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Look Until You Really See
We often underrate the power that simple observation can play in our science lessons. We look at a flower or a diagram or a tree or a leaf and we see the macro view. When kids get to play around with microscopes or even simple hand magnifying lenses they see a different world. Fortunately we have at our fingertips on the web a fascinating repository of microscopic visuals to get any a student interested in taking a closer look at their world.
This whole topic came up as I found a set of photographs of insects that is simply spectacular. I am teaching a unit on light right now and this fits into how a bug might see the world.
There is a collection of images from the electron scanning microscopes at the University of Hawaii. These have a large selection of insect photos there too. They are not as spectacular as those from the “Today” site but there is a greater diversity of organisms.
Likewise Harvard has a great site with lots of archived photos at their Biovisions site.
In the wake of this Halloween week there is a lot of fear that grows in children about spiders and bugs. Seeing the bugs for the fascinating biological specimens they are can give kids a different perspective on these little creatures. They are a good way to get started on looking at the micro view of the world. This comes in handy in all disciplines and helps develop a better understanding of scale. Often when children look at views of really small things like a virus they cannot understand that these are much smaller than things you can see with the naked eye. That view is developed when kids play with magnifiers and microscopes.
If you do not have a microscope handy it is no problem. There is a site where you can actually use and manipulate to view images online.
It is important to help give kids a healthy dose of respect for dangerous insects and animals. Just as it is handy to be able to identify poison ivy it would be good to introduce some bugs kids will want to stay away from. It is good to develop a healthy observe and do not disturb attitude. Insects, like larger critters are best kept in their own habitat and the study of them in their own habitat also produces the richest observations.
This is a good time to introduce a little sketching into the world of kids. If a student views an animal and is asked to sketch the organism they will notice the number of legs, the placement of the eyes, the body segments and a host of detail they will not notice if they just use words to describe. It is not important for the student to be an artist. The drawing is for them and it is just a vehicle we use to get kids to look more closely at the insect. I like to begin with plastic insects and let the kids draw them into their science notebooks and then move to an observation using a hand lens or a microscope. Photos work as well as plastic insects but the 3 dimensional aspect of the plastic replicas is helpful to point out body parts and segments.
So, while your kids are recovering from a high sugar load give them something interesting to observe and learn about those creepy crawlies that were maligned by the holiday.