The way I wish I had been taught.


Dear Foldscope community:

In many occasions, since I have been using my foldscope microscope, I have had the opportunity to watch fresh water oligochaeta worms. They are very abundant in debris enriched waters and quite “huge” to be easily observed in detail.  When I was a University student, I don´t remember seeing them “in vivo”,-of course we studied earthworms and other common and macroscopic annelida species- so you can imagine this is an unique occasion we are very lucky to be able to undergo….. I am a biologist and really love being it, but sometimes I presume studying Biology would have been so absolutely amazing having a foldscope in hand!

If you gather information about these animals (oligochaeta), you will end up knowing they breathe through their moist skin.  This fact explains why they lack exoskeletons and need a humid habitat. You might agree this is completely theoretical and a little bit of logical reasoning, but  learning biology should be much more than this. Here is just an example:

Firstly, please, watch next video which  I recorded more than a year ago and kept it for today´s post.  I do believe this living creatures exhibit very clear  features and represent a very good example of what you can achieve using a foldscope. Dero spp –worm-, Spirogyra spp  -algae- and Lemna minor –duckweed root among others. Many morphological/anatomical structures are seen, especially the ones concerning the aquatic worm, but two of them have called my attention: the chloragen tissue, observed for the first time in my life…


……   and a group of terminal palps. See next.


I wondered for a long time trying to realize what could they be.  Taking into account we have learnt these animals breathe through their body wall, you try to guess different processes related to this structures: secretion, reproduction, ..but not respiration.  Nevertheless, and this is what I meant as real biology learning:

1º If you see those palps can get in an out   (protude) constantly.

2º Have kept the water sample for some days, which probably means less available oxygen.

3º Notice the “blood”  moving and see it reddens the palps which show an uneven surface, increasing the area in contact with water.

4º. Realize  these structures can act as water turbines as they are covered with cilia and, therefore, remove poor oxygen sorrounding water for a richer one (see in next video).

5º Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,..

Only then, you are learning real biology. Indeed, these palps are gases exchange surfaces. They are GILLS!!! Wow!!! I hope you can observe a kind of loop inside every palp in the next image. It represents a vessel running along its inner surface.


In conclusion,  I feel there is a vast array of contents we should try not to teach as  dogmas. This goal can be approached  facilitating this kind of experiences in schools in order to achieve  significant biology learning.

Thanks for reading.

Cristina Bosch












5 Comments Add yours

  1. edurafi says:

    Dear @Cristina,

    Fascinating video! So clear!

    I agree with you, I too wish I had tools like Foldscope when I was in school and college. I did my masters in microbiology but saw living microorganism when I started PhD. Till then all I saw was colonies on agar plates, dead microorganisms on glass slide and diagrams in books.
    There is something about watching living organisms under a microscope, it generates interests. But that is missing in school and college education.

  2. Mitali says:

    Hello Christina ma’am,
    The videos are just WOW I totally agree with you , this is the way biology should be learnt by students. Not learning facts but actually observing the life forms.Foldscope actually taught me what learning science is and that how it is not limited to us who study it. There’s always something more you learn when you show your videos to someone and they’re like oh what’s this structure right here and you go back to the video put your thoughts and then answer their questions. it’s such an enriching learning experience!!
    I’m currently a second year undergraduate studying microbiology and I got my hands on foldscope last year when I was in FY and I feel really grateful for that 🙂


  3. Cristina says:

    Dear Edurafi and Mitali:
    Thanks so much for your comments! This is an incredible experience, not only for the fact of being able to unveil a new dimension of life forms, but for the posibbility of exchanging experiencies with this community!

    My best,


  4. laksiyer says:

    Dear @Cristina. I must have seen your video a few times the past ten days. Firstly, this is superbly written/narrated. Secondly, the videos/images are top (publication) quality.. Sometimes I wish we could write our papers in biology with a personal angle like you did here. Finally and most importantly I agree with you based on your reasoning about hte role of the palps— although I wonder if the area of gas exchange is proportional to the size of the worm. Further, I have always wanted to use a redox dye for such things… havent found one yet that I can have at home– dont know how Bromthymol blue will work.. About being taught, there is saying in sanskrit– that loosely translates as 1/4 of knowledge you get from your teacher, another quarter by your own ability, yet another quarter from your classmates, and the remaining over time…
    As always it was a pleasure reading your post

    1. Cristina says:

      Dear @Laksiyer:

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I do appreciate them! No doubt Microcosmos is not only a platform where you can share posts, which is a real joy, but also a source of inspiration , especially when somebody suggests something else to do or to learning about. For example, your idea about using a redox dye. … and so many more smart suggestions you frecuently recommend in many others posts. I will try to discover how it works, although I have never done it.

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