ProjMICRO-1Remember the first time that you looked through a microscope? Project MICRO (Microscopy in Curriculum, Research-Outreach) exposes Vermont middle school students to the wonders of their microscopic world.  They observe bizarre brine shrimp, “filch” fingerprints and are mesmerized by minuscule pond water inhabitants. They compare and contrast fabulous flowers, diverse design techniques, and fascinating fabrics. The students are captivated by the beauty, diversity and similarity of sands from around the world.

“Project MICRO’s goal isn’t to teach microscopy; the microscope is used to introduce critical observation and inquiry,” said Caroline Schooley, Microscopy Society of America.

Facilitated by the UVM Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Microscopy Imaging Center, Project MICRO has made presentations in Vermont elementary and middle schools, community libraries, and after school programs. Since 1999, we have reached more than 8,000 students and hundreds of teachers and parents, and presented posters and talks about our program at three national meetings. We’ve traveled the state of Vermont, from Brattleboro to Swanton, from Barnet to Grand Isle, “turning kids on to science.”

We bring all of the microscopes (both dissecting and compound), eye loupes and pocket microscopes, and materials needed to set up ten activity stations, along with a staff member to facilitate the program. How the microscopic “festival” is configured depends on the daily class scheduling in conjunction with the teacher’s requests (generally 90 – 120 minutes total).

From comments such as these: “Whoa,” “Cool,” Awesome,” and “Can we do this again tomorrow?” it appears that Project MICRO is quite a hit with the kids.

Christa Duthie-Fox, a sixth grade teacher from Charlotte Central School said: “The Project MICRO program has enabled thousands of students to look more closely at, and make more sense of, the ordinary — pond water, flowers, fabric — all with the power of magnification. Project MICRO has been the much anticipated culminating event of my optics unit for years, and I appreciate that our students, some never having used a microscope, can take advantage of such a program.”

If you are interested in more information about the Project MICRO program at the University of Vermont,  please visit us online at http://www.med.uvm.edu/mic/projectmicro or contact Jan Schwarz at 802-656-0813 or janet.schwarz@uvm.edu.

Janet Schwarz is a technician in the Larner College of Medicine at UVM Microscopy Imaging Center.

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