Under the ’scope:
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Sep 18, 2012 | 1474 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hopewell students
HOPEWELL ELEMENTARY students Savannah Osborne, Caleb Hunter and Malachi Simpson use the new microscopes while trying to determine if what they are seeing is a plant cell, and animal cell or water. Banner Photo, JOYANNA WEBER
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Scientific exploration of tiny things is the latest project for fifth-graders at Hopewell Elementary School.

Students will be reviewing their knowledge of cell construction and exploring what natural items look like under the microscope with the new tools.

Teacher Melinda Braunstein, who teaches all the fifth-grade science classes at Hopewell, said her goal in buying the equipment was to make science class more hands-on for her students.

Braunstein said she received the microscopes at the end of April. However, she was unable to use them in class until last week.

The science teacher said she wanted to get her students excited about their subject matter.

The microscopes also connect to her classroom’s projector, allowing the entire class to see a slide at the same time. Digital screens allow multiple students to work with one microscope at the same time.

“It’s a really big step for us,” Braunstein said.

The equipment was made possible through a grant from the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation. “Show Don’t Tell” was the title of Braustein’s grant because she wanted them to be able to see what elements look like under the microscope rather than have it explained to them.

She applied for $600 to get two microscopes, but because the equipment was on sale when the teacher ordered it, she was able to purchase three microscopes plus resource materials with the grant.

“I just haven’t really explored all the possibilities, yet. I know it’s going to be endless,” Braunstein said. “We got a lot of resources with our grant, too, that shows us how to use them.”

Her first project using the new tools was to cover the labels on the slides and have students guess based on the shape what substance was being viewed. Students looked at the projected microscope screens, trying to determine if they were looking at a plant cell, and animal cell or water.

The exercise also served as a way to assess what students remembered about cell construction from the fourth grade.

“What I’m really doing is taking an informal assesment of their fourth-grade learning. Can they identify a cell based on its shape?” Braunstien said.

She said using the microscopes rather than simply asking the students the questions gets her young charges more engaged.

“This is the first year when I asked, ‘Have any of you thought about being a scientist when you grow up?’ Fifty percent or more of the kids raised their hands,’ Braunstein said. “In previous years, before we had these kinds of things, it’s been two people.”

Later in the school year, students will go on a nature walk to collect items to view under the microscope.

Students are helping Braunstien find new ideas by going through the books and suggesting what they think would be interesting. Braunstein said she likes to work from what the students are already interested in to keep them engaged.

When the classes study rocks and minerals they will also be looking at copper under the microscope, she said.

“Research shows the more real world tools that you use, and the more you can duplicate the setting of the real world, the better they do at testing,” Braunstein said.

This new addition also allows Braunstein to discuss advances in technology. She said the only microscopes Hopewell Elementary school had before were battery operated.

She said as the standards for students are increased, elements need to be added to increase interest as well. Braunstein said this can be done by incorporating technology into the classroom.

“You can’t have rigor without interest, and the students will attend better when they are more excited about what they are learning,” Braunstien said.

Building a working vocabulary of scientific terms is also a key to success.

“I require them to not say, ‘Hand me that plastic dish.’ They have to say, ‘I need the petri dish,’” the teacher said.

She said the microscope is another way to reinforce this theme.