Friday, October 06, 2006

Somebody's Eating My Raspberries!!!

Even snacks can be an opportunity for discovery!

This little caterpillar had been happily chowing down on a box of raspberries until he found himself under the lights of a stereo microscope. It was kind enough to arrive just as my granddaughters came for a visit. The video was taken with a Casio EX-P505 attached to a Premiere 10x stereo microscope with a Digi-T connector. The Digi-T does the job; but, it's difficult to align precisely... as you can see by the off-centered image.

What was important about this find was that my grandchildren, 6 and 4, instantly called for me to break out one of our microscopes so they could see the hitchhiker up close and personal. Timing is critical in encouraging exploration and inquisitiveness. Normally, finding a 'bug' in one's food isn't a cause for celebration. But, in this case, it became an opportunity to see an amazingly beautiful creature eating and doing a little exploring on its own.

The Special Gift
The beginning of DiscoveryScopes

Perhaps most people remember that one special gift that they recieved that was prized above all others. For me it was a microscope.

It's wasn't a great microscope... just a simple toy made by Tasco. But, it was enough for me to begin discovering a world of tiny creatures and plants that I have never tired of exploring to this day, some 50 years later.

As a former elementary and junior high science teacher, I have never ceased enjoying watching children's excitement and enthusiasm for exploring nature's wonders. The love of discovery is there at an early age and with just a little bit of encouragement from parents, teachers and grandparents it will never fade.

As I begin this site, I'm experimenting with linking a digital camera to some microscopes. I hope to be able to provide better and better images as examples of some of the potential for discovery that microscopes provide. I also hope to use images and videos to explain to those that might wish to purchase a microscope what the options are and the strengths of various type of microscopes.

But, 'scopes' in the context of the pursposes of this site aren't just limited to microscopes. We'll also include magnifiers, binoculars, telescopes and digital cameras... anything that can help a child 'SEE' the marvelous world of the Creator.

DiscoveryScopes is a trademark of Tom Meeks
The Leaf
Learning Observation

“It’s Green.”

I’m sure that as that student ‘finished’ their homework assignment that they were confidently smug that THIS teacher was going to be a pushover. After all, his first homework assignment took just a little over the time it took to pick up pen and paper.

Others in the class went the extra mile and added things like, “It’s long” or “It’s big.” But, from experience I knew what to expect when I gave me first homework assignment to the Life Sciences students at my new school. The assignment seemed deceptively simple to a seventh grader. Pick a leaf off any tree and describe it.

It was no shock, as one by one the students read their papers, that most of the descriptions were amazingly shallow. It was always like that. But, no matter how shallow they were each was praised for having seen SOMETHING. After, all they HAD completed the assignment. But, now it was time for another. Describe that same leaf without using the observations you made previously.

At this point, the students that had made several observations about the leaf were thinking that they had made a BIG mistake. They could have used some of those observations for today’s assignment! What they didn’t know is that this was going to seem like a never ending task as day after day the assignment was the same… Describe that same leaf without using the observations you made previously.

The reactions were always the same. First the howls… then the resignation… and finally the realization that they were finally ‘getting it’. Where once they saw just ‘green’, they began to see different shades of green. Where once they saw ‘long’, they began to see serrated edges. Where once they saw ‘smooth’, they began to see tiny hairs. Of all the things that I enjoyed about teaching, recalling this transformation in my students is the most satisfying.

Repeating this assignment for as long as necessary was not a waste of time for it set the foundation for the entire year’s adventure in discovery. It also provided a framework for observation that would last them a lifetime… start with the macro and move to the micro.

The process they followed was to use their eyes to see the larger features and then expanded their ability to observe by using tools like magnifiers, low power microscopes and compound microscopes. But, as the teacher, I wanted to be sure that they did not move from each level too soon. It was important to see as much as they could by simply observing the leaf more closely with their naked eyes before moving to using a magnifier. Similarly, it was important not to move to the microscope from the magnifier too soon because one might not have a microscope available in the future.

Today, I would add one more tool. I would use a digital camera as one of our ‘scopes’ using macro photography and various 3D photo techniques to add to their ability to ‘SEE’ new things about them.

And, “Seeing” is what DiscoveryScopes is all about!

DiscoveryScopes is a trademark of Tom Meeks