled diagram. They can then take turns touching each part and saying its name out loud.”

“Aha. Another smart tactic. That’s a great way to get them to practice the names.”

“Yep. Then I’ll have them practice the parts – probably as homework. The next day, they can do this worksheet to match the names with the parts.”

Begin teaching microscopes by identifying and labeling parts with a diagram.

Learning Microscope Functions

Ms. Sneed pulled out a few more papers. “Next, they will practice the functions. I’ll give them this handout, as well as a set of flashcards. When they’re ready, they’ll take the parts of a microscope quiz.”

“What a thorough introduction,” said Mr. Frank.

Help kids learn functions of microscope parts with a handout, flashcards, and a quiz.

Upper Elementary Students Can Do Simple Labs with Microscopes

A small smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “Of course,” they’ll want to look at stuff under the microscope as well. Therefore, we can use two simple labs.

“First, they’ll practice carrying and focusing their microscopes with sand, salt, and sugar. No slip cover required. We can ask them to draw the crystals and write the magnification next to it.

“Second, they will observe actual cells. Kids can prepare wet mount slides of green onion tissue and their own cheek cells. This is a little more advanced, but I’ve done it with fourth graders before. They require some support, but it’s worth it.”

Even upper elementary kids can conduct simple microscope labs. After teaching them how to carry and focus, ask them to observe and draw sand, salt, and sugar. Then more on to plant and animal cells.

Enjoy Teaching

Mr. Frank grinned. “The kids will love this – and I will too! But will this be enough? I bet they’ll be clamoring for more.”

“Fortunately,” said his teaching partner, “the high school also sent over some gently used prepared microscope slides. But to make it even more fun, we can teach our kids about cells and let them draw creative posters!”

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