Resources - Safety Info
STAO Microscale Science Project
-From January 1997 issue of ‘Crucible’ Volume 28.3.
In science, hands-on activities are always desirable, particularly when
these are real time, actual experimentation, not just virtual simulations.
This conflicts with our current reality: budget cuts; safety concerns
in overcrowded classes; other demands on teacher time; the temptation
of using CD-ROMs to replace hands-on experiments; and the lack of adequate
What is Microscale Science?
Again these odds, there is an alternative way of doing science experiments
by the way of microscale science. This offers unparalleled speed with
respect to set-up labs and clean-up, an opportunity for students to do
multiple trials, and the possibility of including pre-lab and post-lab
discussions, all in the same period. In essence, this is during science
with simple, small plastic wares and small amounts of materials. Test
tubes and beakers are replaced with Reaction Plates, or Microplates. These
are flat clear polystyrene dishes with 0.4 mL or 3.0 mL capacity wells,
very easy to clean, and have two axes of letters and numbers to mark the
contents. Solutions are stored in 50 mL Culture Bottle/Flasks. Both the
Microplate and culture flasks are stackable, making it possible to store
whole class sets of equipment in a single 11 L tote box. Graduated cylinders,
dispensing beakers, and eye droppers are replaced by a variety of polyethylene
bulb pipettes with capacities ranging from 1.0 to 8.0 mL. These micropipettes
deliver 23 to 48 drops per mL. They can also be labeled for future use
Q-Tips, plastic cocktail toothpicks and McDonald’s plastic coffee
stirrers take the place of test tube/beaker brushes, glass rods and spatulas.
A single electronic centigram balance allows an entire class to complete
massing in a few minutes.
Advantages of Microscale Science
Microscale Science reduces the scale of an activity by at least a factor
of ten and sometimes more. For example, less than 1 mL of vinegar and
10 mL of a weak base are sufficient to get several sets of data to find
the amount of acetic in vinegar. Microscaling means:
- less time in preparing and performing experiments
- more time for science investigations
- simple inexpensive equipment
- smaller quantities of materials used
- conservation of resources
- fewer safety hazards
- less waste and pollution
- better control of disposal problems
- saving in storage space
STAO’s Microscale Science Project
Indeed, Microscale Science is a viable hands-on alternative to the more
expensive traditional experiments or the virtual experience of computer
simulations. The need for its promotion and development is urgent and
fits into the mandate of STAO to promote excellence and leadership. Accordingly
early this spring, a STAO Microscale Science Advisory Committee was established
involving executives, representatives from Curriculum, Elementary, Safety
Committees and experienced STAO members. A federal grant was applied for
and secured from the Human Resources Development, Canada, under the Summer
Career Placements Program. Malcolm Cunningham, a graduate of education
and science, and master of education candidate in Education at Queen’s
University, was the research associate. The work was done under the direction
of the Advisory Committee with professor Peter Chin, of the Faculty of
Education at Queen’s University, and secretary of the STAO Safety
Committee, as the on-site supervisor.Guided by the belief that students familiar with active experimentation
in the elementary grades will be more likely to continue studying science
throughout secondary school and beyond, the project focused on grades
7 and 8 science.
This project concluded successfully last summer. A manual entitled The
STAO Microscale Science Project, Microscale Laboratory Exercises for Intermediate
Science was produced. It includes eight exercises designed for grades
7 and 8 science, with a problem-solving and hands-on, minds-on approach
as the focus, using low-cost microscale science equipment and substances
readily available in any drug store or grocery store. This is an ideal
platform for applications in intermediate science because laboratory facilities
are not an absolute requirement, and the equipment is inexpensive, readily
available, accurate, adaptable and does not require specialized knowledge.
There are four exercises in each of the physical and biological science:
- Calibration of Volume
- Qualitative Determination of Density
- Quantitative Determination of Density
- Melting Point
- Culturing Fresh Water Algae
- Microscopic Identification of Algae
- Estimation of Population
- LD50 Intervention Laboratory
The activities are designed to help students develop technique with microscale
equipment and an inquiry approach to science.
Each exercise includes:
- Laboratory Exercise Title Page, with an executive summary
of the lab, relevant outcomes in the Common Curriculum, and overall
goals required for each task,
- Optional Pre-Lab Activity Sheet,
- Pre-Lab Activity Data Sheet,
- Laboratory Activity Sheet,
- Laboratory Activity Data Sheet,
- Post-Lab Activity Sheet, and
- Post-Lab Activity Data Sheet.
There is a Teacher Resources section, highlighting:
- Pre-Lab Activity Resources,
- Laboratory Activity Resources,
- Post-Lab Activity Resources,
- Concept Check,
- Resources, and
- Extensions/Considerations for Special Learners.
All student activity sheets and activity data sheets are
available as photocopy-ready COPY MASTERS.
Because of the high quality of work in this project, Malcolm Cunningham
was awarded a Fellowship by Dow Chemical of Canada.
Teachers interested in obtaining the Microscale Laboratory Exercises
for Intermediate Science document can order it through STAO’s Membership
Office. The cost is $40 prepaid and includes the booklet, one individual
kit containing a Microplate, Culture Flask, and an assortment of micropipettes.
Class sets with 15 individual kits, materials for performing the exercises
in physical science, and one document can be ordered at a cost of $160.
All prices include shipping and taxes.