Teach Life Science Through a Microscope Lab Activities

How to use a microscope life science activity

Free NGSS Life Science Activities

Exploring the hidden world of life science is an exciting way to engage students in learning about the universe around them. Through the use of simple microscope lab activities focused on microscopes, students can gain a unique and valuable insight into new perspectives and stimulating revelations.

Introduce lessons with microscopic images.

Before diving into a specific microscope lab activity, introduce students to the concept with a summary of what they will view through the lenses. Start by providing microscopic images of local items that are easily observable from the laboratory, such as bacteria from pond water or soil particles extracted from a garden. Explain the significance of viewing these objects at such a small scale, and discuss why discovering this world is beneficial to science.

Set up microscope stations for easy access.

Setting up a variety of microscope stations in the laboratory can be a great way for students to conveniently access devices and materials when required. Ensure that there are enough stations set up for each student, complete with their own microscope, dropper, slides and samples. Make sure that students are aware of the safety procedure from the beginning, so that they do not rush or mishandle any equipment in the lab.

Allow students to explore the unseen world of cells and microorganisms.

Through the use of a microscope, students can experience and observe the tiniest details of life science. They will learn to differentiate between basic cells and examine the intricate structures and organelles that form within them. And they will also be able to observe different microorganisms such as protists, fungi, and more! By giving students an opportunity to explore this unseen world, they will be able to understand life science concepts on a deeper level.

Use video and other non-microscope activities to supplement lab work.

While microscopes are essential for teaching life science and providing a hands-on experience, there are other activities and resources you can use to supplement the lab work. You might consider using video recordings of microscopic organisms in motion or computer simulations of cellular processes that students can observe. Having a variety of activities to choose from can make life science labs more interesting and engaging for students.

Talk about environmental impacts, such as climate change, when studying microorganisms.

Introducing how climate change affects microscopic organisms, like plankton or lichen, can bring home the possible impacts of global warming and other environmental changes. Make life science come alive by connecting the processes these organisms are involved in to our own daily lives. Discuss the effects of pollution on water sources and ways humans can reduce their carbon footprints when studying microorganisms in aquatic environments.

There’s Something Under the Microscope!

It is without a doubt that the invention of microscopes has unlocked many doors in science.  Microscopes have enabled scientists, researchers, and even students to observe and study the things that are not visible to our naked eye. These include the structures of cells and the smallest components of plants, animals, and even fungi.

Microscopes are considered the backbone of the study of life or Biology. In this field of study, microscopes are considered an important tool because it primarily deals with the study of cells, genes, and all organisms. Cells and some organisms are too small to be observed with the naked eye and can be seen only under a microscope at magnifications ranging from 40x - 1000x.

In this lab activity, you will examine and describe specimens seen under a microscope.

Using a Microscope Lab Activity Learning Objectives:

At the end of this laboratory activity, students are expected to:

  • Describe the image of the specimen as seen under the microscope.
  • Determine the parts of the microscope and their functions.

Here are the Files Downloadable Files for the Using Microscopes Lab Activity

Using a Microscope Lab Activity Materials:


  • Compound microscope
  • Slide
  • Glass side with a coverslip
  • Water
  • Hydrilla plant
  • Paper towel

Using a Microscope Lab Activity Procedure:

A. Make a Wet Mount Slide

  1. Put a drop of water at the center of the slide using a dropper
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  2. Get a small leaf from the hydrilla plant and place it at the center of the glass side with a drop of water.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope
  3. Place a clean coverslip at the one edge of the drop of water. Lower the coverslip onto the drop of water until it lies flat. Do this slowly.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope
  4. Using a paper towel, touch the edges of the coverslip to get rid of the excess water.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope

B. Observing the Slide Using a Microscope

  1. Place the microscope on a clean and leveled flat surface. Make sure that the arm is positioned toward you.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope
  2. Look through the eyepiece. Let the light come through the opening in the stage by adjusting the diaphragm. The light is not visible. Check the position of the objective and the mirror if the light is not visible.
  3. Using stage clips, firmly place the prepared slide on the stage, making sure that the specimen is in the field of view.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope
  4. Remember to focus first with the coarse adjustment and low-power objective lenses. When the object is in focus on the lower objective lens, turn the nosepiece until the high-power objective lens is in position. Focus this lens using the fine adjustment knob.
    Microscope Lab Activities, compound microscope, how to use a microscope

Discuss the following with your students about Microscope Lab Activities:

  1. How would you describe the image of the specimen as they appear under the microscope?
  1. Which part of the microscope enabled you to see the specimen?
  1. What part of the microscope enlarges the specimen?
  1. What part of the microscope focused and sharpened the image of the observed specimen?

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