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Explore the microscopic world using just a drop of water!

Check this idea out!

The very earliest microscopes used a small glass bead modelled after a water droplet that would refract and bend light. You can use this idea to make your own scientific tool. It should take less than half an hour to make and test.

A water droplet acting as a lens on a leaf

The short video below (3min 50sec) outlines how some easy to find resources can be adapted to create a simple but functional microscope.

The magnification level that water provides is about four times, so it is ideal for studying things like the parts of flowers or carefully collected insects. These simple microscopes can be easily made outdoors too, so you could use them on a local field trip or as part of a nature study.

You could extend the investigations by looking at the history of microscopy and the work of scientists like Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke

What is the idea?

A simple drop of water can make a very effective microscope.  The surface tension of a droplet of water will naturally form it into the convex shape of a lens which will bend light to magnify any objects placed underneath it.

What will you need?

  • Clear food lid or strip of clear plastic cut from packaging.
  • Pencil or other pointed object to collect and move drops of water.
  • Cup of water.
  • Small things to look at – flowers, insects, etc.
  • Paper towels or tissues to dry up any spills.
  • Hole punch (optional).

You could even share some drawings of what you discover in the microscopic world with everyone else on Teachers’ Corner! We’d love to make a gallery of them!

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