Faculty Publications & Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012


science inquiry, scientific investigation, experimental design


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Educational Methods | Science and Mathematics Education | Secondary Education and Teaching


One of the first lab activities often done in a high school biology course is learning to use the microscope. As it is typically described in laboratory manuals, there is no inquiry involved in this activity. Students learn the parts of the microscope and information explaining its operation. There may be a review of the metric system. Then students examine cells, often to observe the difference between plant and animal cells. Students may be instructed to prepare wet mounts and do simple staining. All of these are important skills to have in order to use the microscope correctly, but it doesn’t give students the chance to do science.

This activity introduces students to the inquiry process as they learn about and practice using the microscope. Current national science standards state that all students should participate in scientific investigations as well as understand about the nature of science inquiry (NRC 2012; NGSS 2012). The activity described in this paper asks students to design and carry out a simple experiment about the thickness of hair. Students collect evidence through experimentation in which they ask a question, design a procedure to answer that question, record data, analyze the data, and draw conclusions.



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