Close, Closer, Closest by: Donna Farland

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As educators, we are always deciding what experiences we want to give students in order to achieve our goals of developing science process skills. One of the best ways of teaching about observation is described here. Using a hand lens and an illuminated pocket microscope, students observe an object at three different levels of magnification—“Close, Closer, Closest.” You may be amazed at how surprisingly simple and effective this experience is for teaching young learners to be keen observers.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (4)
  • on Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:15 AM

Scientists use different tools for different results. Students are asked in pairs to look at and record observations of a piece of cloth using first their eyes, then a simple hand lens, and finally a pocket microscope. This activity teaches them about making observations and that certain tools are good for certain types of observations. Worksheets are included with this article.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:50 PM

Farland shares an activity where students use a hand lens, illuminated pocket microscope and students in groups of two. The purpose of the activity is for students to learn to be observers versus “seers”. Students also learn the power of magnification. I actually modified this activity for my middle school students and used it at the beginning of the year to help students understand the significance of detail and how the tool you choose to use often is the difference between the seen and unseen. I also teamed it up with teaching students how to diagram with accuracy as part of my expectations for them in lab investigations. Another modification I made was to eliminate the pocket microscope because I didn’t have any, and stack the hand lenses, up to four, to add magnification. I also added a technology component by using the Dino Lite computer microscopes. The final modification was the items I had students look at. I used seashells, small pine cones, and maple leaves. I kept the worksheet intact, except they did their observations in their graphing notebooks. The objects used really don’t matter, and I found that I used this as a regular introduction to many of the units I taught throughout the year. One of the most fascinating was when we were doing electricity and students viewed a small light bulb, stranded wire and fiber optic cable.

Sandra Gady  (Renton, WA)
Sandra Gady (Renton, WA)

  • on Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:28 PM

This fun activity can be used for almost any age group as a primary lesson on observation, or as older students need review and practice on their skills. Students often overlook the details in much of what they are observing, and this observation activity from three perspectives helps them to see the importance of the details. It also help students understand that scientists use different tools to "help" them make quality observations. Worksheet template is included!

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:51 PM

This article provides a simple introduction to observation using varying magnifications. Students are asked to observe a common item at increasing magnifications to investigate the differences among their observations that increased magnifications make. A handout template is provided.

Bambi Bailey  (Tyler, TX)
Bambi Bailey (Tyler, TX)

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