U.S. Department of Energy

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Scientist-educator talks microscopy in elementary school

Microscopy as a tool for observation holds rich connections with Washington State Science Learning Standards; however, it is not always clear where this tool fits into existing curriculum.

The Mid-Columbia STEM Education Collaboratory works with classroom teachers to develop story-based design challenges related to materials science and microscopy so that this tool might fit more seamlessly into existing classroom activities.

Frannie Smith, a scientist in the Energy & Environment Directorate, visited Lorianne Donovan’s fourth grade classroom at Finley Elementary School to guide students in making scientific observations and drawings of materials they read about in a story using 5x magnifiers. After reading A new Coat for Anna, fourth grade students engaged in a design challenge project, learned the process of sheep wool to fabric for a coat, and used microscopy to take a closer look at each material. Frannie Smith guided students through  a 5x and 100x times look at raw wool, clean wool, yarn, and fabric using jewelers loupes and the #PNNLsmartphonemicroscope.

After they captured their observations in a laboratory notebook, students were shown the same materials magnified 100x using PNNL’s Smartphone Microscope. They used their notes and drawings to identify the much more magnified images with excitement and success. This is just one example of how PNNL scientists and engineers are able to share their excitement for science and engineering with local schools.

Finley School District is a Collaboratory member and was just in the Tri-City Herald for surpassing its fundraising goal in order to receive a matching STEM grant from the State for $2.8 million. 

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