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‘Bugscope’ lets kids explore insects through an electron microscope

The Bugscope project provides free, interactive access to a scanning electron microscope over the internet, so that students anywhere in the world can explore the microscopic world of insects.

Run by the Beckman Institute’s Imaging Technology Group (ITG) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bugscope helps teachers give their students the chance to become scientists: The kids propose experiments, explore insect specimens at high magnification, and discuss what they see with university scientists—all from a regular web browser over a standard broadband internet connection.

Here’s how it works: Teachers sign up, ask their students to find some bugs, and mail them to ITG, which then schedules a session and prepares the bugs for insertion into the electron microscope. When your session time arrives, ITG puts the bugs into the microscope and sets it up for your classroom. Then, you and your students log in over the web and control the microscope. ITG scientists are available via chat to guide you and answer students’ questions. After your session, you can return to the website to view every chat line, image, and sample you—and every other classroom—has collected.

Bugscope has been active since 1999 and has supported about 300 sessions with more than 200 schools. The website recently was added to FREE (Federal Resources for Educational Excellence), the Education Department’s collection of more than 1,500 federally supported teaching and learning resources.

http://bugscope.beckman.uiuc.edu/

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