Foldscopes in a 6th grade class in Melrose Florida

Here’s a short slide show of our day with Laurie Alsobrook’s 6th grade class in Melrose, Florida.  Julie Johnson and I are planning to take Foldscopes to Cambodia and Laurie Alsobrook was willing and eager for us to share them with her class as part of our preparation. My write up our experience is below, but first here’s a short video slide show that captures the feel of our day together. [Two and half minutes long.]

The folding and construction of the Foldscopes went pretty smoothly. We watched the instruction video (Foldscope Tutorial Assembly) and paused after each section so the whole class kept in sync with each other on the assembly. Those who caught on quickly to a step acted as coaches for others. The main challenge seemed to be in the initial inserting of the slides, especially the first time a glass slide was loaded.

The slide making started with hair and then exploded into a controlled chaos and cacophony of enthusiastic exploration of an otherwise invisible world.

“Let’s test the five second rule on our carpet!”
[The conclusion was if something hits the carpet, best not put it in your mouth.]

They explored flower petals, feathers, salt crystals, insect wings and eye lashes. We brought lake water so a few wet slides were attempted with some success, including the tracking of some “swimmers.” The downside of tape based wet slides is that they go milky due perhaps to the interaction of the water with the adhesive on the tape.

Since a primary goal of our mission in Cambodia is to facilitate an experiential learning of the value of water hygiene, we really want to master teaching the making of wet slides. Next we intend to experiment with Laksiyer’s technique of two thicknesses of clear vinyl on a glass slide. More on that here:

Building a micro-aquarium using the ditch-spacer slide technique

The magnet strips didn’t work very well on our iPhone since its lens is in the corner and one of the magnets ends up in mid air. We were able to use them on one of the student’s android phone with a centered camera lens. We didn’t have one of the LED light modules so instead used an LED flashlight. This made keeping alignment, focusing and taking the photo a team effort for sure. One upside of not having the light module is that a student discovered that altering the angle of the light created interesting effects regarding contrast, visibility and focus.

Manu has a great description of focuslocking and ambient light manipulation here:

Focuslocking, field of view locking and using ambient light (table lamp) as illumination 

In the future, we’d like to implement Manu’s focuslocking technique and we hear the new version of Foldscope might facilitate that. In addition to making the phone photo session simpler, students could also share Foldscopes with relative assurance that their friends are seeing what they are seeing.

This is a pretty cool 3 min. video of a setup Aditi and Laks came up with using a cardboard box and an LED flashlight to project an image onto paper to then be traced. It might also be a useful low tech way to allow a small group to see a projected image simultaneously.

I want to be sure to have lens cleaning tissues for future events. A clean lens makes a huge difference!

Extra sheets of just slides would be useful. Kids used up the ones included in their Foldscope sheet pretty quickly and making extra slides from card stock was a bit challenging and time consuming. (Exato blades would facilitate cutting out the internal window, but these students were limited to use of scissors.)

Over all, the pilot event was a smashing success and we all learned so much. It was a pleasure and an honor to watch a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds show up as curious, enthusiastic citizen scientists! A followup session wasn’t feasible because it is the end of their school year but we hope some students may contribute news of any future explorations to the Microcosmos.

Thanks again to Melrose School and especially Laurie Alsobrook for her willingness and enthusiasm that allowed this event to happen. And thanks to Max for getting the Foldscopes to us in time!

We are VERY open to tips and advice from the community for future events, especially on wet slides.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Wow wow wow – what a brilliant documentation of a smashing workshop. I could feel the energetic, excitement and curiosity in the eyes of the kids 100’s of miles away. Absolutely fantastic.

    Lots of feedback and simple tips that will allow you to get started on live wet mounts. You have already seen old posts – but I or Max will make a list if crucial posts to replicate for training purposes. Since you are close to the ocean/water bodies – that’s a wonderful opportunity.

    Just wanted to express my absolute joy – congrats. Please continue documenting the work the students are doing. I am already going to not follow the”5sec rule” from now onwards.

    Welcome to the foldscope community.


  2. laksiyer says:

    Fantastic post. I love the systematic way you are going about this. About the magnetic strip jutting out, dont worry about it, most people with iphones have that and you can take some really great pictures/videos. You just need to ensure that the strip is well secured to the phone with a good piece of tape.

    One more tip about the projection, I used magnets to secure it but it was like touching your nose with your hand around your neck. Instead a simpler solution is seen in this post.

    (see Video 2).. no messing with magnets and very easy to setup. Kids love this!

    1. djbeede says:

      Hey Manu,
      A huge belated thank-you for your enthusiastic comment on our 6th grade class experience. It was so encouraging and we’ve shared it with many. This Melrose community was thrilled to get personal feedback from the inventor of these amazing tools, and even though the school year is over we’re hoping some of the students will be paying a visit to MicroCosmos.
      As far as live wet slide mounting skills go, I’ve procured the two different thicknesses of PVC sheet that Alice Dai recommended and some glass slides and have experimented some. Would love those links you mentioned from you or Max that could be good for training.
      We are so looking forward to bringing the new and improved Foldscopes to rural Cambodia! Thanks again for all you and your team are doing.
      David Beede & Julie Johnson

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