Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Nancy B's Microscope and Activity Journal

Nancy B's Microscope and Activity Journal

Spring 2013 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Educational Insights
Price: $39.99

Nancy B's Science Club Microscope & Activity Journal is an excellent starter set for kids interested in getting to know the world of the small. The kit includes a lightweight, plastic, battery-operated microscope, perfect for portability in young hands, along with four prepared slides and all the materials necessary for creating new slides from items found at and around the home. The scope is both a light and a dissecting microscope; that is, it has light sources both above and below the slide tray, allowing for viewing both thin cells and thicker, dimensional objects. The focus is surprisingly steady for a low-end microscope, even at 400x (the maximum offered on this tool).

Undoubtedly the best feature of this kit is its activity journal. Written for middle-elementary students, it starts from the most basic of microscope skills—adjusting to the magnification and the backward motion of the slide in the viewer—and works up through observing live cells, crystals, and layered objects, with instructions for creating wet mount and dry mount slides. The journal encourages genuine scientific exploration, urging the reader to ask questions and to try the activities many different ways, and to record all he or she learns in the notebook. The tone in the writing shows a light sense of humor, not intrusive or overly aggressive, but merely enough to make the writing engaging. The supplies required for the activities are all readily available: hardly surprising, given that the best way to interest kids in microscope science is to show them the world that is around them all the time.

This microscope is still a toy; it is not a heavy-duty, high-power, glass-optics device. But it would be a wiser choice than investing in a microscope that is too intimidating to use and might help parents uncover whether their child's budding interest in microscopes is merely a passing fancy, or long-lived and worth greater investment.

The box, highlighting women in science, and the purple-and-turquoise coloring of the microscope set suggest that this is being marketed primarily to young girls; however, there is nothing inherently feminine about the kit or the lab manual, and my 11-year-old son (used to being around his sisters) was unfazed by the design, enjoying the set for its science alone. Parents should not hesitate to choose this for their sons if this is the level of microscope they seek.

Emily Crawford   ©2013 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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