Setting up the learning space—where should the magnifiers go?

Do you have a “Science” area in your classroom or other space? Which, if any objects should be permanent residents of a science area? I usually keep a few tools there so children can find them when needed—magnifiers, trays, pipettes/droppers, a small holding box for small live animals, such as crickets, and paper towels. This is not the only place children use these tools so I put additional magnifiers near the bookshelf, in my pocket, and in a lidded box in the outdoor shed.

Child using a magnifier to look at rocks.Magnifiers are wonderful tools for children to begin using at two years of age (if the magnifiers are large enough not to be a choking hazard). Children marvel at the details that are revealed. It reminds me of when I got my first pair of eye glasses in fourth grade—the greenery of trees was made of individual leaves, and hairdos resolved into strands of hair—amazing!

How do you teach children how to use magnifiers? Initially I like to allow them to explore their use without much direction from me, except, “Magnifiers are looking tools, not for hammering (poking, licking…).” When a child is trying to look through it but is not holding it still, this usually indicates they are not able to get a good view. Then it’s time to teach how to position the tool to enhance the sense of sight. Sometimes children hold the magnifier too far from an object and sometimes they lean so close that their hair obscures the light, making it hard to see anything!

Here are two resources that may help you teach children how to use a magnifier:

How to Use a Hand Lens Magnifier from The Compleat Naturalist

How to Use a Hand Lens from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute

When viewing a large object such as a log, teach children to move the magnifier close enough to the object to view it in focus. Because children often lay the tool directly on their eye, I suggest you sanitize and dry magnifiers between uses.


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