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iLabs: I Want To Get My Child A Microscope, But….

October 2, 2013

student microscope display from cell pic

LOOKING FOR A GOOD MICROSCOPE FOR YOUR YOUNG SCIENTIST? 

HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER:

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT?

Will you be viewing big things like a spider, or tiny things, like a Paramecium? Big things are best viewed on a dissecting microscope. It usually magnifies things about 5-30x the object’s size.  On the other hand, tiny things such as Paramecium require greater magnification.  A compound microscope is best for that. It can magnify things from about 40x to over 1000x depending on the model.

AGE/ SKILL/INTEREST LEVEL

Student microscopes can come in categories such as “elementary,” “high school” and “advanced.” While that can be a good rule of thumb, perhaps ask “what is the student’s level of interest.” A young child with a passion for the microscopic world might easily move up into a high school or advanced model. An older child with a passing hobbyist interest might be content to stick to a simple model.  Whatever model you choose, try for the most QUALITY you can afford, rather than one that offers a lot of “bells and whistles” but is cheaply made.

VIEWING COMFORT IS KEY

There are a couple of things to consider here. Do you want to look through eye pieces or view a monitor?  A monitor on the scope is nice because it allows everyone to gather around and see the same thing simultaneously. But if you go this route it will need to be a microscope with a quality monitor or the images will not be worth viewing. That will add to the cost.

Eyepieces are cheaper and the traditional way to view things. This method will give your young student experience using eyepieces correctly so they will be prepared for proper use in school lab situations. For example, do NOT put your eyes right against the lenses but a bit back from them, and if using a binocular microscope, keep BOTH eyes open when viewing.

If you choose to use eyepieces, some suggestions for comfort:

  • Avoid monocular models if you can afford it. Viewing is better in a binocular scope
  • Avoid scopes with vertical eye pieces.  A scope with the eyepieces at an angle is much more comfortable.

LIGHTING

There are a number of light sources that can be used. We favor LED lighting. It is bright, the LEDs will last for a very long time and they do not get hot and cause burns. Just make sure your model has an adjustable iris or some way to adjust the level of lighting. Too much light can make viewing some things difficult.

GETTING AROUND

Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a Paramecium shoot by and not be able to follow it.  A mechanical stage that holds the slide in place, and a microscope with knobs to move the mechanical stage around, will be much more fun.

SOME LINKS TO CHECK OUT

http://biology.about.com/od/microbiology/bb/Before-You-Buy-A-Microscope.htm

http://www.microscope.com/education-center/buyers-guides/how-to-buy/

http://www.microscope-microscope.org/basic/buyers-guide.htm

http://www.microscopy.org/education/projectmicro/buying.cfm

http://www.amscope.com/student-package-deals.html

http://www.carolina.com/microscopes-and-optics/10655.ct?intid=srchredir_microscopes&_requestid=497665

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