One of the most exciting activities for my children in their younger years was using our stereo microscope. I had wanted one for some time after noticing how much they enjoyed watching isopods and ants, look-
ing at leaves, comparing the colors of different kinds of rocks, and
marveling over a multitude of other objects. They would observe
these in the course of a normal week as we would take walks
through our yard, or in nearby parks. Our source for purchas-
ing this low magnification microscope (with its cosmetic defects)
was eBay, but it provided hours of learning and fun as they gazed
into a world never seen before.
The microscope started out as a focal point in our kitchen as
it sat on the island and the children took turns unloading their
collections of precious objects for careful observation. It soon became a fixture on the counter top and did not move from the spot
it was originally placed, except for the times when guests would
visit and more space was needed in the kitchen to feed everyone.
In this article I would like to share with you the potential benefits of using a stereo microscope with your children and how you
can use it.
What is a stereo microscope and how does it work?
A stereo microscope, also known as a dissecting microscope,
gives a three-dimensional view of the sample, with separate objective lenses and eyepieces for each eye. It has lower magnification than a compound microscope, and works by using two separate optical paths instead of just one. When a user looks through
a stereo microscope, the two light paths image the sample at
slightly different angles (parallax) which is interpreted by the
brain as stereo vision, or three dimensional vision. The features
of this microscope allow you to look at larger objects, such as
rocks and insects, with a broader depth of field.
Most stereo microscopes have one focus knob. A lamp shines
down and reflects off of opaque or solid samples, and lighting
from the bottom shines up through transparent objects. Currently you can get a good used stereo microscope on eBay for
approximately $50 to $100.
What can you do with a stereo microscope?
1. Observe plant life such as leaves, flowers, moss, grass, fruit
and vegetables (onion skins):
Collect different types of leaves from various trees. Pine needles are also interesting to look at. Your child can easily see the
parts of the leaf including the midrib, veins, smaller veins and
blade, using the stereo microscope.
To look at a cross section of a leaf with a glass slide and cover
slip do the following: Find a leaf without many spots. Make sure
it is dry and clean. Take a one-inch section out of the middle of
the leaf, including the vein in the middle. From one end of the
leaf that you did not cut, roll the leaf section up into a tight cylinder. Make several very thin slices with a knife or razor blade to
with a Stereo
A stereo microscope is a
valuable addition to your tool
chest as a home educator.