Virtual Labs Lesson Plan: Using the Microscope

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students practice using a microscope in a virtual lab. Students use BrainPOP resources to learn how microscopes work, and then use a free online interactive to practice choosing the correct microscope lens, adjust lighting and magnification, and prepare a slide for viewing on a compound optical microscope in order to analyze yogurt samples and test for Salmonella and E. coli.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explain the basic functions of a microscope.
  2. Use an online interactive to practice choosing the correct lens, adjust lighting and magnification, and prepare a slide for viewing on a compound optical microscope.
  3. Use an online interactive to analyze whether a yogurt sample may be contaminated with a harmful pathogen

Preparation:

This lesson plan utilizes an NMSU interactive called Using the Microscope. Through the virtual lab, students will work in the virtual lab of a dairy processing plant to analyze yogurt samples and test for Salmonella and E. coli. The interactive game familiarizes the user with food science lab equipment and teaches standard techniques for this specific procedure. Students will learn how to choose the correct lens, adjust lighting and magnification, and prepare a slide for viewing on a compound optical microscope. The animation guides students through theory and practice of using a microscope so that they will have familiarity with the equipment and procedures when encountered in a real lab. Students will need to handle the equipment and simulate the proper procedures to be able to move on to the next steps.

The example in the interactive game focuses on viewing bacteria with different stains as a way to analyze whether a yogurt sample may be contaminated with a harmful pathogen. If you teach younger students, you may choose to concentrate your lesson on the main workings of the microscope as well as how to multiply for correct magnification. More advanced students can use the interactive to explore the process of Gram staining and the study of food safety. We encourage you to preview both the BrainPOP movie and game in advance to plan how they can be adapted for your students' needs.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. For a warm up and to build students' background knowledge, pass out photocopies of the Activity and ask students to try labeling each part of the microscope.
  2. Tell students they'll be able to check their answers by watching the Microscopes movie. If you notice that students have many errors on their activity pages, you may want to play the movie through once for them to just watch and then play it through a second time, pausing for students to correct their papers and discuss the concepts in the movie.
  3. Explain that students will now have the opportunity to explore the use of microscopes by participating in a virtual lab. Project the Using a Microscope simulation for the class to see, skipping through the oil immersion and gram staining portion for younger students if desired. Have student volunteers complete the first part of the simulation to familiarize the class with how to advance through the various types of tasks assigned through the simulation.
  4. Allow students to complete the simulation on computers with a partner.
  5. You can assess individual student learning through the game quiz. We recommend having students also conduct a real-life investigation using an actual microscope so that they can apply their new skills.

Extension Activity:

Be sure to check out the other Virtual Labs games on GameUp!