How to Select a Student Microscope for Remote Learning
Whether your child is looking for their first microscope for elementary or middle school, or they’re an advanced STEM student hoping to better experience the world around them (from their very own home), we know it can be a challenge to find the perfect student microscope. Cost, usability, power, and many other factors must be considered when buying a quality microscope.
A lot of parents have contacted Scopes this summer asking how to best-prepare their kids for a remote or partially-remote school year, especially when it comes to science classes. Schools are usually equipped with high-powered student microscopes so pupils can learn and discover firsthand, and it’s only natural that parents want to be able to provide that same sort of experience while their student is learning from home.
We understand your challenges. You’re dealing with a thousand new ways of doing things, and you’re looking to provide your student with a sense of normalcy while prioritizing growth, learning, and expansion.
While we can’t tackle everything for you, we can make your job as a parent or teacher a little bit easier with some tips for purchasing a student microscope for home that will keep your students engaged in science regardless of where they are.
1. Keep it easy to use.
The goal of learning is for kids to be engaged and interested in the material. You don’t want to put a professional-grade microscope in front of your student and frustrate them with all the knobs and intricacies. Science can be complicated enough on its own; you want to make exploration into the world as simple and streamlined as possible so they don’t give up before they get started. You want to choose a microscope that your student can use on their own, so they can explore at their own pace.
Get your child interested in using a microscope by providing them with some cool history and facts about scopes!
2. Try a fixed power microscope.
The easiest microscope for kids to use is a fixed power stereo microscope. Fixed stereo microscopes only have a few power positions, so your child can learn and use each magnification effectively.
The other option is a zoom microscope. These offer more flexibility, so they might be the right choice for more-advanced STEM students. However, for the first microscope for new learners, the zoom movement can make it hard to focus the lens. Some students might find the zoom too complicated, especially if they don’t have a teacher available to show them how to use it.
3. Consider a digital microscope.
Digital microscopes can be on the pricier side, so you’ll want to see if this fits into your budget before committing. However, digital microscopes are definitely the wave of the future and they make learning significantly easier for beginner and advanced scientists alike. Getting your student used to a digitized microscope can prepare them for the future (digitalization is where science is headed), while also keeping them engaged right now.
Most students today prefer digital because it’s easier to use and it can connect to software that enables further learning and exploration. For example, the Celestron Handheld Digital Microscope Pro plugs into a computer’s USB port, so you can see the focused specimen on your computer in real time. This allows for high-quality viewing and recording. For remote learning, this also allows students to record and send their findings to their teacher for homework and projects as well.
While some digital microscopes use computer software for viewing, others like the Celestron LCD Digital Microscope II have an LCD screen (that rotates for easy viewing and can even be connected to a TV output!). This lets the student use the microscope without attaching to a computer during viewing, which can be more convenient for students who want to use their computer for notes and research while using their microscope.
Learn more about how digital microscopes work here.
4. See if a portable microscope would work.
How is your student going to use their microscope? If they’re going to use it to explore around your home by examining coins, stamps, rocks, plants, skin, and other objects lying about, a portable microscope might do the trick. These are easy to carry around, so curious students can walk, stop, and explore their surroundings anywhere and everywhere.
We love the ITI-350P Portable Digital Microscope because it offers powers from 20x to 300x with a digital LCD 3-inch screen. It can even capture images and videos, saved to the SD card and then further explored on the accompanying PC software. It’s an easy, lightweight, and inexpensive student microscope that gives your child the freedom to discover.
Portable microscopes aren’t always the right choice, though. If your student will be using scope slides or larger objects, they may need a stand-up microscope.
5. Ask the teacher about how your student will need to use it.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the first microscope to purchase for your home. From the zoom and power, to compound vs stereo, to the light source and objective lens, much of selecting a student microscope boils down to how your child will use it.
Ask their teacher how they’ll be using the microscope this year and the upcoming years (so you can make a wise long-term investment). The teacher or department head can give you a good idea what kinds of projects will require the microscope, and they may even have recommendations for you to get started.
You’ll especially need to know if your student requires a compound or stereo microscope. Stereo microscopes are often referred to as dissecting microscopes; they’re used to dissect plants and animals, and their 300x magnification is better for large objects like insects and rocks. Compound microscopes have a higher magnification, even up to 1000x normal visual representation, so they are better used for thin, delicate structures and tissues. Stereo microscopes use light from above, so you can better see the texture of an object. On the other hand compound microscopes shoot light through the subject, so the object can’t be too dark or opaque. Get more information on stereo, compound, and electron microscopes here.
6. Get an achromatic lens.
There’s one thing we always, always recommend when it comes to purchasing microscopes. The best kind of objective is an achromatic lens, which thankfully most of today’s microscopes have. Achromatic lenses (also called achromats) have a crown element and a flint element that are cemented together. This doublet design, compared to a singlet lens, better corrects for light wavelengths and minimizes distortion to create a clear, sharp, and less-hazy image.
Learn more about how to select the objective (aka lens) for your microscope with this comprehensive article.
7. Make sure it’s DIN compatible.
A DIN standard microscope means that the objective lenses and other parts of the scope are interchangeable with other DIN compatible microscopes. You want to purchase a DIN student microscope, so you can repair and improve your microscope as needed.
Check out 9 essential tips for choosing a microscope for more information about compatibility.
8. Don’t forget the accessories.
A lot of microscopes come with additional tools, but you may also need to purchase accessories separately. You’ll need tools for cleaning, storage, and even restoration to ensure your student microscope is always well cared for. In fact, in a lot of science classes, students are required to clean and properly store their microscopes as part of their homework to learn good equipment practices.
Find the perfect storage and accessories for your student’s first microscope to make the investment even more worthwhile.
9. Make sure it’s waterproof.
Spilled water or soda? Kids aren’t always the most careful, even around expensive scientific equipment. College students can just as easily have a mishap during stressful exams, too.
We highly recommend purchasing a waterproof, durable microscope for your at-home use. If used and protected correctly, the first microscope you buy can last for years to come! Most of the scopes we sell are made with water- and scratch- resistant materials to keep your investment in great condition.
This year is going to look a little different for students, teachers, and parents alike. Even if your child isn’t fully engaging in remote learning, a lot more schooling is going to happen from home to keep kids safe, healthy, and learning. If your family prioritizes science and education, having a microscope at home is one of the best ways to encourage your student’s thirst for knowledge.
Start browsing our top-notch, high-quality, and affordable microscopes here. If you’re still not sure which student microscope will work best for you, feel free to contact us with questions— we’ll be happy to help!