Microscopes4Schools is a hands-on science outreach activity for primary school children run by volunteer scientists from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
Learn more about the M4S school visits and book one here
Microscopes4Schools began with a casual chat about how great it would be to take microscopes to primary schools and show cells to children. As cell biologists, we couldn't think of anything more exciting for children to do in the classroom – probably all biologists cherish their memories of the first time they looked down a microscope. Discovering the microscopic world is an amazing experience and we wanted to share it with as many people as possible. We put our ideas onto paper and came up with a project for an outreach activity for primary schools. We were lucky to have generous financial support of the MRC and the Lister Institute for Preventive Medicine, who were equally excited about taking cell biology and microscopes to the classroom.
After some research we found some very affordable educational microscopes of very good quality – we were astonished to get images that were similar to those taken with expensive research microscopes. The excitement and interest of the children during our school visits surpassed all our expectations. We had feared the children were too young to be able to look down a microscope, but they can do it very easily. We weren't sure they would grasp the abstract concept of cell, of which they had never heard. However, this was also not the case.
Having seen the children's enthusiasm and keen interest of the teachers to use microscopes in their classroom, we thought about creating a website with all the information we had gathered so that more teachers (and families) could learn about which microscopes to buy, how to use them and what fun biological samples they could access easily.
We hope that teachers, parents and children will be encouraged by this website to use a microscope and discover the microscopic world.
Isabel and Simon
Who we are
I became a scientist because I am very curious and I love to learn and to understand how things work. In school I liked all sciences, but I was fascinated with biology. I was also lucky to have inspiring biology teachers who gave me confidence to pursue a scientific career. Over the past years I have been involved in several outreach projects, from organising a science film festival at the local cinema, to running science seminars for the support staff of the LMB and of course… Microscopes4Schools! Explaining science to the public is incredibly rewarding and lots of fun, and I never cease to be amazed how most people – children and adults – find science as fascinating as I do when it is explained to them in a clear and engaging way.
Simple experiments with microscopes played key roles in shaping my career choices. Seeing the beating heart of a Daphnia down a microscope at school when I was 16 played a significant part in my decision to study Biology at university. My long-standing interest in cell dynamics (CLICK HERE) can be traced back to watching cell divisions in frog embryos in a university practical. My experiences made me appreciate that seeing the microscopic world with your own eyes can be a great way to spark an interest in science, and that it would be great to give younger children that opportunity as well. Being involved with Microscopes4Schools has been extremely rewarding and stimulating; for this reason I would strongly encourage other scientists to set up their own outreach activities.
Microscopes4Schools wouldn't be possible without the enthusiastic volunteer scientists, to whom we are very grateful. Graduate students and postdocs from the LMB help prepare the school visits and are fantastic with the children during the experiments.