In the Martin & Sylvia: More Adventures! story “Grit,” Martin is excited about giving his friend Sasha a special gift — he wants to make her a microscope. But when he is faced with the actual mechanics of how to make a base and an eyepiece and a lens out of the materials he has, he nearly gives up.
Then Daddy tells him that the most important thing any builder or inventor must have is grit: sticking with it, especially when things are difficult. Martin hears him and then turns to his project with new determination, and, in the process, comes up with some new ideas.
This week’s craft project is very easy to put together, but — as with Martin’s microscope — getting it to work well will take a little bit of inventive tinkering. If you stick with it, however, it’s really neat to see how common objects and creatures look at a microscopic level.
The trick with this microscope is to get the focal length just right. As instructed below, you can do that by adjusting the height of the magnifying glass or by adjusting the height of the object you’re looking at. Once you’ve got the technique perfected, you’ll start seeing new objects to look at everywhere!
Short clear plastic cup (ours was 8 ounces)
Syringe (an old children's medicine dropper works great)
Several small objects to look at (dead bugs, leaves, flowers, tiny newsprint, etc.)
Start by using the craft knife to neatly cut off the bottom of the cup — you need it to be as flat and even as possible.
Then stretch a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cup and secure it as tightly as you can with a rubber band.
Now use the syringe to put a few drops of water in the center of the plastic wrap. You’re aiming for a water “lens” that’s a little bigger than a quarter.
Carefully lift the cup, disturbing the water as little as possible, and place one of the small objects you’ve collected under it.
Have a friend hold the flashlight to illuminate the object, then move the magnifying glass up and down — looking through both the magnifying glass and the drop of water — until the object comes into focus. If you’ve moved the magnifying glass as much as you can and you still aren’t getting good focus, consider moving the object itself up, too.
For example, we had to prop a dead bug we found on top of a spool of thread to be able to see it clearly.
Once you’re done with your microscope for the day, stash it somewhere handy to use for ongoing study. What bugs can you find this week that weren’t there last week? How are the colors of the leaves changing this year? With your new microscope you can really observe the world up close.
If you liked this tutorial, here are others you might enjoy:
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.