QUESTION FOR KIDS: What are microscopic differences in common animals and plants?
Exploring the world at the cellular level is a powerful experience — one that instantly changes your perspective on life. By using a microscope, you can see what makes these samples unique, even if they at first seem very similar with the naked eye.
Materials for this activity:
- Pocket Microscope
- Microscope Slide Set, basic
- Pipet (medicine dropper)
- Razor blade, single edge
- A hair from your head or your pet
- A carrot
- A mosquito or other small insect (dead)
- A leaf
- A flat toothpick
Follow this easy, step-by-step activity:
In this activity, kids will make their own slides from various sources and view them under the microscope to see the cells that make up the physical world. For each step, make a slide with a coverslip and a sample from your home or outdoor environment. Record what you see with each sample in a notebook or log.
- Put a one-half inch piece of hair, along with a drop of water, on a clean microscope slide, and top it with a coverslip.
- Use a razor blade to cut a very thin section off the end of a carrot for your child. Place it on a slide with a drop of water and a coverslip.
- While you have the blade out, cut a very thin section off the end of a leaf, put it on a slide with a water drop and coverslip.
- Slap a mosquito or find the smallest dead insect you can. Put it on a slide, add a water drop, and top with a coverslip.
- Use a flat toothpick to gently scrape the inside of your cheek and wipe the moist area on the center of a clean slide. Place the short side of a coverslip on one end of the slide, and drag it along the slide to smear the cheek sample. This will make the sample thin enough to view clearly. View under the microscope to see your own, individual cells.
A few tips to help you out:
- Not seeing individual cells? Make the sample as thin as possible. An adult can cut thin sections with the razor blade for the kids.
- The pocket microscope is inexpensive, easy, and portable, but doesn’t work nearly as well as a “real” microscope. For a true microscopic
experience, consider the Kids LED Cordless Microscope along with the Microscope Starter Kit.
- This may be the time to choose a microscope your kids will use for years to come. Learn How to Select a Microscope.
- If your kids are younger, consider a stereo microscope. You can use whole items, like rocks and coins to see them magnified. Watch the video and check out the Stereo Microscope Comparison Chart to learn more!
Go Beyond the Activity
- Compare different hairs from your head, your pet, other animals, a down pillow, or other species to see the similarities and differences.
- Scope out different kinds of cells you won’t find lying around the house — from frog skin to penicillium — with our General Microscope Slide Set.
Download the activity sheet for a formatted and ready-to-print version of this page.