Things to View with your Low Power Microscope

You have a low power or stereo microscope (10X to 60X) and want some ideas of some cool things to look at?
  1. Get a crisp, new $5 bill and look at the back, just above the pillars on the Lincoln Memorial. You should see the names of some states. How many can you read? While you are at it, take a closer look at all the details in the engraving. Look at other bills and see if you can find anything too tiny to see without a microscope. Look at coins and stamps too. Can you find the initials "VDB" on a penny?


  2. Get some samples of fabrics and compare them under the microscope. A plain weave looks like a simple crisscross pattern, a twill weave can be observed when looking at the material they make blue jeans from and a pile weave can be seen when looking at corduroy.


  3. Get some sand samples from the beach or a river bed and look at all the pretty minerals and tiny shells. If you have a microscope with both top and bottom illumination, put the sand on a black piece of paper (or your black contrast plate) and use the top light only. See how different sand from different beaches looks. Collect sand samples and keep them in old 35mm film canisters. Be sure to record the location and date on each canister.


  4. Leave a small pan of water outside in the summertime so mosquitoes can lay eggs in it. Once the eggs hatch, look closely for the tiny "wigglers". They are the mosquito larvae. Collect one and put it in a very small dish with hardly any water (or on a depression slide) Check it out!


  5. Look at other very tiny insects that you might find on leaves or stalks of plants. (Look closely, you will be amazed how many you can find). Get clear plastic "bug boxes" and trap live insects so you can watch them move about under your microscope. Caterpillars are great fun to watch! Get a book on insect identification and try to identify as many as you can. Release your live insects back to nature when done.


  6. Get a pencil, a piece of paper and some clear tape. Rub the pencil on a small area of the paper so you build up a dark area of graphite on the paper. Now, rub your index finger in the graphite so your fingerprint is covered with graphite. Carefully place a piece of tape over your fingerprint, then peal it off and stick it to another piece of white paper. Check out the fingerprint under your microscope. Look for special markings that make your fingerprint unique. Collect different fingerprints from other people. Look for the Arch, the Loop and the Whorl types.


  7. Pull a color picture from a magazine and look closely at the colors. What makes up a color picture?


  8. Look at rocks and minerals. See if you can borrow a ring (or other jewelry) with stones in it to check out. Find an old wind up watch, open the back and look at all the gears and springs while it is ticking, verrrry cool!


  9. Take a close look at plants and plant parts. Check out the parts found inside a flower. Also check out moss, fern leaves and even mushrooms (look at the bottom side!)


  10. Finally, use your imagination. Anything that will fit under your lens that you can focus on may open up a whole new world of detail, designs or patterns (like what about a fish scale or a piece of hamburger?). Keep good records in a small notebook of everything you observe. And if you see something that you think is worth sharing, please tell us about it. We might add it to this list.


Show your friends the cool things that you have discovered and
encourage them to get a microscope of their own!

email ideas to