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Basic Science Experiments for Students: Looking at your Body under the Microscope

There are many things that we can examine under the microscope. From within their own homes to their backyards, children or kids can find lots of specimens that can be examined and studied on. Even our own body can contribute to our knowledge about the microscope and the field of microscopy. The science activity that we will perform today is a simple experiment that can be done by high school students as well as elementary children. We don’t need to go anywhere for samples because we are going to use our own bodies as sources for specimens for our microscope experiment. The microscopes that we will need are a low power stereo binocular dissecting microscope and a high power compound light microscope.

The first and easiest specimen from our body that we can observe under the low power stereo microscope is our hair. Pull off a single strand from your head and place it under the dissection microscope. Looking through the eyepieces, we can see the hair’s surface like the dark pigments that give the color to the hair. You will also see the follicle which is the part that was pulled out from the scalp. This is the growing part of the hair.

The next that we will do is to put the strand of hair on the microscope slide with a drop of water. Once you put the cover slip on, put it on the compound light microscope stage and adjust the coarse, then the fine focus. This time, we will be able to see the hair shaft in a more detailed light.

Up close, the hair shaft looks like layers of scales that point outward from root to tip. These microscopic scales are called the cuticle and examining them under the high power compound microscope can also help you determine whether your hair is damaged or not. If the microscopic scales are closed, then the hair is in good condition in a way that it is smooth and shiny. You can determine an unhealthy hair under the compound light microscope if you see that these scales are raised, knotted or have split ends.

Let us take a look at our hair follicle under the high power compound light microscope. Some hair roots look like hard beads while others appear soft and gelatinous with a tails that sticks out in the end.

After examining our hair, we will now move on with examining our cheek cells under the high power compound microscope. What you will need is a toothpick and with its blunt end, gently scrape the inside of your cheek. Spread the material on the microscope slide and stain it with a drop of blue-ink or iodine solution. Staining colors the specimen and therefore helps to view its microscopic features more distinctly.

Under a high power compound light microscope, you will be able to see numerous cells. If we focus our high power microscope to one of these cells, we will see that each cell has a rather defined shape with dark spots on the middle. This microscopic spot is the cell’s nucleus while the mass that surrounds it is the cytoplasm. The cell membrane encloses these parts together. A higher level compound microscope that is used to view unstained specimens is called the phase contrast microscope. If the student is lucky enough to have one of these high-end research microscopes, then definitely try looking at the cheek cells with it. You will not need any microscope stains as the phase contrast kit will bring out the contrast using a special light technique. Phase contrast microscopy is useful where it is undesirable to stain a fresh specimen so as to not disturb the living cells more than what is needed.

With these microscope activities, students and children will get to know more about the make-up of their bodies. These are very simple microscope activities that can be performed even by children while at the same time proving to be very educational. Furthermore, these experiements teach the proper use of low power and high power microscopes. This is recommended for both high school and elementary students. These science experiments prove that learning can be not just educational, it can be fun.

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