Dude, Scope This Out! (Day #1 of 2)

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SWBAT develop the skills and knowledge to proficiently use the compound microscope.

Big Idea

The microscope is, perhaps, the most essential tool for biologists. Therefore, students must know how to effectively use it to investigate the microscopic world.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson students will...

1. Identify and describe the key parts of the compound microscope.

2. Become proficient in the use of the compound microscope in order to investigate microscopic samples.

3. Develop a sense of confidence in order to independently use a technology to follow a multi-step prodedure.

4. Develop a sense of curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.


Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Teaching Challenges:

1. How can I develop a classroom culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity, and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration?

One of the most powerful breakthroughs I have made in the course of my teaching career has been to simply...let go. Let go of the need to control every activity in class. To let go of the notion that I or my students can reach perfection. To let go of being the center of the classroom.

By equipping, training, and giving ample opportunities to practice through active experimentation, students (in my humble opinion) are far more engaged in the process of science. Educational theorists will call this a "constructivistic approach" to teaching and learning. Everyday people know this as "hands-on" learning.

My main aim each day is to teach knowledge and skills to students and then provide opportunities to make sense of this meaning via interesting contexts and the pursuit of answers to intellectually challenging questions. My students will tell you that in my class 1) failure is an option, although not the best one 2) when failure happens, if we are careful observers, we can learn how to not fail in the same way. What this means to me is that there is freedom when the stakes (not standards) are lowered, students can more comfortably be themselves. For example, during and after the tutorial, students expressed surprise over seemingly simple things. One student wanted to use his newfound microscope skills to see what salt crystals looks like (amazing cell phone picture, for sure!). Another wanted to look at on of his hair follicles.

2. How do I develop routines and procedures to support students to work independently in the science classroom?

As we began this tutorial, students were able to get a feel for what skills and knowledge I would be assessing (Microscope Preassessment). It helped them to focus on what parts of the tutorial they needed to hone in on and then used it to guide the pairs practice later on.

This tutorial is an extension of the team concept that I introduce very early on and rely upon regularly. The resources available to students are stored and organized according to their team, of which I have eight. Each team has designated supplies (glue sticks, rulers, colored pencils, etc.) in their "team tub" stored on their table. They have a designated file crate with individual folders for every student in which graded work is returned to them. There is a specific space for lab work for each team.

Each team is comprised of different roles and responsibilities (Leader, Spokesperson, Manager, and Recorder). And there are microscopes for each team (1 per pair of students or 2 per team). Much of this boils down to accountability. Resources are limited and often expensive so students need to be good stewards of these resources. There is a division of labor and, were a break down in the team or partner process, much of this comes back to their performance. If students ask to use the restroom, my question to them is "Did you clear this with your team?" In my view, their first allegiance is to their teammates and then to me. So, hopefully this narrative helps to reveal that this particular tutorial in the proper use of the microscope is actually an extension of the core value of teamwork and mutual accountability.

This organizational structure saves so much time which is leveraged to more hands-on learning each and every day.

So, to answer these teaching challenges, at least in part, is to equip students:

-with the knowledge and skills required to become proficient in the use of the compound microscope.

-to leverage the technology with engaging and complex tasks.

-to support and encourage students in hands-on inquiry.

-to build confidence in students to feel like they taste success (many for the first time). 

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

As I teach about the major sections of this tutorial, I highlight how these skills and knowledge support (teacher-speak= scaffold) the upcoming cell diversity lab.

The following key points are emphasized to students:

Storage: there are particular expectations for how microscopes are put away in my storage cabinets. Fifteen years of use and they work splendidly!

Lenses: Low, medium, high power (40x, 100x, 400x- pretty standard)

Diaphragm: Perhaps the most underrated part here. Less light produces more detail! The analogy of stargazing in the back country makes the point well.

Knobs: Different ways to manipulate the microscope. Students should not need to use anything but these and the compound lenses to operate it.

Slides: Storing slides carefully (parallel to one another and in proper grouping) makes their use efficient and minimizes wear and tear.

Viewing slides (Flow Chart):Gives a visual depiction of the sequence of steps to follow. Oftentimes, students will want to skip viewing at low power and go all the way to medium or high power. Wrong strategy, "young padawan learner"! (BTW: Star Wars reference from Yoda).

Drawing microscopic specimens: Once students know the basics of microscope usage and before they begin drawing actual microscopic organisms, I discuss the criteria I look for when evaluating student work (Microscope Drawing Checklist).

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

At this point, students have had time to practice placing slides on the microscope, focusing at different powers of magnification (with help from me if need be), and quizzing each other. Before they leave I ask them to again evaluate what they need to work on prior to the next day's microscope skills test.

Refer to Day #2 of 2...