Microscope Field

FUSION: Life Through Lenses

We’ve just finished up another great Fusion program with Vergennes Elementary School. For the past eight weeks we’ve been joining two small groups of students on Mondays and Wednesdays to take a closer look at various parts of the natural world. Our theme was “Life through Lenses” and our goal was to explore the world on a deeper level than we get with the naked eye.

On our first day, we explored the outdoor world around the school and brought samples back indoors to look at under our microscope. We examined seedpods, feathers, leaves, spider legs, burdock pods, and even our own skin. It was a great introduction into the micro details of the world and helped us get into the mindset and remember to look small!

Our next adventure was into the microscopic yet vastly important world of water organisms to learn about the phytoplankton and zooplankton. To do this we examined a water sample bought in from Lake Champlain and examined it through the microscopes. We also had a chance to gather a sample from the

School’s pond with which to compare. We made observations and drew pictures of all the tiny creatures that make all other life in the water possible. We learned to recognize copepods, rotifers, and Bosminidae, and talked about the difference between plants and animals.

While the weather was still warm we took a field trip to Basin Harbor to fly “Eva” our ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and get a look under the surface of Lake Champlain. The students watched Eva’s travels under the water on a large television brought outside for this purpose. Eva helped us explore the bottom of the lake and even introduced us to some aquatic plants and animals. We had a great time looking at the lake from underneath rather than above, and everyone loves to see Eva do what she does best.

In a later class we were able to use the underwater footage from our ROV to identify some of the Fish and aquatic plants we had seen. We learned how to use a dichotomous key and talked about fish adaptions. Then we had the chance to combine fish adaptions into a whole new “Franken-fish” and give it a name. We came up with some pretty creative new species, some, I have to say, I’m glad don’t exist.

We also learned what it’s like to be behind the lens by spending a day learning how to use GoPros. We ventured outdoors and looked for examples of animal sign, taking pictures and deciding where the best placement for a field camera would be. On a cold and rainy day we got the GoPros out again and took a photo scavenger hunt within the school.

Combining some of our new skills in looking for animal sign, thinking about adaptations, and making observations we took a couple of days to go birding as well as questing for insects. We were able to capture some great photos of birds around the school and identify what we saw. We also collected a range of insects and took some close up pictures of them. We learned about different species and made notes on where we found them and what they were doing.

All and all, we had a great time exploring the world around us, taking the time to look small and think big. We learned a lot and had a great time doing it. We had two great groups of students and are looking forward to our next Fusion adventure with Vergennes Elementary school starting in January!