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Science Skills: The Compound Microscope

Is teaching a student how to properly use a microscope considered a "science skill"?
I think it is!

The regular followers of my blog know that I have been writing a series of articles on "Science Skills".  I think it is imperative that we teach our students skills that involved problem solving and critical thinking.  Don't get me wrong, the "facts" we teach in science are important too, but I have always found that if I do a great job in the "skills" area, the facts always fall nicely into place.

So the question of the day is:  Is having the student peer into a microscope considered a skill that teaches critical thinking and problem solving?  I say "YES",  but it will be up to the teacher to make the activity inquiry-driven and skills-based.  I think microscope work is important for the following reasons:

  • Students realize there is a "whole new world" out there.  Awareness of all environments will make our students better caretakers of the environment in the future.
  • It reinforces measurement skills.  Have students estimate the size of the microorganisms.  How does the size of one compare to another?
  • What impact does this microorganism have on other species?  Is the microorganism photosynthetic? If so, how will its disappearance from the aquatic ecosystem affect life on Earth?
  • Most students have not matured to the "abstract learner" stage.   Microscope work helps a student who is a concrete thinker by allowing them to "see, feel, and touch" things that are not normally visible to them.  You can show them plasmolysis occurring in a plant cell.  You can show them the chromosomes inside a cell.  You can show them sperm cells racing off to fertilize an egg cell.
  • You can teach cause and effect.  What happens when a cell is placed in this solution as opposed to that solution?
  • If nothing else... it is a great exercise for reinforcing hand-eye coordination!
Do you have some ideas about this topic?  How do you use the microscope to teach problem solving and critical thinking?  Let me hear from you by leaving a comment.

If you need some help getting started with teaching good microscope skills to your students, here are the materials that I use.


  1. I think it's also important because it teaches kids how to take care of fragile equipment. I can't tell you how many slide covers I saw broken when I was in middle school, and I felt bad about every one whether or not I had broken them.

    Unrelatedly, do you accept guest posts for your blog? I would've emailed you but I can't seem to find your contact info. Drop me a line at nataliehntr86 at gmail, thanks!

  2. Is teaching a student how to properly use a microscope considered a "science skill"? Yes, true, i agree and this post will also helps to others to educate them.